Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Indian Traditional Medicine

I just received the table-of-contents alert for Nature in my email inbox. Included in this week's issue is an article discussing a database of information about uses of plants and extractions in traditional Indian medicine. It's an interesting article, and raises some good questions about the role of multinational corporations in exploiting this knowledge, and the benefit to humanity that could result from this initiative.

However, there are lots of statements in the article that annoy me. Besides the usual "big companies are bad" statements by various people, there are a few mentions of "cures". For example, the article quotes Vis Niranjan, president of RxMD Private, a management consultancy based in Chennai:
Cures for many illnesses are found in nature. The information contained in the library is phenomenal - and it is time someone mined the data to identify cures.

The first sentence is Bullshit. You have a great database of some valuable information. None of it includes any cure for any disease or disorder - you can't claim something cures a disease until you've subjected it to the full weight of modern scientific medical testing - double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, for a start. The second sentence actually makes sense, however, since this really does look like a valuable resource to start looking for potential cures. Human therapies based on information in this database, assuming it's made available to people who can actually use it, are probably at least a decade away.

1 comment:

Carlo said...

Why do people keep assuming that "Modern" medecine DOESN'T have umpteen hundred years of history. What in the hell makes "traditional" medecine so inviting. I'd argue the modern medicine has the same length of history as the other ones except for one crucial point... Modern Medecine has LEARNED from mistakes...