July 26, 2011

Medical council wants Drugs Act repealed

The Tamil Nadu State Medical Council has asked the government to repeal the amendment to the rule under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which enabled practitioners of traditional medicine to prescribe allopathic drugs. They have also urged the health department to withdraw the government order issued on June 29, 2010 permitting traditional practitioners to perform surgeries, practise obstetrics-gynaecology, anaesthesiology, ENT and ophthalmology.

Council president Dr K Prakasam met health secretary Girija Vaidhayanathan with a representation on Tuesday. "Will government hospitals allow traditional practitioners to administer anesthesia and do surgeries? If the government doesn't, why should a private hospital be allowed to follow it," said Dr Prakasam. For almost a year, the council and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have said that by allowing such practitioners to do allopathy the government was legalizing quackery.

On June 2, 2010, IMA submitted a list of 2,000 quacks to the state police, which included names of traditional medical practitioners prescribing allopathic drugs. This was followed by a series of arrests. Traditional medical practitioners argued with the state government that they spent considerable time learning modern pharmacology in colleges and hence should be permitted to prescribe them. Unani specialist Dr Shaikh Shahul Hameed said that since the state medical university prescribed it in the syllabus, they should be allowed to practice.

On June 29, the government issued orders allowing them to practice modern medicine.' The government cited section 17(3) B of the Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970, which said institutionally qualified practitioners of siddha, ayurveda, unani and homoeopathy are eligible to practise the respective system with modern scientific medicine "including surgery and obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthesiology and ENT based on the training and teaching." The state government further stepped up its support for government doctors by amending the rules for the Drugs Act by redefining a 'registered medical practitioner'. Practitioners of alternative Indian systems were considered as those 'practising the modern scientific system of medicine' for the purposes of enforcing the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. "The decision was based on detailed investigation and debate. And it has been a landmark one. We ensure students are taught by experts," Dr Hameed said.

But allopathic doctors associations argued that a few hours of study would not match they four-and-a-half training in medicine. The doctors' associations managed to obtain a stay in the court. The medical university has also threatened to withdraw allopathic content from siddha, unani, ayurveda and homeopathy syllabus. "We don't want to endanger lives of human beings. But the order still stays. We want it to be withdrawn," he said.

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