Kochi (IBN): Even as the government plans to introduce tax sops for ayurvedic medicines, the state lacks proper checking facilities for those products.
Of the 2,000 to 3,000 ayurvedic products in the market, only 300 to 400 samples undergo testing at the Drugs Testing Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram, the lone testing centre in the state.
The ayurvedic industry in the state is growing by leaps and bounds registering a turnover of `600 crore, but the kashayam, choornam and lehyam that customers buy could be laden with high quantity of heavy metals, synthetic steroids, allopathic medicines and alcohol.
There are only three ayurveda drug inspectors in the state, who just collect about 30 to 40 samples each month, which means not all products are being analysed. “The samples that are tested at the laboratory are less when compared to the bulk of products,” said Krishnakumar, ayurveda drug analyst at the Drugs Testing Laboratory. Drugs Controller of Kerala C S Satheesh Kumar said the whole system had to be streamlined for making it foolproof. “There are proposals for setting up drug testing laboratories at Pathanamthitta, Thrissur and Kozhikode,” he said and added that it could strengthen the whole system.
When the Excise Department registered 1,000 cases of spurious ayurvedic products in the past two years, the Drugs Testing Laboratory took action only against two or three products, sources said.
They alleged that there is a nexus between the manufacturers of ayurvedic products and higher officials. And of the 300 to 400 samples tested every year, only a few cases of sub-standard medicines are detected.
“Between 2007 and 2010, a total of 14 samples with high quantity of alcohol and steroids were detected. While 27 samples were found to have a higher content of heavy metals, 36 samples had allopathic presence,” Krishnakumar said.
Noting that there was no particular standard for checking ayurvedic products, Krishnakumar said the Centre should take steps to fix standards for ayurvedic products.
He said there was a lack of proper facility at the drugs testing laboratory and that it was not able to handle all the products manufactured in the state.
“The standardisation methods of ayurvedic drugs should be relevant and evaluative,” he said. It is also said that there is no system to establish the toxic levels in ayurvedic drug formulations where metals are a major component.
With an increase in the popularity of ayurveda, drug manufacturing units have mushroomed and commercialisation has taken place on a large scale. This has resulted in compromising on quality.
Krishnakumar said that no clinical trial is being conducted when an ayurveda product is brought out. “It has to be noted that allopathic medicines are allowed to be marketed only after proper clinical trials. What we see in Kerala is the mushrooming of units manufacturing ayurvedic products,” he said.