Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ranbaxy malaria drug in final trial stage

May be the first new chemical entity developed and marketed by an Indian company.

Six years after the Geneva-based, not-for-profit organisation, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), made Ranbaxy its drug development partner, the latter today announced the start of final-stage clinical trials for a new anti-malaria drug.

Ranbaxy expects to complete the trial on the anti-malaria combination medicine (Arterolane maleate + Piperaquine phosphate) in India, Bangladesh and Thailand and apply for marketing authorisation by late 2010.

Ranbaxy became the “pharma partner” of MMV in May 2003 to develop a more effective medicine for malaria. Two years earlier, MMV stopped funding the project and handed over development rights of the drug to Ranbaxy. The ministry of science and technology also funded the research through its Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Research Programme.

Rashmi Barbhaiya, former research head of Ranbaxy, who was instrumental in making the alliance with MMV happen, said it should be the first research-based new drug developed and marketed by an Indian pharma company.

The drug is targeted at patients in developing countries with the aim of replacing the conventional options available for the treatment of P-falciprum malaria. The drugs available at present are either those to which the malarial parasite has developed resistance or newer alternatives that are expensive and derived from agricultural sources, thus having limitations on scalability.

Malvinder Mohan Singh, chairman, CEO and MD, Ranbaxy, said, “Our new anti-malaria drug, likely the first NCE (New Chemical Entity) from India, will benefit patients immensely and provide a more potent solution to developing nations where malaria is endemic.”

Arterolane maleate + Piperaquine phosphate is a synthetic drug and so, is easier to manufacture.

Patient compliance will also be much easier; available therapy requires an adult to consume 24 tablets over three days. Whereas, the Arterolane maleate + Piperaquine phosphate dosage is only tablet per day for three days. Ranbaxy aims to market the drug in the malaria-endemic geographies of India, Africa, Latin America and the Asia Pacific.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 250-300 million cases of malaria occur every year, mainly in developing countries, causing approximately a million deaths. Anti-malarial research is one of the neglected areas.

Business Standard report

Friday, May 1, 2009

All about Ayurveda


"AYURVEDA" is made up of two words-Ayuh and Veda. Ayuh means life and Veda means knowledge or science. Thus "AYURVEDA’ in totality means ‘Science of life’. It incorporates all aspects of life whether physical, psychological, spiritual or social. What is beneficial and what is harmful to life, what is happy life and what is sorrowful life; all these four questions and life span allied issues are elaborately and emphatically discussed in Ayurveda. It believes the existence of soul before birth and after death too.


Ayurveda, the ancient most health care system originated with the origin of universe. With the inception of human life on earth Ayurveda started being applied. The antique vedic texts have scattered references of Ayurvedic Remedies and allied aspects of medicine and health. Atharva-veda mainly deals with extensive Ayurvedic information. That is why Ayurveda is said to be the off shoot of Atharva Veda.


Universe as well as human body are made up of five basic elements colectively called ‘Panch Mahabhootas’. These are Aakash (Ether), Vayu (Air), Agni(Fire), Aapa (Water) and Prithvi (Earth). The sixth mandatory component of life is Atma (life spirit) without which life ceases. The human body is made up of Doshas (Bio-humours), Dhatus(Body matrix) and Malas (excretable products). Vata, Pitta and kapha, known as Tridoshs are physiological entities of the body which are responsible for carrying out all the functions of the body. Dhatus are the structural entities of thebody. These are Rasa (Plasma), Rakta (Blood cells), Mamsa (Muscular tissue), Meda (Fatty tissue), Asthi (Bony tissue), Majja (Bone marrow) and Shukra (Hormonal and other secretions of genital). Agni (Metabolic fire) is in thirteen different forms and carries out the whole metabolism of the body. The waste products of the body which are excretable are produced in the body as bye-products of metabolism. These are known as malas which include pureesh (faeces), Sweda (sweat) and Mutra (urine). All biotransformations within the body occur through Srotases (body channels) which are the sites for action of agni.

For more information on traditional Indian medicines visit: http://indianmedicine.nic.in/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Legal victory of turmeric patenting

India's successful challenging of a U.S. patent (No. 5,401,504) on the use of turmeric (Curcuma longa L., Zingiberaceae) for healing has been an encouraging victory for Indian activists campaigning to protect indigenous wisdom.

After a complex legal battle, the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office ruled on Aug. 14 that a patent for turmeric issued to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in December 1993 was invalid because it was not a novel invention.

The patent was contested by India's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which combined scientific evidence with legal savvy to take on the biopirates. Says an excited R. A. Mashelkar, director-general of the CSIR, "This success will enhance the confidence of the people and help remove fears about India's helplessness on preventing bio-piracy and appropriation of inventions based on traditional knowledge."

The turmeric patent was just one of the hundreds that the North has claimed by ignoring indigenous and existing knowledge. Vandana Shiva, a global campaigner for a fair and honest Intellectual Property Rights system, says patents on Neem, Amla, Jar Amla, Anar, Salai, Dudhi, Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Erand, Rangoon-kibel, Vilayetishisham and Chamkura need to be revoked.

This can be done if laws are changed to ensure protection against bio-piracy, activists say, because "chasing every patent based on traditional knowledge will involve huge expenses and efforts," according to farm scientist Devinder Sharma.

Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, patents are provided for inventions that qualify for their novelty, non-obviousness, and utility. The turmeric patent failed to satisfy the criteria of novelty as turmeric paste has been used to treat wounds and stomach infections for centuries by Indians.

It is the WTO which has to protect indigenous knowledge, argues Sharma, who says, "governments of developing countries cannot chase and challenge every indigenous knowledge-based product patent. Patent laws need to be changed, the onus of proof reversed and companies should give an undertaking that the patent they are seeking is not based on traditional wisdom."

Suman Sahai of the New Delhi-based Gene Campaign would like the government to use the turmeric case to "press the North to reform its own laws governing intellectual property rights, instead of pressuring the South to change its laws."

Vandana Shiva points out that "examples of bio-piracy make it clear that it is not just Indian patent laws that need to be changed. The American laws also need to be changed to fit into a fair and honest global Intellectual Property Rights system."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Milk: Healthy or Unhealthy

From childhood, we are taught that milk is healthy and that we need to consume dairy products for the calcium intake. But today, even doctors say cow's milk can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, allergies, diarrhoea, heart disease, colic, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, sinusitis, skin rashes, acne, increased frequency of colds and flu, arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma and autoimmune diseases.

These are some finding of studies:
  • Milk is also a cause of malabsorption disorders (2), may be a cause of juvenile diabetes (3), and may promote prostate and testicular cancer (4).
  • Preliminary findings indicate that insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in children is associated with an intake of cow's milk prior to weaning. An autoimmune mechanism has been used to explained how cow's milk causes the body to produce antibodies. These antibodies attack the pancreatic cells that make insulin. Research continues to clarify these relationships and the role of genes in triggering this auto-immune response (5).
  • Milk and milk products gave the highest correlation coefficient to heart disease, while sugar, animal proteins and animal fats came in second, third,and fourth, respectively (6).

  • Milk and many components of milk (butterfat, milk protein, calcium from milk, and riboflavin)… were positively related to coronary heart disease mortality for all 40 countries studied (7).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Indian herbs investigated

Hundreds of herbs used for centuries by traditional healers in India could soon be on western pharmacy shelves.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has launched a series of studies to test the health claims surrounding a variety traditional medicines.

Clinical trials have shown that herbal remedies for asthma, diabetes and even sexually transmitted diseases may be effective.

The council is looking at treatments for a range of other conditions used for over a thousand years by practitioners of Ayurveda and Siddha medicine.

More effective

Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, a member of the council, said that in some cases the herbs may be more effective than Western-style medicines.

"We have plants for bronchial asthma, hepatitis and arthritis," he said.

"We have other plants which have been shown to be effective for treating sexually transmitted diseases and they have been used in that way by tribal populations for centuries.

"We have herbs where you can relieve headache, fever, gastroenteritis, sneezing and coughing.

"These conditions can easily be alleviated."

Pharmaceutical companies have already expressed an interest in developing some of these remedies commercially for sale in the West.

Under some existing schemes, a percentage of the company's profits is given to a local village.

Professor Chaudhury acknowledged that in some cases the council will be unable to prove that the herbs work.

This is because many of the remedies are based on a combination of plants which taken on their own would not be effective.

"There are hundreds of herbs but we are unable at the moment to do very good testing for combinations of plants.

"In the Ayurvedic system they use usually combinations. But testing combinations with modern technology is difficult."

Common standards

The herbal remedies would have to be produced to a common standard before they could ever hope to make pharmacy shelves.

Professor Chaudhury said: "There are many herbs that are very effective and I wouldn't hesitate to prescribe them or even take them but only if I am sure it has been standardised."

Millions of people living across India use traditional medicine. In some rural areas, between 60% and 70% seek help from Ayurveda and Siddha practitioners.

"If this was taken away our health services would collapse," said Professor Chaudhury.

However, he added that the tradition is losing out to western-style medicine.

"There are vast areas of India where there is no healthcare and people look after themselves with their tradition, their folklore, their tribal systems and their inherent knowledge of plants.

"They use this but a lot of this is being lost because the knowledge goes when the folk healer dies."

Professor Chaudhury said the council hoped to continue to collect information on the traditional herbs and to identify those which can be scientifically proven to work.

This story was done by BBC.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Indian herbs for soup

Get a taste of the Indian garam masala - yummy...

"Masala" literally means a blend of different herbs and spices, while "Garam" means "hot," although the blend is really isn't chilli-hot. Garam masala is an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine, particularly in the northern regions of the nation. This all-purpose blend contains most of the Indian herbs used for soup. It is added to the soup or other dish just before it is served.

It is said that there are as many recipes for garam masala as there are kitchens in India. However, most recipes will combine a simple, basic blend of these commonly available herbs and spices:

  • Cloves
    • Indian Names: Lavang, Laung, Lavanga, Lavangalu, Labango, Krambu, Grampu, Shriisanjnan,
    • Used for its spicy, highly aromatic flavor. It should be used ground fresh as it easily loses its potency.
  • Coriander
    • Indian Names: Kothambari, Dhania, Dhaniya
    • This aromatic herb is prized for its pungent, slightly citrusy flavor, and for the texture it adds to soups.
  • Cardamom pods
    • Indian Name: Eliachi, Yellakai, Ellakai, Elakkaai, Elathari, Yalukalu
    • Imparts/prized for its strong, yet pleasant flavor, which is found in its seeds. The woody pods are discarded.
  • Black pepper
    • Indian Name: Kala mirchi, Krishnan, Krishnadi, Menasu, Gulki, Kuru mulagu, Marichan
    • Used whole and ground as needed. An essential component in almost all Indian cuisine as a cooking ingredient as well as a table condiment.
  • Cinnamon
    • Indian Name: Dalchini, Dalochini, Erikkoloam, Durusita, Lavangamu, Illavangam, Lavanga pattai
    • A fragrant spice that is prized for its delicate, sweet flavor.
  • Black cumin
    • Indian Name: kala jeera, Shah Jeera (Not to be confused with jeera, or regular cumin)
    • Sweeter and darker-colored than regular cumin, this spice is used for its exotic, flowery aroma and its nutty flavor when toasted.
  • Ginger
    • Indian names: Adrak, Adraka, Sonth, Alla, Allam, Inchi, Shringaveran, Sringaaran, Ingee, Ada
    • A basic, albeit non-essential, Indian spice, Ginger is used for its sharp, pungent flavor and aroma.
In Indian cuisine, herbs and spices are always used whole rather than powdered. They are first dry roasted and then ground to release their natural oils and flavors

Monday, February 23, 2009

The struggle to protect traditional medicines

In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as "public property" free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a "brand".The move comes after scientists in Delhi noticed an alarming trend – the "bio-prospecting" of natural remedies by companies abroad.

After trawling through the records of the global trademark offices, officials found 5,000 patents had been issued — at a cost of at least $150m (£104m) — for "medical plants and traditional systems"."More than 2,000 of these belong to the Indian systems of medicine … We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all," said Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.The database, which took 200 researchers eight years to compile by meticulously translating ancient Indian texts, will now be used by the European Patent Office to check against "bio-prospectors".Gupta points out that in Brussels alone there had been 285 patents for medicinal plants whose uses had long been known in the three principal Indian systems: ayurveda, India's traditional medical treatment; unani, a system believed to have come to India via ancient Greece; and siddha, one of India's oldest health therapies, from the south.

Researchers found that in Europe one company had patented an Indian creeping plant known as Brahmi — Bacopa monnieri — for a memory enhancer. Another patent was awarded for aloe vera for its use as a mouth ulcer treatment."We have shown the authorities that ayurveda, unani and siddha medicinal uses were known in India. We would like the patents therefore lifted," said Gupta.In the past India has had to go to court to get patents revoked. Officials say that to lift patents from medicines created from turmeric and neem, an Indian tree, it spent more than $5m. In the case of the neem patent, the legal battle took almost 10 years."We won because we proved these were part of traditional Indian knowledge. There was no innovation and therefore no patent should be granted," said Gupta.Yoga, too, is considered a traditional medicine and one that is already a billion-dollar industry in the US. Gupta said the Indian government had already asked the US to register yoga as a "well-known" mark and raised concerns over the 130 yoga-related patents issued."We want no one to appropriate the yoga brand for themselves.

There are 1,500 asanas [yogic poses] and exercises given in our ancient texts. We are transcribing these so they too cannot be appropriated by anyone."We have had instances where people have patented a yoga technique by describing a certain temperature. This is simply wrong."India is also unusual in that it has seven national medical systems — of which modern medicine is but one.

Almost four-fifths of India's billion people use traditional medicine and there are 430,000 ayurvedic medical practitioners registered by the government in the country. The department overseeing the traditional medical industry, known as Ayush, has a budget of 10bn rupees ($260m).India's battle to protect its traditional treatments is rooted in the belief that the developing world's rich biodiversity is a potential treasure trove of starting material for new drugs and crops. Gupta said that it costs the west $15bn and 15 years to produce a "blockbuster drug". A ­patent lasts for 20 years, so a pharmaceutical company has just five years to recover its costs — which makes conventional treatments expensive."If you can take a natural remedy and isolate the active ingredient then you just need drug trials and the marketing.

Traditional medicine could herald a new age of cheap drugs."Medicines ancient and modernGinger: Patented to treat obesity. However, officials have found that in a Siddha preparation, extracts of ginger root are used in a treatment for obesityCitrus peel extract: Patented to treat skin disorders and injuries. Recorded in Ayurvedic texts as a key ingredient to treat skin diseasesPhyllanthus amarus (Himalayan stem herb): Patented "for the inhibition of the replication of a nucleosidic inhibitor resistant retrovirus and/or a non-nucleosidic inhibitor-resistant retrovirus, wherein said retrovirus is an HIV."

Indian traditional texts show the drug is used for immuno-suppressive emaciating diseasesBrassica rapa (mustard): Patented to normalise bowel function or for the prevention of colonic cancer. Unani has for years prescribed it for stomach ailments.