Sep 18, 2012

Drug discovery today is innovation deficit with issues of safety & efficacy; Ayurveda, the discovery engine can give solution : Prof. Patwardhan

 Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Drug discovery today is innovation deficit. There are fewer new chemical entities coming out of the research labs of pharmaceutical companies in a year. On an average innovation shortfall estimated at a mere 1.3 NCEs a year, according to Professor Bhushan Patwardhan, vice chancellor, Symbiosis International University, Pune.

The development time has increased. Safety and efficacy remain a challenge.  Failure at the end of pipeline creates increased development costs and all of these are key factors for Drug Discovery innovation deficit, stated Prof. Patwardhan in his key note address at the Johns Hopkins University, USA, after receiving the Merit of Excellence Award at the global level for  Ayurveda recently.

Evidence- based Ayurveda could offset safety and efficacy issues posed by modern drugs. Take for instance Pfizer, for the safety reasons, all clinical studies on HDL raising drug ‘Torecetrapib’ as extension to Lipitor were stopped. Another company BMS with ‘Pargluva’ PPAR for diabetes has posed cardiovascular risks. In the case of AstraZeneca for its Anticoagulant drug ‘Exanta’ was withdrawn after liver toxicity was observed in phase III. There are two other cases: free radical damage protection NXY-059 failed to show significant efficacy in extended phase III and Galida (tesagliazar) showed increased creatinine indicating kidney damage after phase III.

There are several drugs withdrawn during post marketing which brings us to look at traditional medicine options with an integrative approach, he added.

Modern drug discovery throws open methods of synthetic dominance, chemical biology , genomics, reverse pharmacology, systems biology and  personalized approach.

Drug Discovery is not in isolation. The focus is on syndromes and not just diseases with metabolomics and pharmacogenomics. The highlight is also on the concept of holistic or Prakriti-Disease-Drug. However, the combinatorial and holistic approach is the most modern view where multi targeted drugs are now conceivable with many of these molecules which help yield drugs of superior clinical value compared with mono-target formulations. “This is where traditional medicine, like Ayurveda demonstrates the way forward. Moreover herbs have been the foundations of many modern drugs like Morphine which is from opium poppy. Quinine from Cinchona tree. Cocaine  from Coca tree. Tubocurarine from Tube curare. Pilocarpine from Jaborandi tree. Bromelain from Pineapple and many other others including Hyoscine, Digoxin, Cholchicine and Emetine,” he stated.

There is need to bring back traditional wisdom based on the success of the  western world’s Feverfew, Primrose oil. Chinese medicine’s Quinghaosu and  Artemisinin. Ayurveda’s Rauwolfia alkaloids for hypertension, Psoralens in Vitiligo, Holarrhena alkaloids in Amoebiasis, Guggulsterons as hypolipidemic agents, Mucuna pruriens for Parkinson’s disease, Piperidines as bioavailability enhancers, Baccosides in mental retention, Picrosides in hepatic protection, Phyllanthins as anti-virals, Curcumines in inflammation and  Withanolides as Immunomodulators. “There is no doubt that ayurveda is the discovery engine with access to over 300 well documented and in-use medicinal plants, supported by over 5000 traditional formulations in practice, a large experimental database available with ICMR, CSIR and other Laboratories,” informed Prof. Patwardhan.

Based on the need for more focused integrated high-end research as a source of new targets and leads, several grants under like the New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI) have now seen ample herbal drug studies being carried out for arthritis, hepatitis, diabetes, anti inflammatory and oxidative damage control proving that evidence based Ayurveda could actually reverse the innovation deficit and create a surplus, he said.

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