Uproar as Siddha medicines take new avatar in US

Drugs used to treat dengue and Covid here are being marketed as health foods

Published: 18th November 2020 05:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th November 2020 05:02 AM   |  A+A-

Neem leaves soup powder 

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Nothing describes the Siddha medical system better than this ancient Tamil saying — unave marunthu, marunthe unavu. Loosely translated, it becomes, “food is medicine, and medicine becomes food.” A few in the State seem to have taken the adage quite literally, causing hassles for the current generation of Siddha practitioners. 

Food manufacturers from Tamil Nadu are allegedly branding Nilavembu Kudineer and Kabasura Kudineer—used to treat specific ailments in the Siddha system of medicine — as food supplements and selling them in US and Europe. Nilavembu Kudineer, which was the go-to miracle drug according to the State government to treat dengue, is sold as “Neem leaf soup” in Western countries.

The development has worried Siddha practitioners, who say that any adverse impact of such moves can harm the entire medical system. “These preparations are medicines, and cannot be sold as food supplements. There are raw materials used in these formulations that cannot be consumed as food ingredients,” says Dr Thirunarayanan, a member of Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani Drugs Consultative Committee that advices the Central Government.      

Thirunarayanan claims to have come across 10-15 such drugs being branded as food supplements by food manufacturers, prompting him to file a complaint. It is learnt that Central Ayush Drugs Controller under Ministry of Ayush has asked the Commissioner of Food Safety and Drug Administration to take action against misuse of FSSAI licences by companies of food supplements and nutraceuticals.   

“It is pertinent that products manufactured under the provisions of Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 & Rules, 1945 can not be granted registration or license under FSSAI regulations as food supplements or nutraceuticals, which may otherwise tantamount to misappropriation and misbranding of drugs,” the drugs controller wrote to Commissioner of Food Safety and Drug Administration in Chennai.

It has also asked the Commissioner of Food Safety and Drug Administration in Chennai to take appropriate action against the alleged food products and to stop granting registration or license to such food products or nutraceutical products, which fall in the ambit of Ayurveda Siddha Unani (ASU) drugs related provisions of Drugs & Cosmetics Act 1940 & Rules 1945. The Commissioner of Food Safety and Drug Administration A Sivagnanam told Exporess that he has received the communication from the Central Ayush Drugs Controller has given directions to strictly monitor the activity.

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