INTERVIEW WITH SYED IQBAL A. HASHMI, HERBALIST

"THE PERCEPTION THAT HERBAL PRODUCTS HAVE NO SIDE EFFECTS IS PARTIALLY WRONG. THEIR SIDE EFFECTS MAY NOT BE SERIOUS IN MOST OF THE CASES."

KHALIL AHMED
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Apr
25 - May 1, 2011

PAGE: TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF.?

IQBAL HASHMI: I was born in Hyderabad Pakistan, obtained herbalist degree (bachelor of Unani medicine and surgery (Fazil-e-Jib-wa-Jarahat) in 1990 from Pakistan Tib Council Islamabad. I have done my Bachelor of science from Sindh University Jamshoro in 1979 and MBA (Marketing) in 1992. I opened eyes in Tabeeb family the history of which connects to the Mughal era. Hakeem Mahmood Ali Hashmi, my grand grand father, was royal tabeeb in the reign of Mugl-e-Azam Jalaluddin Akbar. My grandfather and grandmother were practicing tabeebs in Jaipur India. I have acquired the art of natural healing from my father Dr. Syed Anwar Ali Hashmi who was renowned for natural homeopathic in Hyderabad. Besides, I have strong pharma sales and marketing experience in multinational and national pharmaceuticals companies. I have started my career as a medical representative in 1982 and moved to senior management position during my 30 years tenure. With instinct of tib, I always helped my father in spare time and learned a lot. This enhanced my interest in alternative medicine which resulted in my joining of Tibbia college. The strength of pharma and tib experience got to me to head of nutraceutical Division in two well established National pharma and nutraceutical companies.

Presently I am running my herbal clinic in Karachi at Gulshan-e-Iqbal. My field of interest is to treat chronic and resistant ailment, particularly anti-aging treatment is worth mentioning. I am regularly invited as an expert in talk shows on electronic media. Most popular programs are "Sarsabz Pakistan" from Radio Pakistan Karachi and "Haq Drawing Room" of a private T.V channel.

PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT MEDICAL SECTOR OF PAKISTAN?

IQBAL HASHMI: More than 500 pharmaceutical companies are operating in Pakistan to represent health care industry. More than 50,000 pharma products are available in Pakistan. Pakistan pharma industry is growing at the rate of 15 per cent catering not only local market but also the markets abroad such as Africa, Russia and far east. National companies are surpassing multi national companies in terms of market share in Pakistan. Unfortunately, there is no documented statistical data about herbal market in Pakistan. It is a good opportunity for the people of Pakistan to get economical and quality medicines due to vast competition among pharmaceutical companies. Healthy competition is always appreciated as it gives benefit to our poor sick people. This is one side of the picture. The other side is very disappointing as unethical promotion of products by most of the pharmaceutical companies is at its peak. Cash, deals, commission and foreign trips are offered to medical professionals against some agreed business target for their products. Ministry of health of Pakistan should take a serious action against both pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals who are indulged in such malpractice.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE AVAILABILITY OF HERBAL PRODUCTS IN THE MARKET?

IQBAL HASHMI: In Pakistan, and other traditional countries like China, India, Unan, Arab, Russia etc., three category of herbal products are available

1. Conventional (ancient, qarabadin) formulas include majoon khamira, syrup, kushtas and raw herbs

2. Herbal extract formulation in which extracts are derived from raw herbs and used in the forms of tablets, capsules, and syrup.

3. Dietary supplement in which herbs are used as standardized extracts. This requires thorough scientific research and assessment to bring it to pharmaceutical grade. Dietary supplement formulation market is growing very rapidly in Europe, America, Asia, and interestingly replacing allopathic products in most of the cases.

There is a lot of potential for this formulation in Pakistan too but it will take some times to gain popularity. The only drawback is high price because of monopoly of raw material providers. Pakistan is rich in 1st type (unani medicine). Many internationally famed companies are successfully operating in Pakistan. Second type of products are mostly used by cosmetic and homeopathic industries.

PAGE: WHAT KIND OF EFFORTS ARE REQUIRED FOR PROMOTION OF HERBAL TREATMENTS IN PAKISTAN?

IQBAL HASHMI: Herbal or unani system of medicine is an ancient health care system, the history of which takes us to five thousand years back to the period of Moenjodaro, Harappa, Taxila or Pyramids of Egypt, where herbal treatment was most popular to serve the ailing humanity. Although herbal system is gaining popularity in Pakistan, unfortunately it is rated as inferior to allopathic system of medicine. The reason being lot of quakes are practicing with high claims of cure in a day or a week. Their advertisements appear on print media, bill boards, railway stations and walls on road sides. 100 years experience saniyasi baba is the punch line of their promotional theme and the cortisone is the master key to their treatment success. This malpractice should be banned at first place so that innocent people may not become victim of their criminal act. Laws should be created against these quakes and to warn innocent people not to be cheated by their false claims. On the other side a positive awareness should also be created to develop interest in our upcoming generation about this system on medicine just like they opt for engineering or MBBS. This can be done at root levels i.e., schools. Although at universities level, Pharmacognosy is the discipline of pharmacy department but still there is need of increasing tibia college to produce more numbers of qualified herbalist and this is possible with government supports. Clinical trials should be encouraged to evaluate the efficacy of herbal drugs. Successful trials should be documented in well-reputed medical journal of Pakistan and also in international journals. This also needs technical supports and sponsorships of health departments. This will wipe off the bad imaged about this system form the minds of mass population.

PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON PERCEPTION ABOUT HERBAL TREATMENTS IN PAKISTAN?

IQBAL HASHMI: Perception about herbal treatment is gradually changing in Pakistan. Thanks to electronic media and access to internet that the people are now attracting more towards foreign herbal medicines rather than ours. The reason is that companies outside Pakistan are working very professionally. They have hired professional marketing people. Apparent quality and finishing of products is high and packing is very attractive. There is common perception that herbal products have no side effects. This perception is partially wrong, herbal products may have side effects but may not be serious in most of the cases. There are Pakistani herbal companies operating professionally but they are less in number as compared to small shop like matabs or dawakhanas spreading like mushrooms through out Pakistan where medicines finishing and packaging is in orthodox conventional type.

PAGE: HOW DO YOU SEE FUTURE OF HERBAL TREATMENTS IN PAKISTAN AND IN THE WORLD?

IQBAL HASHMI: As mentioned earlier electronic media particularly internet is playing important role in promoting herbal products. Acceptance towards herbal treatment is also increasing in Pakistan. Healthy sign is that it is accepted by allopathic community also. Herbal preparations are widely prescribed by allopathic doctors. This is quite encouraging and indicating that future of herbal treatment is bright. USA, European countries, China and India are among those countries where this industry is booming. In Pakistan, picture is not different, number of quality herbal medicine companies are coming up gradually offering treatment of those diseases, which are said to have no treatments in allopathic system: arthritis piles, early stage diabetes, erectile dysfunction, hepatitis B and C infertility, and other diseases.