In an interaction with India Pharma Outlook, Abdul Majeed, Chairman & Managing Trustee, Hamdard Laboratories (Medicine Division), and Asad Mueed, Executive Trustee, Hamdard Laboratories (Medicine Division) share their views on the current market of natural medicine and the role played by Hamdard Laboratories in taking Unani medicine to the masses.
How do you see the shift from modern medicine to natural medicine, especially in the post-pandemic scenario?
Abdul Majeed: Unani as a system of medicine was started by Greeks and after the fall of the Greek Empire, it was adopted by the Arabs. If you look at the history, Hakim Ajmal Khan and my great grandfather Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, my grandfather Hakim Abdul Hameed, my father Abdul Mueed; these were the people, who brought it to India and because of their efforts, it was incorporated within the health ministry of India under the Ministry of AYUSH
Unani, after the Greeks and the Arabs, is only surviving in India. It is flourishing and developing in India, and that speaks volumes for our society and our culture as such, because the Indian culture has absorbed everything, whether it originated in India or not.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen a very big shift of the consumers towards the herbal system of medicine of Unani and Ayurveda and this has been like a shot in the arm for these systems of medicine. Increasingly, people have also started realizing that allopathy can only give you temporary relief, but if you have to become internally strong and make your immune system strong, these herbal medicine systems are most effective.
So, this is a big shift we have seen and we have to now prove ourselves to the millennial customers. And to achieve that we have to be effective, innovative and economical, and have to come closer to the consumer and these are the three most important mantras to be followed.
How do you see the current positioning of Hamdard Laboratories in the market and what role is it playing in bringing about a positive change in the manufacturing of natural products?
Abdul Majeed:We are positioned today as pioneers of Unani in India. Hamdard and Unani are synonymous with each other, and that is because Hamdard Laboratories is a charitable institution and its basic objective is the propagation and scientific development of the Unani system. So, I think the credit goes to our ancestors for bringing it to where we are, today. But as the times have changed very fast, we at Hamdard have always tried to emphasize the quality.
We follow a policy of providing top-notch quality medicine at the most affordable price. That is our objective at this point of time. The technology that we have implemented into our production at our facilities has changed the way we produce and manufacture medicine and it is one of our biggest achievements today. The machinery and equipment we use to manufacture medicines are at par with allopathy, if not better.
Eventually, Hamdard has also forayed into backward integration that we have in our facilities where we are buying agricultural land and we are cultivating the herbs. Getting into cultivation of active ingredients and basic herbal plants and adopting state-of-the-art technology is what we are trying and we have been successful in that as well. Although, some of the processes are still manually driven, we are looking into their automation in the coming days.
When it comes to quality assurance, how do you ensure that the quality of production meets the requisite standards?
Abdul Majeed: We have one of the best analytical facilities that any herbal plant would have today. What we are trying to do starts from the identification of the right herbal plant. So, the first issue is to identify the exact species that you need for the production of that particular medicine. That is the first step towards attaining the right kind of alkaloids that you need in your medication. We have one of the best facilities for the identification of these plants and herbs. And, we have a quality system in place. Hamdard has already gone through a transformation through which we have put all the procedures, systems and the SOPs in a digitized platform.
The quality department is so structured in Hamdard that all herbal medicines which are received go through the mandatory testing for the right kind of species and the right kind of quality that we need. At every stage, there is a check and balance in place, so that the final product that is going to the consumer has the right kind of efficacy and quality it is supposed to have. So, this is how we have structured ourselves.
Please tell us about Hamdard’s Research and Development capability. How does it marry the ancient medicine science with the modern one?
Asad Mueed: Hamdard is an organization that has thrived by cherishing the traditional Unani system and also scientifically validating ancient knowledge in parallel. In fact, the research-based development of Unani Medicines is seeded by our great founders especially by Late Hakim Abdul Hameed Sb. at Hamdard which is
now deep-rooted in our ethos. Establishing Jamia Hamdard University is just a testimonial of our great visionary leader who had dreamt that only a combination of academia and industry can bring innovative advancement in spreading the natural treasure of health solutions to the masses. Later on, under the patronage of Late Hakim Abdul Hameed Sb. his elder son Late Mr. Abdul Mueed Sb. has envisaged the importance of adopting scientific advancements and redefining the traditional Unani system with a modern approach.
Since we are the industry leader in the Unani system of medicine, we always focus on strengthening our in-house research capabilities. We have created an advanced research infrastructure at Hamdard where the age-old traditional knowledge is being validated through various steps of methodologies adopted for the scientific and systematic development of herbal medicines.
We have also maintained a combination of experienced Hakeems and Vaidyas along with research scientists having M.Sc, M.Pharm and a Ph.D. degree in botany, analytical chemistry, pharmacy, and phytochemistry disciplines in our R&D. This amalgamation of traditional and modern scientific skills with the backing of advanced instrumentation is the basis of our research-based products on which we have earned the trust of our consumers since our inception.
How do you synchronize R&D, Quality Assurance, and Quality Control in order to streamline the complete process from innovation to deployment of the products?
Asad Mueed:Research and Development, Quality Assurance, and Quality Control are the backbone of any industry. Specifically in the field of Herbal medicines and Pharmaceuticals, it becomes important that these functions must remain in close coordination for ensuring a successful product lifecycle. At Hamdard, we follow global standards for the preparation of both Generic and Patent or Proprietary products. Innovation is both market-driven and based on current healthcare needs. In a true sense, we also focus on therapeutic areas where Unani System has an edge over other systems.
All these activities pass through the stage-gate process and acceptance by the in-house innovation council. After scientific development of a product and establishing its safety and efficacy by R&D, it is scaled-up in our state-of-the-art pilot facility and finally, technology transfer is executed. It is followed by batch validation in production under the supervision of the validation team. Strict adherence to set guidelines by R&D is fulfilled by Quality Control and Quality Assurance team in coordination with production and engineering teams. Such validated processes are further followed in routine production processes ensuring high-quality products.
How is Hamdard Wellness fulfilling its commitment to provide selfless healthcare in order to improve the quality of human life?
Asad Mueed:Its main objective is to help address the unmet medical needs of millions of patients and to go beyond servicing the Unani-loving community with affordable quality products and spread the network to increase the accessibility of the Unani system of medicines.
To achieve this commitment, Hamdard has established core values and lives by its philosophy that provides the foundations for all of our products and services. Unani system of medicine is a comprehensive medical system, providing promotive, preventive, curative, and rehabilitative healthcare and we are providing the entire spectrum with an assurance of safety, purity, and efficacy to improve the quality of human life.
What role is Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences & Research (HIMSR) playing in the field of education?
Asad Mueed:HIMSR has been nationally recognized as an institute that demonstrates a high standard of Undergraduate and Post-Graduate Medical Education. According to NIRF ranking 2020, it has been ranked 22nd in the medical category.
As a center of excellence in medical education, HIMSR offers courses at Undergraduate, Post-Graduate, and Post-Doctoral levels in medical and allied subjects. Based in Hamdard Nagar in New Delhi, it is an ambitious project aimed at modern life sciences and health domains and providing quality healthcare at an affordable cost. Deemed as a self-financing, unaided private institute, HIMSR is designed to become a parallel private healthcare system.
What are the major attributes of Hamdard which will ensure that it continues to be the leader in this segment?
Abdul Majeed: We are charting out the next five years' strategy and we are going through extensive research. We are conducting the research in two forms. One is talking to the consumers of the future generation. We are talking to the practitioners, doctors, and Hakeems. We are trying to understand what these systems of medicines mean today, and how these systems of medicines can be provided to the consumers of the next generation. The second part is that we are identifying our key herbs, which we are eventually planning to cultivate.
Moreover, we already have eight clinics throughout India and we are planning to open at least 50 more clinics in the next three years. As most of the ailments are being placed in the medical remedies act, our clinics will play a crucial role. I believe that both Ayurveda and Unani have to be ready for that change once it happens.
As for Hamdard, the main focus has always been on two things: health and education. We are spending 85 percent of whatever we are earning from Hamdard Laboratories into education and health. Our organization is devoted to the health and education of the people of India. We intend to remain focused on it in the future as well and that is the legacy we have to live up to.