This is not what it sounds like. The Indian Minister of State for Defense Dr. Mallipudi Mangapati Pallam Raju launched a new drug created by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) called Perfomax, at the Defense Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) in Leh, Ladakh on Friday.
The drug is said to ‘improve physical and mental performance in High Altitude and Hypoxic Conditions’ and is said to be rich in antioxidants and other bioactive compounds that improve performance of brain, heart, kidney and lungs and also improves blood circulation, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defense.
When queried, ministry and DRDO officials privately expressed apprehensions about the perception the above description might create, leading some to believe Perfomax to be akin to the notorious Performance Enhancing Drugs proscribed in competitive sports.
They explained it to be a herbal formulation that is the result of research into ancient Indian scriptures which provided guidance about the possible properties of various herbs.
DRDO operates 52 laboratories, of which nine focus on life sciences, especially looking into soldier support systems to deal with problems that are unique to the services in the extremely varied Indian conditions.
Perfomax is part of their initiative to better the ability of troops to operate in high altitude areas. With a prescribed regimen, this could also increase the threshold of endurance of troops in those areas against their nemesis, High Altitude Sickness, one of the main causes of fatalities in those heights and for which, the only treatment is immediate evacuation to lower altitudes.
Incidentally, DRDO has also produced a portable pressurized bag for the treatment of High Altitude Sickness. In case of adverse weather conditions, when evacuation is difficult, the patient can be placed inside the bag, which is then zipped up and a battery or foot-operated pump pushes air into the bag to increase pressure on the patient to help alleviate High Altitude Sickness.
It is unclear yet if DRDO plans to make Perfomax available commercially. In the past, the research organization has tied up with manufacturers to commercially market certain products to civilians. Earlier this month, a product called Lukoskin, created by the DRDO’s Defense Institute of Bio-energy Research (DIBER) (formerly Defense Agricultural Research Laboratory) at Haldwani for the treatment of Leucoderma, was launched and will be made commercially available in partnership with AIMIL Pharmaceuticals.