By Dr. Arun Mitra
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has raised very pertinent objections to the promotion of CORONIL by the Health Minister on the grounds of science as well as medical ethics. The Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan is an ENT Surgeon trained in modern medicine. It would be naïve to believe that he is unaware of the number of and types of clinical trials any new medicine/ vaccine has to pass through before being put to use.
During the present COVID period, even the non-medical people have got some idea of these issues because there have been several controversies on the efficacy and safety of the vaccines for COVID which have been launched in a short period. Dr Harsh Vardhan’s act amounts to violation of medical ethics which prohibits any doctor to promote commercial products. This also amounts to negation of science by a person trained in modern scientific medicine. The question which the Health Minister must answer to the nation is what has been the compulsion behind promotion of CORONIL knowing fully well that he will have to face serious criticism from his professional colleagues, scientific community as well as rationally thinking organisations and individuals.
Few months back also Baba Ramdev had put forward claims over his product which was rejected by even the Uttrakhand Ayurvedic medical Council. This time he has involved the Health Minister in his promotional activity of CORONIL for prevention, treatment as well as Post-Covid phase treatment, putting him to shame globally, more so when he holds the Chair of the Executive Board of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Ramdev is well known for his false claims, but a doctor cannot do so.
Ironically Dr Harsh Vardhan has refrained from taking stand on several medical issues. When the Prime Minister in his address to the nation had said that we won Mahabharta in 18 days and now will defeat Corona in 21 days, Health Minister did not give his scientific opinion on this. This led many medical professionals too, to follow the band wagon to clap Taalies, bang Thaalies or sound Shankhs to make to Corona run away. But there were many who challenged such absurd ideas and even exposed the hollowness behind showering flowers on the healthcare workers at a time when the basic protective equipment for them was unavailable.
Later when the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said that the vaccine against COVID will be ready by the 15th August 2020, the ICMR director Dr. Bhargava issued strict instructions to the states/medical fraternity for speedy trials for Vaccine. Unfortunately the Health Minister kept mum even as the ICMR director retracted after sharp criticism from scientific organisations. Unfortunately the Dr Vardhan has also stayed away from giving any opinion on the treatment of COVID by Gau Mutra.
Such happenings are very unfortunate and detrimental to the healthcare of our people. Several leading people in the government or otherwise are spreading erratic ideas. It was astonishing to hear from the mouth of a High Court Judge that the Peahen gave birth after licking tears of the Peacock. There is also too much talk of the benefits of Gau Mutra and Panchgavya (a combination of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd, jaggery, ghee, banana, Tender coconut and water). In a reply to the RTI on the benefits of Cow Urine for human health, the Guru Angad Dev University of Veterinary Sciences (GADVASU) Ludhiana denied any such data with them. Even the department of Animal Husbandry Government of India informed that they did not have any such information of benefits of the cow urine on human health.
It appears there is subtle move to constantly feed out dated unscientific ideas in the minds of the people. That is why the Shri Narendra Modi shortly after he took over as the Prime Minister said in a science congress that in the ancient times India had surgical skills to transplant an elephant’s head on the human body. That narrative was to set tone for the future. No wonder the Vice Chancellor Andhra Pradesh University G Nageswar Rao while speaking at the 106th Science Congress at Jalandhar claimed that “We had hundreds of Kauravas from one mother because of stem cell research and test tube baby technology,” “It happened a few thousand years ago. This was science in this country…Mahabharat says, 100 eggs were fertilised and put into 100 earthen pots. Are they not test tube babies? Stem cell research in this country was present thousands of years ago.” The Arogya Bharti, an another outfit preaches that to produce customized babies of their choice the couple should recite certain Shlokas to achieve the desired results.
The spread of such bizarre unscientific ideas is a deep rooted conspiracy to keep the people in hyper nationalism of ancient times by eulogizing something which never existed and has no evidence to prove. Life is a dynamic process and always moves ahead crossing the impediments put on the way from time to time. What was true few hundred years back may not be suitable for the present. Dr Harsh Vardhan should have realised that. Any wrong act by him will bring disgrace to the country more so when he is at higher positions in the WHO. This will also push the healthcare delivery system in our country to medieval times.