Patient’s Right To Information About Medicine – What Ayurveda Tells?

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S

While the major part of medical system works tirelessly day in and day out for the wellness and welfare of the ailing mankind, another part is the darker side. This is the kingdom of quackery. Here anything and everything is sold in the name of medicine.
Read – Eight Divine Qualities of a Physician – Ashta Jnana Devata

Patient’s right to information

Many quackery medicines may pose potential threat to life. Even learned people are falling prey for these unproven medicines. People are attracted to these grandly advertised products on televisions and internet. These medicines promise quick results and also claim high positive results even for dreadful medical conditions. These medicines are sold on roadsides and also in carts and vehicles. Some people even have agents who visit homes and advertise these products.

Many traditional practitioners who are not doctors are selling many such herbal products without revealing its ingredients. Anything herbal is named as Ayurveda and this is a potential threat to the authentic Ayurveda. The question if the Ayurvedic medicine has heavy metals and steroids mixed in them has been a trend and a headache for authentic and qualified Ayurveda practitioners. Even the genuine doctors and medicines from reputed companies too are under hammer.
Read – Traditional Healer Vs Qualified Ayurvedic Doctor

Is customization and personalization of medicines wrong?

No, in fact Ayurveda advocates this practice. Prescription is designed according to the strength of the disease, patient and doshas. Many factors need to be taken into consideration before prescribing a medicine according to Ayurveda basics. But if the patient is curious to know what the medicine contains and how it might work to cure his disease, his queries need to be answered because he has right to information about the medicines he is going to take. It is the doctor or pharmacist / hospital authority’s responsibility to provide the information about the medicine. This also holds good for the treatments, therapies and surgical procedures.

Many Ayurveda medicines are costly since they contain valuable ingredients. If the medicine is customized the prizes are even higher. If the same product is available with some pharmacy as a patent or classical formulation, the patient should be given a choice to choose either.
Read – 11 Tips To A Junior Ayurvedic Doctor

Patient’s role in Treatment

Ayurveda is the first medical system to explain about a comprehensive hospital management system and its tiers of active participation. This was given in the explanation of Chikitsa Chatushpada i.e. four limbs of treatment.
Read – Ayurvedic Hospital Management – Chikitsa Chatushpada

According to this, the participation of all four limbs i.e. physician, medicine, patient and caretakers is mandatory for a treatment plan to work in the direction of fruitful results.

Patient should be wealthy, educated, and obedient and disciplined towards the instructions of the physician, have good memory and informed and have a strong / positive mind.

So the patient should be informed about the medicines, the intention with which the medicine has been prescribed and method of taking the medicine.
Read – Khuddaka Chatushpada Adhyaya – Charak Samhita Sutrasthan 9

Sanskrit verses

Unknown medicine

Ajgnata Aushadha means unknown medicine. It is said to be life-taking like poison, sharp weapon, fire or thunderbolt. The medicine which has been tested and certified protects life just like nectar.

A medicine whose name, form and qualities are unknown are said to be dangerous. Likewise any medicine or formulation whose name, form and qualities have been known but not administered correctly is also equally dangerous. Both these shall be avoided. Therefore it is the right and responsibility of the patient to be informed about the physician and the medicines.This probably is the earliest ever evidence of mention of patient’s right to information about the physician he is going to consult and the medicines he is going to take. Even in the modern day the patients only go to renowned physicians or surgeons who have been successful. They do a lot of ground work and scan the ratings and rankings and feedbacks of the physicians and also the medicines (especially while procuring them online). For medicines the patients search for reputed pharmacies.

This probably was the earliest reference suggesting the patients to not purchase the medicines from unknown places or persons and warn against quackery and identification of quacks and distinguishing them from qualified physicians.
Read – My Ayurvedic Doctor Does Not Reveal Names Of Medicines

Sanskrit verses

Warning against quackery

Master Charaka quotes –

‘One can survive the thunderbolt of Lord Indra striking his head but one cannot survive from an unknown medicine prescribed by an unqualified person (quack).’

‘It is better to consume the poison of a poisonous snake or boiling copper or eating iron balls / tablets heated red on fire but it is never good to take medicines given by a quack in the guise of a wise physician.’

Sanskrit verses

Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Skype

Inputs by Dr JV Hebbar

Recently A patient emailed  – “One thing very good with Allopathic treatment is that Doctors give the name of medicines with diagnosis. Hence when you are in problem and not able to meet Doctor at least you can continue and get relief from existing medicines till  the time you can  meet him. But in Ayurveda which I prefer as it is a curative science, I found that most Doctors are taking exorbitant fees and keeping names of  medicines as secret so that all life you shall depend on him. And if you are required to meet an Allopathic Doctor in emergency, you do not have the name of medicines which you are taking, so you cannot tell any thing to him and we have to bear his anger. What have you got to comment on this prevailing practice ?”

Let us analyze the pros and cons of this practice. 

secret Ayurvedic Medicine

An Ayurveda doctor’s mind
Say, you have fever and you go to an allopathic doctor, the prescription can be categorized into –

  • Antipyretic – to bring down body temperature and to fight viral infection.
  • Antibiotic – to fight bacteria, if the fever is because of bacterial infection
  • Analgesic – pain killer – to relieve bodyache and headache
  • Medicine for cold and cough, if these symptoms are associated with fever.
  • Allied medicines like multivitamins, protein powder etc, to boost up health and energy.

So, an Allopathic doctor’s prescription can be categorized into different segments. There is a pattern in his prescription.

But in an Ayurvedic doctor, such a pattern is rarely seen. This is because,
wide range of Ayurvedic medicines are available to the doctor.
A doctor usually chooses medicines that he is accustomed to use. The choice of medicine depends on his previous experience.
There are different medicines for different stages of Disease and Dosha involvement.

Conclusion is, the way, an Allopathic doctor diagnoses and treats disease can be patronized but such a thing is hard to do with an Ayurveda doctor (in 7 out of 10 cases).

Why an Ayurveda doctor would hide his medicine names from patient?
(Not ALL Ayurveda doctors do it. But some do it. So, it is not a universal practice.)

1. Convenience – Usually, the herbal powders like Sitopaladi Churna, Ashta Churna, Talisadi Churna etc are purchased in bulk by the doctor and stored in his container. Usually a doctor mixes 2 – 3 powders together and are administered to the patient. So, when they are mixed, it is really inconvenient for the doctor to write all those powder names in the prescription pad.

2. Secrecy – Many of Ayurveda doctors have a long family tradition of Ayurveda. So, the treatments and medicines that they chose have a long history and doctor may not wish to give out that secret to public.

3. Non veg ingredients – Some Ayurveda products may contain non veg ingredients, making the patient inconvenient. But it may be really vital for the patient’s health, so doctor may chose to hide its name.

Ayurvedic medicines with non veg ingredients

Why mentioning the names of Ayurvedic medicines is a good practice? 

  • It creates a transparent and honest relationship between doctor and patient.
  • The patient will be confident of treatment, because, he knows what he is taking.
  • In case of side effects, the wrong medicines can be easily traced and suitable treatment to nullify its side effects can be adopted.
  • It is the patient’s right to know what he is taking.
  • When the patient moves to a different place, he can visit an Ayurveda medical store and ask for the prescribed medicines, without relying on the doctor.

What can you do, if your doctor chooses to hide the medicine names?
You can always ask for the names of each medicine. It is your right to know. Even after request, if the doctor does not oblige, then either you can count on your trust with the doctor or find another one.

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