Big Pharma vs Nature

I read an article about something interesting that I now can’t seem to find on the internet. The article was about a study conducted by some Indian doctors that indicated that wheat grass juice can reduce transfusion requirements in Thalassemia patients. A paper on the subject in Indian Pediatrics from 2004 is what I was able to google.

One of the (many) problems with modern day drug discovery system is that it is driven completely by a template that provides no incentives to discover naturally found active ingredients with therapeutic properties. Discovering new drugs is an expensive process requiring tens of millions as investment before the drug can be commercially exploited. Most drug candidates don’t make it. If you amortize the cost of these failed drugs over the few successful ones, the costs multiply rapidly. The entire edifice of the pharma industry rests upon the ability of companies to successfully exploit a successful drug through patent protected pharmaceuticals. The problem with naturally found active ingredients is that a patient can get the cure without buying the pill.

I believe that there are many, many cures to diseases as well as ways to stay healthy (nutraceuticals) that can be found in natural substances. Ayurveda is entirely based upon finding remedies in natural substances rather than man made molecules. Unfortunately, to take Ayurveda from what some might call ritualistic mumbo jumbo to authentic medicine requires investment – to isolate active ingredients, do pharmacological testing and clinical trials. How does one justify this investment if at the end of it, the remedies will still be available freely?

Tough problem to crack. Somebody needs to come up with a business model that allows them to justify the required investment. I don’t think this business model can emerge in the developed countries where the powerful pharma industry will snuff it out. But in a country like India, there is still hope.

1 Comment

  1. Siddharth says:

    Dear all, Merry Christmas!

    It is all about balance. Ayurveda is based on the ‘principal of balance’. It does seem to us that big pharma companies may have financial imbalances if they deviate from their current models. My tribute to people like Gerorge Washington Carver who tought farming techniques for self-sufficiency, and Luther Burbank – another botanist who deserves mention. Is it that such men of caliber, without material goals, thrive only outside the corporate world?


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