Ahead of the International Vitiligo Day, a herbal drug developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has given a new hope to those suffering from leucoderma, a skin condition in which white patches develop on the skin.

Recognising the benefits of the drug, the Narendra Modi government last month conferred Hemant Pandey, a senior DRDO scientist with the prestigious "Science Award" for developing 'lukoskin' for treating the skin condition mired by social stigma.

The auto-immune condition, also called 'vitiligo', can be life-altering. Some people develop low self-esteem and severe depression, an observation which prompted Pandey to work on an advanced version of Lukoskin drug for better results.

As the world marks June 25 as International Vitiligo Day, Pandey, who heads the Herbal Medicine Division of DRDO's Defence Institute of Bio-energy Research (DIBER) at Pithoragarh, talked about Lukoskin, which is presently manufactured and marketed by Delhi-based AIMIL Pharma Ltd.

There are various remedies of vitiligo like allopathic, surgical and adjunctive available at present, but none of the therapies has satisfactorily cured this disease, he said.

"Secondly, these are either costly or single molecule based, with very low level of efficacy and develop side-effects like blister, edema and irritation in the skin with most of the patients discontinuing the treatment," said the scientist, who is a recipient of several prestigious awards for his contribution in the field of herbal medicine.

In fact, in 2015, Lukoskin helped him bag the Agri Innovation Award.

"Hence, we focused on the causes of disease (aetiology) and researched a comprehensive formulation for the management of leucoderma from Himalayan herbs by exhaustive scientific studies," said Pandey.

Lukoskin is available in the form of ointment and oral liquid. The developed version is likely to hit the market soon.

The ointment has seven herbal ingredients having properties such as skin photo sensitizer, anti-blister, anti-irritation, anti-septic, wound healing and copper supplementing properties, while the oral dose has been formulated to check the emergence of new spots, said Nitika Kohli, an Ayurveda expert.

Vitiligo is not contagious and is not life-threatening.

The world wide incidence of leucoderma has been reported at 1-2 percent. In India, its incidence is around 4-5 percent in some parts of Rajasthan. In Gujarat, it is very high at more than 5-8 percent. This skin disorder is considered a social stigma in India where people confuse it with leprosy, Pandey added.

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