I K Gujral uses it, but is Memory Plus safe?
George Iype in New Delhi
It may not be the skirmishes between the partners of his 13-party United Front that may give Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral high blood pressure.
But Memory Plus, a drug that the 77-year-old Gujral
regularly takes to vitalise brain cells, could lead to mild depression
and high blood pressure.
The enormously popular drug, developed by the government-owned
Central Drug Research Institute, has become a subject of heated debate between India's top scientific and medical institutes.
The Indian Council of Medical Research has questioned
CDRI claims that Memory Plus helps improve memory
"There is no scientific evidence to prove that
the drug has any memory-enhancing effect on humans," says
Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhary, chairman of the ICMR's scientific advisory
"We are studying a few medical reports which
showed that Memory Plus could lead to high blood pressure and
slow depression," he told Rediff On The NeT.
Other regular users of the drug include former
prime ministers P V Narasimha Rao and Chandra Shekhar, chess
Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand, former chief election commissioner
T N Seshan and a number of members of Parliament.
But Rao reportedly stopped taking the capsules,
after his doctors found his blood pressure too high.
The tiny green-and-yellow capsules at Rs 3 a piece
was launched last year as an enhancer of 'alertness, briskness,
freshness and non-tired-someness.'
'I trust Memory Plus,' beams Anand from outdoor hoardings, television advertisements and the 30-capsule pack.
But the allopathic scientist-led ICMR is far from
convinced. Dr Roy Chaudhury says Memory Plus did not go through
the checks and trials that an allopathic drug would have had to
They argue that even a plant derivative, when developed
for use in allopathic medicine, has to go through extensive tests
before being cleared by the Drug Controller of India.
"People are being misled by the huge publicity to buy the drug," says an ICMR researcher.
The drug is an extract known as Brahmi of Bacopa
Monniera, a plant found in eastern India. CDRI began isolating
and identifying the molecules and becosides of the plant in the 1960s.
The scientists then extracted an active ingredient
of Brahmi and conducted trials on animals to test its safety and
"Our research proved that this standardised
extract improves protein activity and protein synthesis, especially
in the brain cells," says A R Marshelkar, director general
of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. CDRI is
one of the 40 laboratories under the CSIR's aegis. CSIR is India's
apex scientific research agency.
The CSIR chief says clinical trials on humans are not generally
conducted for herbal preparations like Memory Plus.
According to a technical report from CSIR, the preliminary
experiments conducted on mice have been very encouraging. 'Brahmi,
the crude extract derived from the indigenous plant Bacopa Monniera,
has been used for the treatment of cognitive disorders of ageing
in Indian medicine since ancient times,' it says.
The scientists have also tabulated the results of
complicated experiments which prove the memory and alertness-enhancing
aspect of the drug.
Though Brahmi is known for its potency, Delhi-based neurophysician Dr Samiran Bhargava
says, "successful clinical trials on mice does not necessarily mean success with
According to him, the CSIR should conduct a series
of clinical trials on humans before making claims of memory enhancement.
CSIR scientists, however, claim that Memory Plus strictly follows
the clinical guidelines of the World Health Organisation.
CDRI now plans to launch Memory Plus globally.
CSIR scientists believe walking billboards like
Gujral, Seshan and Anand will make Memory Plus a winner in the world market.