Have you ever wondered why Ayurveda, one of the primary branches of Indian medicinal systems does not find many buyers outside India? Any argument related to its potency is generally neglected in the medical community, mostly ignored, frowned upon, and sometimes, even ridiculed. Some categorize it along with chiropractic and homoeopathy for the sole reason that the claims are neither reasoned out or backed-up with adequate testing. Unfortunately, a system that is practiced for thousands of years in the subcontinent has failed to become India’s soft power.
There is meditation, religion, spirituality, yoga, curry Holi, Deepavali and even bloody Bollywood have become soft powers but not revered Ayurveda.
Considering a fair amount of modern medicine find its roots and ingredients in the plant-based extract, it is not hard to believe answers to most of our questions may lie Ayurveda. Agreed, we dint prove it conclusively, but what is the problem trying?
I have one answer for this, capitalism, and the patent system. I do not believe myself writing this, but apparently, it’s true. The system created to promote innovation and creativity and to provide credit to the right owners is destroying the chance of survival of Ayurveda. You would not expect this from torchbearers of growth, but unfortunately, it is true. Let me explain.
Capitalism, of which I am genuinely a huge fan, has a notable tendency on betting on the winning horse. Winner takes all is the mantra here, only winners can raise capital. Ayurveda needs a win, a single win to get her the start she is looking for. But the system which is stopping this is patent.
Patents, a sword wilding protector of intellectual property, are designed to provide a head start to reap the benefit of their innovation, which later becomes available to all with a royalty. Let me explain this through an example. We all know Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, a genius inventor of Soviet Union was credited to have invented few of the most famous assault rifle known to humans. Most of his inventions are even named after him, abbreviated. AK versions such as 47, and 56 are the most favorite choice of weapons of militants and terrorists even to this day. However, Kalashnikov was born and invested it being a servant of a socialistic country. By definition, these designs automatically become government property. He remained a government employee throughout.
Imagine this scenario in a capitalist country. He would have immediately become an entrepreneur, manufacture it in Taiwan or Bangladesh, and then contract it to the world’s most powerful governments. The billboards and football half-time would run advertisements starring scantily clad women flaunting these products with buy-one get one free offer. Kalashnikov would have slept on a pile of dollar bills like Scrooge McDuck did. This is the difference what a patent brings to the battle.
Let us come back to Ayurveda. Any medical invention needs mandatory and favorable results from large clinical trials. Venture capitalists and angel investors will not even look at your proposal unless you show them the trial’s size and potency results. A simple clinical trial requires millions and millions of dollars, dozens of years of investment from doctors and scientists, and all should come from your pockets. Even after spending these, they are absolutely no particular way you will get a patent. You cannot patent potency of turmeric or a clove of garlic. The question here is, why to spend all that money to test something, the right result of which, immediately becomes public domain. That is the end of it.
In other words, the garlic’s and turmeric may have healing properties no other modern medicine may have. But no one will spend a penny to test it. Only possibilities out for Ayurveda from this situation have a nationalistic government generously create a program to run trials, which itself will be socialistic. Is that an oxymoron?
I will leave you with a couple of research papers to read if you are interested.