Coronavirus outbreak: Ayush pushes ‘traditional cure’, med council backs modern drugs

The ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy or AYUSH, sent out a new advisory to states suggesting “add-on traditional medicine interventions to conventional care” after coming under fire from medical experts for recommending Arsenicum Album that was not backed by adequate scientific evidence to battle Covid-19 symptons.

The advisory suggests intake of anti-malarial Ayurvedic drug, AYUSH 64, developed by the ministry, use of sesame oil in the nose, and Tulsi, ginger, Guduchi (tinspora cordifolia) and turmeric in diet.

The three-point strategy that the ministry has asked the states to put in place includes “preventive care, symptom management of Covid-19-like illness and add-on interventions to conventional care.”

The letter written by AYUSH secretary Rajesh Kotecha and addressed to the chief secretaries of the states also lists 40 research papers, both national and international, that laud the importance of traditional medicines. Citing the increasing number of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the ministry has asked all states to “ensure their AYUSH-based public health response systems are in order.”

Ayush Pushes ‘Traditional Cure’, Med Council Backs Modern Drugs

The CCRAS (Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences), an autonomous body of AYUSH, had developed AYUSH-64 that claims to treat malaria without side effects. The NRDC (National Research Development Corporation) has signed an agreement with Dabur to market this drug in 2014. The ministry in its latest advisory has asked for the two of the tablets to be taken twice a day.

The letter also said that while Ayurveda has “worked towards enhancing the immunity against host of infections.., ..homeopathy has been reportedly used for prevention during the epidemics of cholera, Spanish Influenza, yellow fever, typhoid.” It also said that “even during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, an expert group in WHO had recommended that it was ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects as potential treatment or prevention, keeping in view no vaccine or anti-virals were available.”

Other specific measures advised by the ministry include following respiratory etiquette, washing of hands, practising yoga and pranayama and avoiding contact with unwell people, cold and frozen food and cold breeze. The ministry has also asked states to get people to follow rules such as “avoiding the consumption of undercooked meat, or going to places where animals are slaughtered.”

Apart from suggesting many Ayurveda, Sidda and Unanni medicines, the new advisory has also reiterated its earlier suggestion of Arsenicum Album 30 advising a tablet once in empty stomach for three days, till the Covid-19 scare and spread continues. This time, it has also defended the recommendation, saying, the tablets are a common prescription in respiratory infections.

Delhi Medical Council President Arun Gupta however said as Ayurveda and Homeopathy did not have the scale to handle a public health emergency such as the Covid-19 and only modern medicine should be seen as the effective way forward.

“Efficacy of a drug is very important here, particularly in cases such as this, where many aspects of the virus are still unknown. One has to be very careful with the claims or the words used, as they tend to mislead people,” Gupta said.

Joint director of Indian systems of medicine in Kerala, Anil Kumar, said though all patients in the state tested positive and undergoing treatment for Covid-19 are being given only allopathy medicines, Ayurvedic medicines are available in all 850 dispensaries across the state.

“We are suggesting people take Guluchyadi and Sudarshanam tablets prepared using Kerala Ayurveda methods to build their immunity. We are also telling them these are not to prevent the corona virus, but there are also people with just cold and cough, hence the demand for Ayurveda medicines has spiked in the last few days,” Kumar said.

Manoj Kesari, advisor with the Ayush ministry said, “We are also asking the states what the traditional medicinal approaches they have taken up at times like this. Traditional systems of medicine have always helped in boosting the immunity of the body. Helping in the repair of old cells, and working for the overall well being. We have never said this would kill the Covid-19 virus, but research has shown that to resist a wide range of viruses and bacteria, the immunity of the body has to be strengthened.”

Following the AYUSH ministry’s first advisory, the state department in Telangana was particularly panned for distributing Arsenic Alb 30 suggesting it could prevent Covid-19. N. Linga Raju, medical officer from the department of Ayush in Telangana, told ET that the department had distributed Arsenic Album 30 to “only to people who asked for it.”

“More and more people are coming here, asking for it now. Since the state has been able to stop the spread of Dengue in the last few months, people believe having this medicine as a precaution won’t do any harm.”

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