AYUSH ministry makes scientific evidence must amid 5,000 Covid-related claims

New Delhi: Swamped by Covid-19 cure proposals, the ministry of AYUSH notified guidelines for researchers of Indian traditional medicine. The ministry asked researches to follow the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines and also ensure the presence of an expert in the team.

The ministry notification said research in the fields of ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha and naturopathy should be registered with ICMR’s Clinical Trials Registry-India (CTRI).

This comes after the ministry received hundreds of proposals, many of which spoke about a potential approach to tackle Covid-19. According to officials, the new rules will also help people explore research options and make the process free of bureaucratic hassles.

“We received over 5,000 proposals that had suggestions on how India could fight the highly infectious disease. The effort is laudable. But we need this to be a more science-backed, streamlined affair. We also want the process to become structured for researchers in this field,” an official in the ministry told ET.

The notification said the rules were being put in place as “though there is no cure for COVID-19 yet and Indian traditional systems have been used for prevention, it is important that every formulation has a scientific backing to it”.

“Indian traditional medicines have a wide, long- standing use in the community, huge number of ancient references and a large number of publications. It is, however, essential to have scientific evidence on use of any formulation for prevention and management of Covid-19. Thus, it was felt necessary to make serious efforts for development of drug-based AYUSH system recognised under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940,” it said.

There are no regulatory provisions but it is important that the clinical data collected is scientifically valid and credible, the order stated. The ministry also held talks with Drug Controller General of India and Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation.

Officials said, for the first time, extensive discussions have been held with officials from health ministry and ICMR to get AYUSH researchers recognised through official channels.

The ministry has demanded that while the sampling has to be based on statistical justification, if the project is in clinical trial, it should compulsorily be registered with CTRI and comply with clinical practice guidelines. From now on, proposals also need to be approved by scientific advisory bodies and institutional ethics committees.

On March 31, the ministry had issued a notification asking AYUSH practitioners and institutions to submit their inputs, which were to be reviewed by a task force consisting of representatives from the department of biotechnology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and AYUSH practitioners.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently urged AYUSH practitioners to pitch in to tackle the pandemic. He had suggested that AYUSH medicine producers could utilise their resources to manufacture essential items such as sanitisers.

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