Despite Criticism, Ayush Ministry Plans to Begin Clinical Trials of Ayurvedic Herbs
The Ministry of Ayush plans to conduct trials of traditional medicines such as ashwagandha, guduchi, mulethi, and an ayurvedic anti-malaria medicine, Ayush-64, in an attempt to collect scientific evidence of their efficiency and immunity-boosting properties to fight Covid19, The Print reported.
“These drugs will be studied for their preventive properties against Covid-19 infections,” a senior ministry official told ThePrint. “We will be finalising the four cites for the trials within this month. We are getting proposals from public and private hospitals in Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow and others for starting the trials. However, we are awaiting the nod from ICMR for finalising the geography,” he added.
The Ayush Ministry plans to administer these medicines in the form of tablets made from their extracts to patients who have tested positive and been quarantined or living in isolation and frontline health workers.
Currently, Covid19 has no known cure, treatment, or vaccine. However, in India, PM Narendra Modi has repeatedly urged citizens to refer to the Ayush Ministry’s immunity-boosting guidelines, The Swaddle reported. These include practices such as drinking warm water, practicing yoga, and using condiments like turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garlic while cooking.
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Experts have repeatedly clarified that these suggestions are baseless and not supported by any scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. In fact, when Union Minister of State for Ayush, Shripad Naik stated that Prince Charles had been cured of Covid19 due to Ayurveda, the British government issued a statement rejecting the claim. “This information is incorrect. The Prince of Wales followed the medical advice of the National Health Service in the U.K. and nothing more,” a Prince of Wales spokesperson told Hindustan Times.
While the Ministry plans to invest in these hugely expensive clinical trials of alternative medicine, it remains doubtful how closely the trials will adhere to widely accepted scientific methods.
“In the majority of clinical trials conducted by the Ayurvedic research institutes under the AYUSH ministry, appropriate measures are seldom taken to design trials within the framework of scientific methodology such as randomisation, placebo control, condition matching, or double blinding, wrote Dr. Sumaiya Shaikh, a neuroscientist based at the Center for Social and Affective Neuroscience at Linköping University Hospital in Sweden for News18.
She added, despite having repeatedly said alternative medicine is not the cure to Covid19, if the government is so keen on trialling, “Use whatever herbs you want, but run them through appropriate trials. Don’t start with the basis that this drug is going to work. Start with realizing that ‘we don’t know and we want to find out.’ That is unbiased research.”
Clinical trials will take at least a year to be completed. And in the meantime, relying on alternative medicine, as prescribed by the Ayush Ministry guidelines, could lead to a false sense of safety in those who use them, possibly preventing them from being tested. This can, “complicate – if not entirely worsen – an already overburdened public healthcare system’s efforts to ensure the novel viral strain doesn’t wreak havoc in India,” wrote science editor at The Wire, Vasudevan Mukunth.
Unless proven otherwise, which is highly given all existing scientific evidence, alternative medicines are nothing better than a placebo. Considering and promoting them anything other than that is akin to spreading misinformation.