Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan’s statement on Sunday at Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth that the focus on Allopathy at AIIMS needs to make room for alternative and traditional systems of medicine like Ayurveda has caused unease among doctors and health experts both within and outside the institute.
Research on Ayurveda is the need of the hour, they say but add integration can barely happen based on the tenets of traditional Ayurveda texts without the claims being substantiated by modern day research. There are also concerns about potential crosspathy — practising of one system of medicine by a person trained in another system — that was debarred by the Supreme Court should the AIIMS brandname be extended to Ayurveda as the minister wants. Pleading anonymity members of the institute faculty say the Minister’s statement is in many ways a continuation of the practice of political expediency deciding the fate of the institute.
Inaugurating Ramdev’s museum at Hardwar on Sunday, Dr Harsh vardhan had said: “The old, allopathy orientation of AIIMS is out of sync with the contemporary trend of integrating indigenous and western forms of cure. That is why I wish to give Yoga, along with Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy pride of place in the AIIMS system. All the six new AIIMS will be dynamic institutions of integrated medicine in the years to come.”
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Former AIIMS professor Dr Anoop Misra who is currently chairman of the Fortis-C-DOC Centre for Excellence in Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology, says: “AIIMS is a highly respected scientific body whose research is regarded the world over. Even now there is research on Ayurveda, we had done one of the effects of jamun on diabetes. But Ayurveda prescriptions have to be tested in proper scientific format. An AIIMS department treating people with Ayurveda according to texts written 2000-4000 years ago is not acceptable.”
He talks about the recent ban in Ayurveda medications in Canada because of high lead content to highlight the point that scientific research often alters traditional knowledge.
A senior member of the AIIMS faculty said the minister’s statements about alternative systems of medicine since he took charge three months ago, often contrary to his own past positions as president of the Indian Medical Association, are more about the political reality of the day than anything else.
Dr K S Reddy, also a former professor in AIIMS and currently president of the Public Health Foundation of India, backs Dr Misra’s rider on research. “There is a great need for open minded examination of the potential for complementary use of different systems of medicine and healing. Colocating it with allopathy in institutes of higher learning will promote inter disciplinary research. It works so long as each system has its own treatment and is not mixed up without proof. While examining the efficacy of complementary systems of medicine we must move beyond the anecdotal to systematic research. There are many instances when complementary medicine ameliorates side-effects of allopathic medication and it is a fertile area for research,” he says.
Former Indian Medical Association president Dr D R Rai welcomes infusion of scientific spirit into Ayurveda but says getting Ayurveda under the AIIMS banner could open floodgates of crosspathy.