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Sunday, April 18, 2021

Coronil row: Why Patanjali’s WHO certification claim for Ayurvedic medicine is flawed

Patanjali claimed that Coronil has received certification from the Ayush Ministry under the World Health Organization's certification scheme. Why is the claim being contested now?

The Coronavirus pandemic is still raging and even though some vaccines are out, the race for a better alternative is still on. Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali created a furore when it claimed that Coronil is the “first evidence-based ayurvedic medicine” and that it’s WHO-certified. But WHO promptly came out with a statement denying having certified any traditional medicine for Corona.

The Indian Yoga guru on February 19, at an elaborate event in the presence of Union health minister Harsh Vardhan and Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, said that researchers from the Haridwar-based Patanjali Research Institute have found out that Coronil is effective against COVID-19. He released the research paper and said that this is the “first evidence-based ayurvedic medicine” against COVID-19. He also said that Coronil has received certification from the Ayush Ministry under the World Health Organisation’s certification scheme. Here’s why Patanjali’s WHO certification claim for Coronil might be flawed.

What is Coronil?

Coronil is an ayurvedic tablet that is marketed and sold by Patanjali Ayurved — they call it a COVID-19 Immunity Booster. The company website prices each bottle containing 80 tablets at Rs 400. Reportedly, according to the Ayush Ministry, it is a “prophylactic drug that may boost immunity”.So what does it contain? It’s completely herbal and has a lot of natural ingredients including Giloy, Ashwagandha, Tulsi. Swasari Vati: Mulethi, Kakdasinghi and Rudanti.

What did Ramdev claim?

Ramdev recently launched the Coronil tablet as part of the Divya Corona Kit that includes another tablet and an oil. “Coming up with a clinically tested, evidence-based medicine was a challenge,” he said at the event. Patanjali Ayurved claimed that ‘Coronil’ and ‘Swasari’ are not only effective but have shown 100 per cent positive results during clinical trials on COVID-19 patients. The trials were conducted at the Patanjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar.

What did WHO say?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) promptly clarified their stand with a tweet. They said that the organisation has never reviewed or certified any traditional medicine as effective for treating COVID-19. This tweet came only a day after Patanjali Ayurved claimed that Coronil has a certification from Ayush Ministry as per WHO’s certification scheme. “@WHO has not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment #Covid19,” WHO’s regional office for South-East Asia tweeted.

Why is the IMA upset?

The Indian Medical Association said that they are shocked at the “blatant lie of WHO certification” that was promoted by Patanjali. They also pulled up Health Minister Harsh Vardhan for promoting the drug at the event. Not only were two ministers of the Union cabinet present at the launch, they even promoted it.

In their stern statement, the IMA questioned Vardhan’s ethics for being involved in such an endorsement and that was based on “such falsely fabricated and unscientific product” which was sold “to the people of the whole country”.

IMA has also asked for the revelation of details of the timeline of clinical trials that apparently has a cent per cent success rate, from the health minister. “Can you clarify the number of patients in the double-blind or single-blind trials of this so-called anti-corona product promoted by you? On what ground was it approved by the DCGI as was announced in your presence?” asked the IMA in a statement.

Ramdev has called modern medicine medical terrorism and the IMA was not really happy with it. They asked the health minister, “Being the health minister of the country and a modern medicine doctor, can you clarify the highly objectionable and instigative statement by Ramdev.”

“The country needs an explanation from the minister. The Indian Medical Association will also write to the National Medical Commission for seeking suo moto explanation for his blatant disrespect to the code of conduct of Medical Council of India,” it further added.

The code of conduct of the Indian Medical Council Act says that no doctor can promote any drug, for compensation or otherwise. The IMA statement said, “Dispensing by a physician of secret remedial agents of which he does not know the composition or the manufacture or promotion of their use is unethical and as such prohibited.” But this is not the first time that Coronil has made headlines, on June 23, Patanjali relaunched it with “proof”. Patanjali CEO Acharya Balkrishna also went on to claim that Ayurvedic medicine could cure COVID-19 patients within 5-14 days. Interestingly, 14 days is also the time you need for the viral load to come down if the disease does not prove to be fatal.

But the AYUSH ministry at that time had asked the company to stop promoting the drug until the claims were examined. The ministry had also asked for an elaborate report on the composition, testing and other data for the drug. The Modi government had also banned the firm from advertising after the Yoga Guru said that they had cured 280 patients within days in trials.

Patnajali claims Coronil is WHO certified
Baba Ramdev with Patanjali’s Corona kit | Source: PTI

How did Patanjali try to clarify the situation?

Patanjali Ayurved reacted emotionally. They said that they were “appalled” by the IMA’s comments on their flagship product. It also reiterated that Coronil an “evidence-based medicine” that can fight the Coronavirus pandemic. They also added that it has been “thoroughly reviewed and scrutinised” by competent licensing authorities.

Balkrishna made it abundantly clear that the company never said or marketed Coronil as a cure or means to control Coronavirus even though their earlier statements led people to believe so. A criminal complaint in Bihar and an FIR in Jaipur has already been filed against the company for making claims that their ayurvedic medicine can cure Coronavirus. “We never said that the medicine (Coronil) can cure or control the Coronavirus. We said that we had made medicines and used them in a clinically controlled trial that cured corona patients. There is no confusion in it,” Balkrishna told ANI.

What’s the truth?

While the ingredients of the Coronil tablet are known for providing immunity boosts, there is no scientific proof of the fact that it contains elements that can cure the virus or even prevent users from being infected.

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