Monday, 30 April 2012

Man to Mouse, not Mouse to Man Experts Laud Reverse Pharmacology of Ayurveda

It may sound like asking Shakespeare to appear for BA examination in English, but such are the ways of the world. Ayurveda is well known to work. And it works very well too, especially in chronic disorders where many modern systems of medicine bite the dust. But for reasons of regulatory compliance, the powers that be often ask for data in black and white. Not just in animals but in patients as well. And such demands come from practicing doctors too, who are not exactly Doubting Thomases but need reassurance on herbal medicines from time to time. So it is time for time-tested Ayurveda to subject itself to an examination that it had already passed with flying color millennia ago. That is the time for reverse pharmacology (RP).

While drug discovery around the world is focused on moving drugs from test tubes to mice to men, the process of reverse pharmacology, as the name suggests, takes the reverse route. "The drugs are studied in this technology through a total shift in paradigm where the effects of drugs or natural products in humans are considered supremely important," says Dr Ashok D B Vaidya, well known expert in Ayurveda as well as allopathy.

While the conventional path of Ayurvedic Medicines starts with a hypothesis, there is no idea about how the humans will react or respond to a particular drug. That is one reason why it starts from molecules to mice and finally goes on to men. But in contrast to that, RP starts with the known clinical drug effect and safety. "RP is beneficial because you already have a starting point through which you know that the molecule is non-toxic and has some effect on humans," says Dr Rama Mukherjee, a leading figure in drug research in India.

The RP avenue offers the benefit of conducting limited trials and simultaneously demonstrating safety and efficacy in clinical and pre-clinical studies. Besides, efficacy criteria can be modulated as per clinical needs. The RP route is thus faster and more cost-effective. In contrast, the conventional drug discovery approach of screening tens of thousands of molecules and their biological targets is time-consuming, and expensive. According to Vaidya, the success rate through RP is one in ten, whereas the current success rate through conventional method of R&D is one in 50,000.

Some hot pursuit trails in reverse pharmacology are given below:
•    Tinospora cordifolia for cancer
•    Curcuma longa for precancerous mouth lesions
•    Commiphora wightii and Withania somnifera for arthritis
•    Terminalia arjuna for coronary heart disease
•    Picrorrhiza kurroa as hepatoprotective
•    Saraca asoca for menorrhagia

A blue-blooded pharmacology baptized in allopathic faith may frown on reverse pharmacology. Our medical colleges too may turn a blind eye and not bother to include it in their syllabus. But reverse pharmacology has arrived in style. And it is here to stay. Much to the relief of millions of practitioners of traditional Ayurvedic Products and the delight of the faithful.

(Source: Express Pharma 16th - 31st Jan 2007, Pharmacology on a reverse trail by Sushmi Dey)


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