Patanjali’s Covid-19 claim

Kashmir Times. Dated: 6/30/2020 12:40:20 AM

The claims on Corona cure should be subjected to scientific appraisal of the drug by the medical institutions and call the bluff

Continued spread of the Coronavirus around the world has caused mass anxiety among the masses and the clamour for finding a panacea. For finding a cure, the scientists have joined hands across the globe in an attempt to arrest the pandemic and save the humanity. In the backdrop of such efforts, the claims of Patanjali Ayurved’s claim of having found a cure and the publicity it garnered, bypassing every regulatory requirement without any serious consequences so far, shows that Indian regulatory checks and balances are insufficient. The NDA-government, which collaborated with Swami Ramdev in raising the banner of revolt against the UPA government in the beginning of this decade, also maintained a studied silence on the issue allowing the claims to hug the limelight last week before some responsible people moved in and lodged a case against him. The firm located in Haridwar claimed that its product ‘Coronil’ has cured everyone in a clinical trial. This amounts to quackery under the very nose of the government agencies which are out and making all out attempts to find the wonder drug for Corona cure. The potency of ‘magic drugs’ are a part of life in India, but its declarations without any scientific evaluation by the reputed Indian institutions could not be ignored and the government agencies should have stepped in at the initial stages itself. The influence of Patanjali products among the masses could also not be ignored when it claimed to have proved the product through clinical trial. It should be open to evaluation by the standards of modern medicines otherwise, such claims also amount to hoodwinking the people and allowing a firm to make money through its nefarious designs. The government owes an explanation for such infirmities in the regulation system. Of late, it has emerged that the company misrepresented the efficacy of the drug. The clinical trials conducted on about 100 persons claiming that 25 of them had recovered is not a measurable improvement considering the small number of persons enrolled for the trial.
Moreover, it has also been reported that the participants in the trial were mildly symptomatic and no medical agency, charged with responsibility of trial on human beings was involved in the process. The claim that with this drug, all the persons in the trial had recovered is surprising. If this number also included all those on the placebo, then it further weakens the claim that it was the drug alone that worked. The doctors in the trial have spelt out on the clinical trials registry the process they would employ to test the drug but said they had neither published their results nor submitted it for peer-review. So, the firm’s claim of a cure by all accounts was a clear subversion of the scientific process. When hydroxychloroquine was being touted as a potential wonder drug for Covid-19, some of India’s scientists were quick to join a global opprobrium that raised methodological issues with a study in The Lancet, that claimed no effect - and even harm - from HCQ. The study was retracted as it relied on a spurious database. But its overall finding that HCQ does not work has been borne out by other validated medical case studies. Thus, more than the outcome, it is the method deployed that ought to be scrutinised by scientists to reinforce public trust in scientific assessment of such drugs. There has always been a conflict between traditional Indian systems of medicine and pharmaceutical drugs but there is now consensus in India’s regulatory system that claims by both systems of developing safe efficacious drugs must pass clinical trials. It is well within the ambit of institutions like Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) or the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) or national science academies to call out a breach of due process in the appraisal of any drug, whether allopathic, ayurvedic or homeopathic. Avoiding comment or lack of interests in initiating an action against such claims would clearly amount to criminal negligence on the part of the central government.



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