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Efficacy of ayurveda on test

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Daniel E Furst

Medical students across the world read his books on rheumatology. After decades of experience in allopathy and its treatment options in this field, he is now studying the efficacy of ayurveda vis-à-vis rheumatoid arthritis - a disabling painful and inflammatory condition of the joints.

As many patients in India turn to ayurveda and other forms of treatment after trying out allopathy, the efficacy of this ancient form of Indian system of medicine is on test.

With more people moving towards this and Chinese forms of medicine even in the U.S., an in-depth study on how ayurveda works is on.

"Ayurveda is not an alternative medicine anymore in the U.S., but complementary", Daniel E Furst, Director of Clinical Research at the David Geffen School of Medince at UCLA in the U.S., tells K.V. Prasad.

"There is a major push for study on ayurveda in the U.S. It has been practiced for 3,000 years [in India]. No one will do it if it is garbage. It will gain credibility if adequately tested and will be used more."

Initially, ayurveda had been categorised as an alternative medicine. "Now, there are many

complementary systems of medicine being studies in the U.S. and ayurveda is one of them. As much as 40 per cent of the people in the U.S. go in for complementary systems."

Dr. Furst heads the study in a tie-up with the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy Trust in Coimbatore.

"What is very significant is that the Trust has opened itself to such a study and even allopathic physicians here are helping in the research. This is a double blind pilot study on 45 patients in three groups. I am open to knowing the system and the practitioners here are open to careful testing."

The study involves scrutiny of the results of the following combinations: classical allopathy and placebo ayurveda versus true classical ayurveda and placebo allopathy.

These individual results will be compared with those of a combination of both. The patients are from the AVP hospital.

On the difference between allopathy and ayurveda, a debate that is on for years in India and probably elsewhere, Dr. Furst says it boils down to that of emphasis. Ayurveda approaches a disease in a holistic manner. It treats the whole patient and not just the affected part.

The study was worked out after Dr. Furst's first visit to the AVP in 2004 as a rheumatologist interested in various rheumatic diseases. While the AVP provides 80 per cent funds for the study, the rest comes from the National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, Maryland, the U.S. In the true spirit of the word complementary, will the study arrive at the possibility of both allopathy and ayurveda treatment being administered to a patient suffering from two disorders? "We will find out," he says.

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