The export of Ayurvedic medicines from India has suffered a set back following the testing by the Canadian Government that has revealed alarmingly high levels of heavy metals in the exported traditional medicinal preparations. More than 18 different Ayurvedic medicines have been tested by the Health Canada, a part of the Canadian government's health department.
The analysis has highlighted the high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic, which could lead to toxicity if used for a long time. The levels were much beyond the permissible limits and the labels of the containers had no indication regarding the potential health hazards.
Mahayogaraj Guggulu (Silver), Makardhwaj, Mahalaxmi Vilas (Gold), Navratna Rasa, Swarna Mahayograj Gugglu (Gold) were some of the medicines found to contain high heavy metal content. Companies like Dabur and Zandu are also under trouble as some of their products have been found to contain high levels of heavy metals.
In accordance with the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules 1954, all Indian medicines exported should clearly indicate the contents in the display label. Furthermore, medicinal preparations containing substances such as mercury, arsenic, lead should contain a warning statement regarding the usage as per Rule 161.
Of all the products tested, only four products were found to carry such a warning. Despite the presence of lead and arsenic in a branded Ayurvedic medicine, the presence of only mercury was indicated in the label. Water and soil pollution has been accounted for this high heavy metal content.
Following the issue of notice by the Canadian Government, the Government of India has made the testing of all Ayurvedic medicinal preparations mandatory. Unani and Siddha medicines would also be tested before it can be approved for export. The new system would be functional from January 1, 2006.
In addition to testing, the drug manufactures would be required to specify the metal content clearly in the display label of the package. A warning notice has to be included if the levels of heavy metals are above the permissible levels. It has also been proposed to label herbal medicines for heavy metal content meant for domestic use by Ahmedabad-based Consumer Education and Research Society (CERS).
A case has been filed by CERS regarding the above issue before the National Consumers Commission. An intervention by the Union ministry of food and consumer affairs, Drugs Controller General of India and state drugs controllers has also been sought to manage the crisis effectively.
With proper implementation of the above-mentioned regulations, the export of Ayurvedic medicines can be expected to improve in the near future.