Month: July 2021

by Rajkumar Natekar Rajkumar Natekar No Comments


Healthcare systems are undergoing a paradigm shift, especially in this age of innovation. The focus today is on care rather than cure thus proving the age old proverb “prevention is better than cure” to be right. “Under the present situation, people are gaining trust on herbal medicines. Owing to changing trends among people, who want to be healthy and not to fall sick, they are opting for preventive options. This shift from cure to care has been one of the crucial reasons for the acceptance of herbal drugs including phytodrugs, a purified bio-active fraction made from the extract of medicinal plant or its part,” Dr. R.B. Smarta, Founder and Managing Director of Interlink, a business performance consulting firm operating in the pharmaceuticals, phytopharmaceuticals, nutraceutical and wellness space for over 35 years, says in an exclusive e-mail interview with Trinity Mirror. Dr. Smarta shares his views on phytopharmaceuticals and the emerging opportunities in the Indian market in a free-wheeling interview. Excerpts:

In what ways are phytopharmaceutical medicines better than the traditional drugs?

Even though, both traditional medicines and phytopharmaceuticals are derived from plant sources (and other natural sources except for phytomedicines), in India, regulatory bodies controlling these two medicinal practices differ significantly. ASU (Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani) medicines are regulated under the purview of Department of AYUSH, while, phytopharmaceuticals are regulated by CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation). Owing to this, phytopharmaceuticals are controlled in the similar manner as conventional chemical drugs. Their safety, quality control and efficacy are proved and supported by randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials which result in evidence-based drug development. This scientific evaluation of phytopharmaceuticals makes them more admissible than traditional medicines which are often supported only by non-clinical data which is not so reliable. Moreover, to develop phytodrugs, only therapeutic actives are isolated from plant sources through specialised extraction techniques so that the highest therapeutics efficacy of the particular bioactive can be employed for a specific disease.

Can you share your journey on the drugs and phytopharmaceuticals domain?

I have been in the pharma industry for the past 50 years and in the nutra, plant-based products, phytopharmaceutical industry for the last 20 years. Interlink being a consultancy firm, along with my team, we are provide go-to market strategies, launch new companies with a focus on top line products and profitability. This is the journey that has been going on so far.

Medical fields like allopathy promise cure for over 85 per cent of the current day diseases. Can you assure an equal or better cure?

As phytopharmaceutical field is still at a formative stage in India, it can’t be entirely compared to allopathic medicines which have established an irreplaceable place in healthcare practices after decades of research and development. True efficacy and the frequency of side effects of herbal medicines are not known as very few have undergone large clinical trials such as allopathic drugs. Although, till today, very few herbs are scientifically evaluated and have the potential to be used in medical treatments, extensive research in this area can bring out the true potential of phytopharmaceutical market in the near future.

What are the milestones crossed by phytopharmaceuticals in terms of human health?

Traditional herbal medicines in India and even Chinese traditional medicines have emerged as an excellent source of phytopharmaceutical bioactive, which is extensively being studied and utilised today.

Most of the people are comfortable with the current allopathy treatments and medicines. Do you think that phytopharmaceutical drugs earn people’s trust?

Yes, they can and the pandemic has led a rigid platform for this trust in plant-based medicines. The changing perspective of patients towards chemical drugs due to increasing incidences of side effects and addiction is further propelling the acceptance of herbal medicines. The initiatives by the Government of India and Ministry of AYUSH during COVID have promoted herbal medicines to a very huge extent, people are gaining trust in herbal medicines, which is a great sign for phytodrugs as well. Owing to the changing trends among people today, they don’t want to fall sick and want to remain healthy using possible preventive measures, there is a paradigm shift from cure to care. This has been one of the crucial reasons behind the acceptance of herbal drugs. Allopathic drugs can’t be replaced entirely from the regimen but looking at the increasing prescription of herbal medicines from physicians, use of synthetic drugs for longer time period can be prevented and further treatment can be followed by herbal medicines for the long-term to avoid addiction and risk associated with allopathic drugs.

Where do phytopharmaceuticals stand in cancer treatment?

Naturally occurring phytochemicals such as vinca alkaloids (vincristine, vinblastine, podophyllotoxin), taxol analogs have been extensively studied for the cancer therapy. Such bioactives proved to be responsible for inhibiting growth and progression of cancer through mechanisms such as proliferation inhibition, carcinogen inactivation, cell cycle arrest induction, increasing antioxidant and apoptosis. In current cancer therapies with phytochemical drugs, four major classes of anticancer compounds namely, vinca alkaloids, camptothecin derivatives, epipodophyllotoxin, and taxane diterpenoids are employed. Additionally, other plant-derived anticancer agents are also being used and some of them are under investigation. Although, several pre-clinical and clinical trials give satisfactory evidences about such anticancer phytochemicals, some challenges such as molecular interaction with different ligand molecules, different mechanism of action,etc need to be validated with further research and large scale in-vitro/in-vivo studies to full proof the therapy.

How useful are phytopharmaceutical drugs in treating COVID? Are there any studies conducted to prove the efficacy of the drugs on COVID-affected?


Several phytochemicals have proved to be efficacious against various viral infections. Chinese traditional medicines is a well-established practice in this area. In India, the very first phytopharmaceutical drug for the treatment of COVID-19, called AQCH (derived from the tropical shrub Cocculus hirsutus), received approval from the Drugs Controller General of India for clinical trials. However, it did not receive grant for ‘Emergency authorization status’ from government. Various efforts are still going on in this space to develop a promising plant-based treatment for COVID-19. Moreover, herbs like Glycyrrhiza glabra, Withania somnifera, Timospora cordifolia and AYUSH-64 (Polyherbal AYUSH drugs) have been taken up for clinical trials against SARS-CoV2 virus by Ministry of AYUSH and CSIR.

When it comes to branding of traditional medicines, people tend to develop a reluctance. What do you think is the reason for this behaviour? How can this be rectified?

This is because of the huge difference between the marketing approval process and criteria in India and abroad for traditional herbal medicines. India is facing challenges in terms of regulations due to which uncontrolled and substandard formulations along with misbranding is an uncontrollable scenario. India is exporting herbal ingredients but the speed and quantum is relatively less. Moreover, production of fraudulent herbal medicines, which are deficient in clinical data are very common in India ,and is emerging as a roadblock for branding and marketing of such products. We need a modern regulatory system all the way from cultivation and export of herbal medicines in order to develop a huge source of income. Quality control, standardisation, clinical trials, marketing strategies require certain policies through Government interventions to meet international standards of selling plant-based products. Additionally, checking therapeutic claims is one of the crucial steps that needs to be followed vigilantly.

Why does research take a back seat when it comes to traditional medicine in India?

Variable and inconsistent results along with inadequate research designs for herbals is one of the major limitations while promoting plant-based products. Studying plant-derived extract is pretty complicated owing to the presence of cluster of complex chemical compounds in a single herb. Such research and development require highly specialised techniques, devices and technologies which are deficient in India. In clinical studies, availability of small sample size, poor controls, insufficient comparison data between other treatments or placebos or compound, and inconsistent description of treatment/ product are some of the holdings back factors due to which research scenario for herbal entities are struggling. We need to adapt advanced technological interventions right from laboratory to production level in order to overcome such challenges. Government policies are mandatory along with the contribution from pharmaceutical players.


The article is written by Dr. Smarta  (CMD-Interlink) & published by Trinity mirror. The link is

by Rajkumar Natekar Rajkumar Natekar No Comments

Ethno-pharma- An emerging sector

Healthcare sector in 2021 is evolving to the greater extent owing to the initiatives and advancements taking place to futureproof the healthcare facilities from uncertain, unwanted, and deadly event like Covid-19. These advancements are happening while keeping the patients at the centre with the more focus on preventive and immune health.  

Now while talking about preventive immune health, we can see at large, traditional medicines and integrative medicinal practices are emerging in the modern scenario of healthcare. Ethno-pharma, an ethnomedicinal field, which majorly deals with traditional and folk medicines is also set to bloom in upcoming years. 

While focusing on the cultural determinants for traditional medicines and also pharmaceuticals, ethno-pharma deals with the investigational approaches in finding the possible use/perception of traditional medicines (and also pharmaceuticals) in the culture. 

Ethno-pharma and ethnopharmacology follows the ‘multidisciplinary scientific approach’ through which various holistic approaches can be made to innovate novel treatment strategies for the management of various chronic diseases and to explore their relevance to modern healthcare. 

India is widely known as the ‘home to medicinal herbs’ as traditional and integrative medicines are well-accepted and established in the country. However, the concept of ethno-pharma is yet to establish in India as very small cluster of population is aware about this field. Following are some promising approaches which can put light on ethno-pharma sector in India in coming years.  

New research and progressions in the field of herbals  

Traditional medicinal plants contain a wide variety of chemical groups which exert different biological effects through which several chronic diseases can be cured in a natural way. As ethnopharmacology majorly deals with the pharmacognostical, phytochemical and pharmacological aspects of natural drugs and medicinal plants, looking at the current advancements in Indian research and development, some promising novel herbal drugs can be invented in the years ahead.

Moreover, to develop new molecules which are safe as well as affordable, number of pharmaceutical companies are showing rejuvenated interest in natural drugs. Covid-19 and increased prevalence of lifestyle diseases and non-communicable diseases have led down a rigid platform for herbal drugs which in turn boosting the research and development in the area at 2× speed. 

Changing attitudes, driving markets

Besides Pharmaceuticals and Chemically derived entities, most of the consumers due to awareness are looking for natural medicines. Pharmaceutical medicines have its own place in curing patients and through vaccines, even preventing certain diseases, however, the movement towards natural products and enthnopharmaceuticals has social impact besides medical impact. Due to this, a great market transformation can be seen in the herbal and natural ingredients area.   

The Indian traditional medicines market is expected to grow at CAGR of 16.06% through INR 300 billion in 2018 and can account INR 710.87 billion by 2024. This market growth can be beneficial in increasing the evidence-based research in the area of ethnomedicines.  


Government bodies supporting traditional knowledge

Ayurveda and Homeopathy medicines covered under AYUSH system of medicines have a strong correlation with the ethnopharmacology as the field is associated with the traditional medicines to the greater extent. Owing to this, Ministry of AYUSH is taking several efforts to involve the ethnopharmacology model in the syllabus of alternative medicine systems. Due to such approaches, an individual subject can also be expected in the syllabus of AYUSH which can further propel the growth of ethnomedicinal sector. 

AYUSH initiatives to boost the immune health in Covid-19 through traditional remedies have emerged as an uplifting factor for natural medicines and further advancement in this area by the major companies like Dabar, Patanjali, Baidyanath, Himalaya, etc. are opening the doors wide open for the future astonishing growth in the herbal field.  

Moreover, Society for Ethnopharmacology (SFE) in India is working with the reputed academicians, researchers and industry dignitaries with the goal of ‘Globalization of local knowledge and localizing global technologies’. This society can be of great benefit in spreading the knowledge of traditional ethnomedicines to stabilize ethno-pharma sector in the country. 

To effectively march toward the healthy future of Indian population and the economy, ethnomedicinal sector should be well equipped with the technological advancements like pharmaceutical industry. Scientific-evidence based approaches for herbs, herbal products, ethno-herbal extracts are important which will drive this field much effectively and it can become more approachable for modern healthcare practices. 

Along with all these, quality control and quality assurance are the key parameters which major herbal products fail to follow as compared to pharmaceuticals. Certain policies in this area can also help to develop the natural sector in much flawless and productive manner.

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Walking with Adversities

Years ago, I saw a picture which etched itself in my memory. Protruding from a dead stump, there was a green healthy branch which seemed destined to live and grow.

Below the picture there was a word Reviresco. I was little intrigued to find out the meaning of this word. The liberal translation is – ‘I flourish in adversity’, what a powerful thought.

How wonderful it would be if we could learn early in our life that we can only grow strong in adversity.

Hardships, as Abrahm Lincoln expressed, are too precious to lose. Adversities are inevitable and, in my opinion, the person who knows the art of converting adversities into opportunities, can achieve the impossible.

Covid-19, one of the adversities in today’s scenario which has turned the entire world upside down, made us strong and sustainable in many ways. Many businesses which were on the urge of losing their identity have somehow managed to endure the losses and ready to bloom again while walking with adversities. Moreover, during covid, some of the business who discovered ‘opportunities into adversities’ have made an exceptional revenue which was never made before when the things were normal. That’s the magic hidden inside adversities which we can experience if our eyes and heart are open to it.

It’s all about learning the art of walking with adversities. Discussed ahead are the techniques which can be implemented to find the way out through hard times in an artistic way.

Art of decision making

We all are aware about the market transformations happening every single day. If the decisions made are based on the out-of-date information, they will never result in successful business, moreover, the losses would be unbearable.

One should be awareness about how far they can go with their strengths and whether those strengths will withstand that risk. Avoiding making unrealistic decisions is a smart choice to endure adversities.

In addition to this, we should be able to recognize our prioritize and problems and the ways to handle them. One should know where to handle by themselves and where to distribute the responsibility. Creating a system which looks after such issues can make the things much easier to handle in future.

Art of Moving ahead

Moving an inch every day forward, communicating and building relationships are some essentials to create a strong base to deal with adversities. As the business circumstances keep evolving, we also need to revisit and update our business strategies regularly.

Art of consistent efforts with new initiatives

Consistency accompanied by persistent efforts never fail to pay off. We might fail a hundred times, however, we get filled with valuable experiences with each failure which are enough to keep us moving toward success while trying new things every time.

positive attitude toward our inherent strengths and practicing resilience can fetch us our desired goal.

Art of Mindfulness and managing self

Practicing mindfulness is a way to heal, experience peace and happiness throughout the period of adversities.

To have the sense of being in present, mindfulness is a kind of energy which helps us to be in touch with life deeply.

Strengthening our mind, body and soul is crucial to remain calm yet energetic in critical situations. Nothing is more important than being health; wealth can wait.

Walking with adversity means ensuring that all you do is always with mindfulness. It is also equally important to understand that adversities are part of life and not vice versa.

As a result, it is better to be in present, mindful, managing self and time with meaning and keep our aim at going forward with chosen initiatives…That’s the way we walk with adversities…


About Author-

Dr. R. B. Smarta- Founder and Managing Director of Interlink Marketing Consultancy Pvt. Ltd.

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