Arogya 2007: Promoting traditional medicines

Arogya 2007: Promoting traditional medicines

Sushmi DeyMumbai

In an effort to give a contemporary perspective to the centuries old therapeutic heritage of India, the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), in association with Department of AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India got together and organised Arogya 2007. The four day exhibition held in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, from October 26 to October 29, was a comprehensive international health fair on ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy. The event was inaugurated by Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare. The Union Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh presided over the event as the guest of honour. Panabaka Lakshmi, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Anita Das, Secretary (AYUSH), Dr Sheela Bhide, Chairperson, India Trade Promotion Organisation and Venkat Jasti, Vice Chairman, PHARMEXCIL were also present at the function.

The exhibition showcased traditional systems of medicines and therapy which continue to be relevant in today’s environment. Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh emphasised that the traditional medicines have immense export capabilities and that regulatory systems of the world needed to be convinced that products related to the Indian systems of medicine conformed to their safety standards. Ramesh informed that India’s export of herbal plant-based medicines stood at Rs 900 crore in 2006-07.

In his speech, Dr Anbumani Ramadoss called upon the industry to invest in R&D of the traditional Indian systems of medicine to achieve credibility and global acceptance so that they could be propagated internationally. He said that the traditional Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda are our assets, which need to be protected.

The government has recently mainstreamed AYUSH under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) with an intention to bridge the gaps in health delivery and to harness the potential of traditional health knowledge by co-locating AYUSH facilities under one roof in PHCs, CHCs and district hospitals.

To boost overseas sales of ethnic herbs and to increase value addition, the Centre has proposed to set up export processing zones for traditional Indian medicines in partnership with private entrepreneurs. “A processing zone for medicinal plants is proposed to be set up in Chattisgarh and once the pilot project fructifies, we would replicate the model in other states of Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand,” said Ramesh.

“The growing popularity of AYUSH systems is based on its holistic approach, accessibility and affordability,” said Panabaka Lakshmi, Union Minister of State of Health & Family Welfare. While traditional medicines are gaining popularity, the system of medicines is often being questioned for not being based on evidence. Talking about the safety levels and efficacy of AYUSH system, Dr Ramadoss said, “We need to address these issues and to dispel these doubts through research.” The minister also expressed concern over the patenting of certain herbs and plants by countries such as the US, Dr Ramadoss said that the government had set up a traditional plants digital library to keep track of such Indian plants and protect them from mispatenting.