Category Archives: Medicine

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Not Fair!

Cosmetics (Photo credit: My Sight, as You See.)

Should the cosmetic industry be regulated? Cosmetic industry historically is either not regulated or the regulations are minimal and ineffectual in most parts of the world. A topical pharmaceutical product takes years to reach the market after stringent safety and efficacy tests on humans and animal models. Still pharmaceutical products cannot advertise while the cosmetic industry can make horrendous claims like 2 shades lighter skin and “get your hair back in 15 days”!

English: Sun Spray, Nature Cosmetic, Sun Spray...
English: Sun Spray, Nature Cosmetic, Sun Spray from Germany Deutsch: Sonnenspray, Naturkosmetik, Deutsches Sonneschutzmittel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ironically most consumers believe that cosmetic products have to substantiate their safety and efficacy to regulatory bodies before they make these claims. But the fact of the matter is, you can get away with normal clay packed in an attractive bottle as a fairness cream. If you have a good advertising team, you can make money too. Some claim “medical” benefits and call themselves cosmeceuticals!

Pharmaceutical products go through pre-clinical Phase I testing on animal models and clinical Phase II and Phase III testing to establish its pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile. Further monitoring and testing is done in Phase IV for which the gold standard is Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). RCT is used to compare the product to placebo or the existing standard treatment. Though there is some merit in the argument that Phase I-III tests may not be required for cosmetics as only “products generally considered safe” are used in the manufacturing process, evidence collected through an appropriately conducted RCT is imperative to substantiate any advertisement claims that cosmetic manufacturers make. Manufacturers may not follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) too.

It is high time for fairness creams to play fair!

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Dr Who

Category : Medicine , Patient

A doctor examines a female patient.
A doctor examines a female patient. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was asked to find a solution to the following problem:

Dr Who is a popular doctor with lots of experience in treating a particular cosmetic condition. Dr Who has multiple clinics in different geographic locations. How do we scale up Dr Who’s experience to all the clinics?

This was my answer:

Dr Who uses 2 machines A & B and 2 products C & D.
Dr Who uses machine A with two settings A1 and A2 and B with 2 settings B1 and B2.
So you have several combinations and permutations of machine settings and products.

Dr Who extracts 3 information from a patient, X, Y, and Z. X and Y are captured by a machine and Z is noted by him.

Dr Who has 10000 patients with X,Y,Z known. He has data on what combination worked for whom and what did not.

We can correlate values of X,Y,Z for each patient with the combination (A1/A2/B1/B2/C/D) that worked for him. So when a patient comes to us, we measure X,Y,Z and propose the most likely combination to work for him. So our assessment will be based on Dr Who’s experience on 10000 patients.

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My personal experience with KIRTADS healer

Traditional healer stand in an open market in ...
Image via Wikipedia
So on to my personal experience with a KIRTADS healer. I went inside one of the shacks (there were many, specialised in various segments perhaps) and met a dark, well built healer with a smooth-shaven face. (Not the features you expect for a traditional healer.) I told him that one of my friends has a thick skin condition like psoriasis. He immediately recognised psoriasis (may be it is a common complaint) and advised me that psoriasis requires exfoliation of thick skin from outside and purification of blood from inside and recommended concoctions for both. I realised that at a conceptual level, their approach is not very different from ours. Purification of blood is a very popular concept among traditional healers. It is a very appealing concept and has very high placebo value. Even if you go to a modern pharmacy in India and ask for “blood purification mix”, I am sure you will get something or the other OTC!!
Next I asked him whether he has any medicine for being fair. I sensed a qualm before he offered me “slim oil” for the same. May be he equated fair to beauty and by a complicated reasoning process – beauty to being slim. He did not offer me any further explanation. I feel “fairness creams” is a modern fad and never existed before. That brings me to certain ludicrous claims of Indian “fairness creams”. More on this in the next post.
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KIRTADS – The Kerala Institute for Research, Training and Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, is conducting a പൈത്രികൊല്സവം (culture festival, the translation may not be accurate) in Mala, Kerala from Jan 22nd 2012 to Jan 30th 2012. Since I am in Kerala now on vacation, I visited this festival a couple of days back. They had several stalls for traditional medicine. I will blog about my experience later. Today I will translate relevant parts of their brochure. Disclaimer: The translation may not be accurate. Read at your risk!!

Ethnomedicine (വംശീയവൈദ്യം): Every tribe has their own knowledge and treatment methods to deal with various diseases. Diseases that exist for several generations are treated with herbs and materials of animal origin. These practical knowledge evolved over several centuries and became a form of medicine called ethnomedicine. However this form of medicine is on the decline because of inefficient transfer of information through generations. Kirtands is trying to preserve this knowledge by encouraging ethnomedicine practitioners. Their core expertise is in psoriasis, piles, infertility, cancer, diseases of the nervous system, vitiligo, asthma, hair fall, abdominal diseases, cough, various arthritis and joint pains, eye diseases and tonsillitis. 

Medical Sauna: 

This is effective for skin diseases, respiratory diseases and arthritis and includes more than 60 herbal medicines. This treatment method is available in several centers in Kerala.

Research Initiatives in Ethanomedicine:

The main emphasis of our research division is on perpetuating the knowledge we have accumulated. We have initiated a 3 year course in ethanomedicine. Many of our practitioners who completed this course has become very popular in various districts of Kerala. We also conduct treatment camps in various places. We have even collaborated with Regional research center, Trivandrum on trials for diabetic medications. Our initiatives have helped in preserving our traditional treatment methods and to make it popular among the masses. 

In my next post I will describe my personal experience!