In so-called traditional medicine in South Asia, substances have not ordinarily been prescribed or consumed in isolation, yet the transformations of compound formulations have been comparatively little studied from any position within anthropology or history. Since the early twentieth century, ayurvedic formulations have often been redesigned to address the biomedical disorders of a new global clientele. This has involved overlapping medical cultures and the creation of heterodox epistemologies, which have then allowed the creation of new “traditional” products that suit the demands of the market. In India, these new formulations fall under the category of “Ayurvedic Proprietary Medicines,” which are distinct from classical, textual (shastric) formulations already in the public domain. Proprietary medicines are the object of specific systems of appropriation and protection, which have not only gained central stage in the country but also influenced international regulatory bodies. This article seeks to explore the way in which the “reformulation regime” has fostered the emergence of alternative models of property rights, and their global acceptance, as well as how, in turn, these new forms of property have today come to drive pharmaceutical innovation itself. By analyzing this “looping effect,” this article sets out prospective avenues to study the industrialization of traditional medicine and the complex interface between regulatory systems, innovation processes, and the market.
The Reformulation Regime in Drug Discovery: Revisiting Polyherbals and Property Rights in the Ayurvedic Industry
Laurent Pordié is an anthropologist; senior researcher with the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the Cermes3, a unit focused on medicine, science, and society; and a member of the Center for South Asian Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), both in Paris.
Jean-Paul Gaudillière is a historian of science, a research professor at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, and director of the Center for Research on Science, Health, Medicine and Society (Cermes3) in Paris.
Laurent Pordié, Jean-Paul Gaudillière; The Reformulation Regime in Drug Discovery: Revisiting Polyherbals and Property Rights in the Ayurvedic Industry. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 March 2014; 8 (1): 57–79. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2406053
Download citation file: