AYUSH experts are up in arms against IMA’s uninformed and defamatory allegations against the AYUSH systems of medicine. They say the statement hurts the hard work of the research community in the field of AYUSH
The world is put into an unfortunate situation with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic with no medicine or vaccine yet available as a cure. What more sounds threatening in India is the ‘war of words’ over using the method of treatment that is to lead heal the said virus. Leading Ayurveda Practitioner of Bhopal Vaidya Prashant Tiwari has darted a legal salvo at the Indian Medical Association (IMA), its National President Dr. Rajan Sharma and Secretary General Dr. R V Asokan for ‘intentionally and deliberately’ damaging the reputation of the Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan and defaming the AYUSH system of medicines used in treatment of COVID-19.
Tiwari has also accused the IMA of maligning the reputation of the Indian Medicine and its efficacy in treatment without ‘perusing and understanding’ the protocol and without studying the reports of the scientific and clinical studies made available in the public domain. He has alleged that the IMA issued Press releases and media interviews more specifically with the intention to “create a disbelief against the AYUSH method of treatment” and to “cause grave reputational and financial loss” to its practitioners.
It all began on October 8, 2020 when the Indian Medical Association questioned Health Minister Harsh Vardhan’s move to promote alternative medicines and yoga for corona patients. Vardhan had released a document prescribing protocol for COVID-19 prevention and treatment of asymptomatic as well as mild cases based on Ayurveda and Yoga. The protocol promotes use of ashwagandha, guduchi, pippali, Ayush 64 tablets in different doses, and yoga to prevent Covid, treat mild symptoms and for post-Covid self-care.
Further, the association asked the minister five questions and sought his response to them. Some of these questions were, ‘How many of his ministerial colleagues have so far got treated under AYUSH protocols?’ and ‘What is stopping him from handing over COVID care and control to the AYUSH ministry? How more blatant could have it been? The association, which is the apex lobby of 3.5 lakh doctors in the country, unconcealed demanded that the Union health minister should come clean on the questions.
The very next day, on October 9, 2020, a prestigious group of scientists working in the AYUSH fields, hit back at the Association for labelling their medicine systems unscientific. The AYUSH system of medicine has been doing commendable work in the field of research through research councils and national institutes, and also in collaboration with various reputed institutions such as Indian Council of Medical Research, Indian Institute of Technology and others. Wonder how, IMA even thought of digging at and comparing to altogether a different branch of science!
A) AYUSH and the COVID-19 treatment
The AYUSH, the short of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy is extensively working to prevent the spread of the novel corona virus. When the world was attacked with Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, various clinical trials substantiated the importance of the effective role of the Ayurvedic herbal medicines – particularly, AyurvedicKwath, SanshamaniVati, Chyavanprash and Ashwagandha in the virus prevention. From sipping hot turmeric milk, kadha to performing yoga, and consuming ashwagandha and guduchi, the Narendra Modi government released the official protocol of using ayurveda and yoga for COVID-19 prevention and treatment of patients with mild or no symptoms.
The Ministry has initiated 68 studies at 112 locations through the National Institutes, Research Councils, Universities, State Governments and other collaborating hospitals including the AYUSH-CSIR studies before releasing the National Protocol. As mentioned earlier, the protocol promotes use of ashwagandha, guduchi, pippali, Ayush 64 tablets in different doses, and yoga to prevent Covid, treat mild symptoms and for post-Covid self-care.
The ministry clarified that in addition to these medicines, general and dietary measures are to be followed, which include a long to-do list such as drinking turmeric milk, sipping kadha or decoction, applying medicated oils in nasal passage and performing steam inhalation with ajwain or eucalyptus oil. Taking adequate sleep of 6 to 8 hours along with doing moderate physical exercises is also recommended apart from following physical distancing, respiratory and hand hygiene, and wearing masks.
The IMA had demanded that the Health Minister to come clean on its questions, and if he didn’t, he would be inflicting a fraud on the nation and gullible patients by calling placebos as drugs
For prevention or prophylactic care among high-risk population and primary contacts of COVID patients, the document advises dosage of ayurvedic herbs ashwagandha, guduchighanavati along with Chyawanaprash for 15 days or one month. The yoga protocol, according to the ministry, is given for prevention and after recovery from Covid. It suggested a 45-minute yoga routine to prevent COVID, which includes both standing and sitting postures along with prone and supine lying asana and breathing exercise called pranayama.
B) IMA’s blatant stand against AYUSH
The minister, the IMA in its release said, had arranged impressive names of institutions to support his prescription of yoga, and AYUSH therapies and medicines. It said Vardhan promoted alternative medicine by admitting that these were based on empirical evidence, which meant that the evidence was anecdotal and based on individual subjective experiences. The association pointed out that the minister himself relegated AYUSH as history rather than current by saying Ayurveda has contributed to foundation of modern medicine.
The Association clarified that science demands two things. First, as listed in the release, is ‘reproducibility of a claim elsewhere in non-conflict situations. Replication of the claim is one of the ‘key ways scientists build confidence in the scientific merit of results’. When the result from one study is found to be consistent by another study, it is more likely to represent a reliable claim to new knowledge, according to the US-based The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Another important scientific parameter is ‘double-blind control studies’, which is one the most respectable methods of clinical trial as it prevents bias in checking the efficacy of the treatment.
C) The five questions
The IMA, in its release, asked five questions to Vardhan. “IMA prefers the following posers to the Union Health Minister who happens to be a modern medicine doctor,” it mentioned.
- Is there any satisfactory evidence regarding the claims made from AYUSH studies done on COVID patients based on the two scientific requirements?
- Are those evidences weak, moderate or strong? Why isn’t the said evidence in public domain and available for scientific scrutiny?
- To the persons who support claims of efficacy of AYUSH-based medicines and therapies, are they prepared to subject themselves as volunteers to an independent prospective double-blind control study in prevention and treatment of COVID?
- How many of his ministerial colleagues have so far made the informed choice of getting treated under these AYUSH protocols?
- What is stopping the Health Minister from handing over COVID care and control to the AYUSH ministry?
In response to IMA’s five questions, AYUSH scientists have asked five questions, including the one on the ‘silence of allopathic doctors’ on the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the COVID-19 treatment protocol. Other questions they raised include those on the efficacy of remdesivir and the steroid methylprednisolone in prophylaxis or treatment
D) And the AYUSH ticket
In response to the IMA’s five questions, now about 300 AYUSH scientists who work at the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) and are part of the CCRAS Scientists Welfare Association (CSWA), had asked the IMA five questions, including the one on the ‘silence of allopathic doctors’ on the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in the COVID-19 treatment protocol. “Current data do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine for prevention or treatment of Covid-19,” the AYUSH scientists said. Other questions they raised include those on the efficacy of remdesivir and the steroid methylprednisolone in prophylaxis or treatment.
The IMA had demanded that the Health Minister to come clean on its questions, and if he didn’t, he would be inflicting a fraud on the nation and gullible patients by calling placebos as drugs. With no intention to dig into, CSWA chief Shahi wrote to the IMA “It is a rigorously condemnable statement as it hurts the hard work of the research community in the field of AYUSH all over the country.” The letter also stated that of the 67 interventional trials registered in India, 46, or 68.70 per cent were based on AYUSH systems, ‘proving’ that the systems are ‘based on time-tested research studies’.
The IMA is definitely making uninformed defamatory allegations against the AYUSH systems of medicine and is causing loss of goodwill and reputation to the AYUSH institutions and its practitioners. In the light of the above facts, the IMA owes an unconditional apology to the AYUSH Ministry and the countrymen immediately failing which it should be ready face the legal course of action.
(Courtesy : News Bharati)