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News1990April › It's magic: how to make traditional medicines quickly disappear › April 1990

It's magic: how to make traditional medicines quickly disappear

Traditional, herbal and nutritional is being legislated out of existence by the EU on the grounds that it is unproven and, therefore, represents a potential risk to patients

Traditional, herbal and nutritional is being legislated out of existence by the EU on the grounds that it is unproven and, therefore, represents a potential risk to patients.

So what's happening in those countries where traditional medicine really is just that? Well, something similar, it appears. A 159-year-old traditional remedy known as 'fish medicine' is being challenged in the courts by the Indian Medical Association under the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act 1954 (we kid you not).

Thousands of people with asthma travel every year to Hyderabad where the medicine is delivered free to the patient in the mouth of a live fish. The herbal medicine is placed in the mouth of the murrel fish, which has to be swallowed whole. The asthma sufferer then returns for two more years to complete the course.

The medicine's ingredients have been closely guarded by the Bathini Goud family, which says a saint gave the formula to one of their ancestors in 1845. The current Mr Goud claims that pharmaceutical companies have offered him a great deal of money to reveal the formula, but it was a condition by the saint that it should remain a secret.

Mr Goud claims that 'hundreds of thousands' of people have been cured of asthma with the herbal remedy, and that 650,000 people have taken the medicine this year alone. Authorities doubt this latter claim, as they have records of just 52,000 murrel fish being sold.

Indian doctors argue that, under the Drugs and Magical Remedies Act, any substance that purports to cure must be made known to the consumer. The court has ordered Mr Goud to submit samples of the remedy for analysis.

Just wait until the EU hears about this one. Even our magical remedies will be under attack.

(Source: British Medical Journal, 2004; 328: 1457).


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