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July 7, 2000
Medical rivalry threatens cancer cure project
D Jose in Trivandrum
Traditional rivalry between allopathy and the ancient Indian system of ayurveda threatens to hit an ambitious project seeking a cure for cancer.
Dr Vaidya Balendu Prakash, who came from Dehradun to set up an ayurveda research unit at the Regional Cancer Centre here to test the efficacy of his drugs, is being hounded.
The project, launched a year back with the blessings of the government, has failed to achieve its targets, thanks to non-cooperation from the allopathy wing. The centre, a collaborator in the project, has been wary of referring patients to the research unit, which operates from its campus.
Dr Balendu Prakash says the centre had not referred any patient in a year.
Though it was planned to enrol 120 patients, to scientifically validate ancient drugs in modern terminology, the unit could get only 35.
This was mainly due to interest shown in the project by two doctors from the Trivandrum Medical College and one from Malappuram. The college referred 18 patients.
Dr R Rajendran, professor and head of the department of oral pathology and microbiology, was keen to find out whether ayurveda could provide a cure for oral sub-mucous fibrosis, for which there is no allopathic treatment available.
Rajendran, who is satisfied with the experiment, told rediff.com that the three patients he referred to Balendu had shown remarkable recovery.
"We need to test more cases for a sound scientific validation. If the ayurvedic drug is found efficacious on more patients, it will be an Indian solution for the sub-mucous fibrosis".
Incidentally, the disease is mainly prevalent among Indians. Cases reported in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and other countries were of the Indian community. Rajendran thinks that the chewing habit among Indians could be a major reason.
Similarly, Dr Narendranathan Nair, professor and head of gastro-enterology in the Trivandrum Medical College, is keen on finding an ayurvedic cure for chronic pancreatitis, since allopathy is not expected to come up with a solution to dissolve stones.
Narendranathan, who referred 15 patients to Balendu, said he was looking for an evaluation of the results next month, to form an opinion on the cure. However, he added that the preliminary results were encouraging.
Dr Sidi from Maulana Hospital at Perinthalmanna in Malappuram, the third doctor to refer maximum patients to the unit, was impressed with the cure of his nephew, who suffered from acute promylocytic leukaemia.
"I met Balendu when we had lost all hope, after the centre and Vellore Christian Hospital gave up after his legs got paralysed. After three months, my nephew was normal. He is now married and leading a normal life in Dubai," Sidi said.
Sidi said almost all sent to Balendu for treatment had recovered.
The centre, which rejects several cases everyday, has not referred any of the hundreds of patients who come each day to the ayurveda unit, on the fifth floor of its main block.
"I expected the centre to evolve a proper system of referring patients. I can't get patients by advertising in newspapers. It is up to the centre to provide patients," he added.
Balendu, who is part of President K R Narayanan's panel of physicians, is disgusted.
Though several committees were proposed under the project, only one has been constituted. But, it has not held any formal meeting in one year.
"Whenever, we met informally, some members chose to abuse, intimidate and threaten me. A member had even threatened to ruin the project," Balendu told rediff.com.
He has also been getting death threats, ordering him to leave Kerala, he said.
Balendu, who spends 10 days a month in Kerala, has gun-wielding policemen as security.
City police commissioner Padma Kumar said that he had started an investigation to identify the source of the calls. Some calls were sourced to a public telephone booth near the college.
Balendu said, "I often wonder why I have to face this humiliation for trying to help cancer patients. I had thought of leaving the state many times, but I stayed back because I thought I was on a noble mission," Balendu said.
Centre director Dr Krishnan Nair has denied charges of non-cooperation. He said that the centre had provided facilities for research. "Besides offering space, we have been doing pre- and post-treatment tests for finding out the efficacy of the physician's drugs," he insisted.
He said there was need to enrol more patients for a sound assessment of the alternative treatment. Though there were few patients, the results are positive, he added. The centre, has therefore, recommended a one-year extension for the project.
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