University of Washington takes up study on Ayurveda

published on March 5, 2007

Sangeetha G in Chennai | PTI | March 05, 2007


Inspired by a “discarded” 20-year-old World Health Organisation-funded study which proved the efficacy of Ayurveda in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, the University of Washington has taken up a similar project in association with the Ayurvedic Trust in Coimbatore.


The University’s National Institute of Health-sponsored study ‘Ayurvedic and Allopathic Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis’ at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is expected to be over by the end of this year, Dr Krishna Kumar, managing director of the trust, told PTI.


The eight-member Indian team of Ayurvedic and Allopathic doctors is headed by Dr Ram Manohar of the trust and the six-member US team is led by Dr Daniel E Furst of the University of Los Angeles.


In the NIH study, which seeks to ascertain the effectiveness of combining Ayurvedic and Allopathic streams of medicine in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, 45 patients are treated for 36 weeks each, added Krishna Kumar.


“We were able to gain approval from the University of Washington’s very stringent Institutional Review Board for this pilot study, on the basis of the findings of the earlier WHO study,” he said.


According to Dr Mano Venkataraman of University of Washington, the programme director of the present study, “The encouraging results of the WHO study provided the inspiration, preliminary data, and the foundation upon which we could base the rationale for our NIH grant proposal.”


The WHO study was the first of its kind on a traditional medical system ever to be sponsored by the international organisation.

It enrolled 240 patients with rheumatoid arthritis from 1977 to 1984, added Krishna Kumar.


The WHO study had an allopathic panel — comprising leading doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, and Madras Medical College, Chennai — which diagnosed and chose the subjects for the study and also supervised the progress.


The Indian Council for Medical Research was involved in the evaluation of the study.


According to S Radhakrishna, retired director of the ICMR institute in Chennai, statistically significant and clinically-substantial improvements were seen in signs and symptoms in most patients.Physicians noted reduction of swelling within the first month, and 80 per cent of the subjects reported relief from pain.


In general, subjects evaluated their condition at discharge more favourably than did the allopathic physicians, said Dr C Madhusoodanan, who was a member of late Dr K S Varier-led treatment panel.


The Ayurvedic team felt that the treatment had been effective without any harmful side effects. Even though a large proportion of patients were in advanced stages of RA, they improved significantly.


But the Allopathic panel felt that since there was no control group, the possiblity cannot be ruled out that the improvement in the condition of the patients was a matter of chance, said Radhakrishna.


The WHO study was virtually dumped even without publishing the findings, said Dr Madhusoodanan.


Retd director general of ICMR G V Sathyavathi also felt that further studies should have been conducted to identify the effective drugs in the Ayurvedic package as the treatment was “quite effective” in the first two stages of the ailment.


Venkataraman, during one of her visits to the trust, found the discarded study papers.”I was greatly impressed and fascinated by the quality of the work and the huge amount of effort that had gone into the longitudinal study. It is such a pity that the results of this study were not published,” she said.


It was upon her initiative that the project report for the NIH pilot study was prepared, said Krishna Kumar.


Venkataraman said the collaboration with the trust will continue to build up this line of research after the pilot study, which started in April 2005. This study will pave the way for researches on other ailments as well.


Internationally, after the NIH study, there will be more understanding about and interest in Ayurveda. Having Dr Furst involved in this research programme will lend greater credibility to Ayurveda at a global level, she said.


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