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Extensive research is needed to make Unani medicine prominent, says AMU professor 2020-04-10 [Education]
The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has brought in the best brains to study Unani medicine

Getting a degree in traditional Unani medicine can lead to several career opportunities in both government and private sectors . Youngsters studying Bachelor of Unani Medicine & Surgery (BUMS) from a recognised university need to explore the field to bring it to prominence.
"Ministry of AYUSH has been promoting this traditional practice of Unani medicines. The sector is gaining prominence as there is a streamlined approach to facilitate the enforcement of quality control of Ayurveda, Siddha Homoeopathy and Unani," says Mohd Anwar, professor, department of Ilaj Bit Tadbeer, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Widely popular as alternative medicines, Unani medicine has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a popular traditional medicine due to its reputation.

"More number of Unani medicine graduates are being absorbed by the government and private hospitals. Some of them are even getting a senior position as the chief medical officer. Those gaining expertise in this field can also explore job opportunities with AYUSH ministry," Anwar adds. Academia is also a promising sector where Unani medicine experts can look for diverse opportunities.

Domain challenges

Despite the increasing awareness and centralised admission process in colleges, Unani medicine is still struggling due to the lack of in-depth studies in the domain. Inadequate crude herbal medicines, limited pharma companies offering Unani medicines and dearth of focus on extensive research is keeping it growing as a medical practice. "Government must encourage the cultivation of medicinal and herbal plants to increase the production of crude drugs. By boosting the production, the export potential will increase," said Anwar, while talking to Education Times.

Standardisation of Unani pharmaceutical companies to improve the drug delivery system is another area that has been constantly ignored. This is the reason that Unani medicines are struggling to receive the importance that allopathic medicine manufacturing companies get, he adds.

"Clinical and experimental researches need to be intensified to develop medicines for emerging diseases such as metabolic syndrome, viral disease, AIDS, etc," he says, adding that focus on interdisciplinary research will improve the Unani education system in India.

Changes in Unani medicine

In the last decade, Unani medicine education has undergone several changes as the syllabus, integration of subjects, interdisciplinary research has been modified. The centralised admission process based on the NEET score has led to the inflow of quality students. The Ministry of AYUSH has made it mandatory to clear NEET for admission to undergraduate programmes since the academic year 2018-19. The ministry also introduced AYUSH Post Graduate Entrance Test for admissions to Post Graduate courses (MD-Ayurveda) in 2019.

In 2019, a total of 7,97,060 candidates had qualified against 37,906 AYUSH seats that includes Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. The Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) under the AYUSH ministry has introduced several changes to revolutionise the Unani education system, adds Anwar.

Additionally, translation of old Unani books in the English language has increased its reach among students. "The old books were in Arabic, Persian and Urdu, which have now been translated into English," he adds.

Medical tourism

Highlighting the strengths of Unani medicine and its contribution in medical tourism, Anwar says that India has witnessed a significant increase in the number of foreign patients with majority travelling from Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, and other countries. "Most of them arrive in Delhi and Bangalore to to receive treatment for non-communicable and neurological disorder diseases."

He adds that easy connectivity to Indian cities has played a major role to play in improving medical tourism in India. Minimal-to-no wait time, affordability, the introduction of e-medical visa and e-medical attendant visa make India a lucrative hub for medical tourism. Medical tourism in India is expected to cross US$ 9 billion-mark, accounting for 20% of the global market share by 2020.