The recent statement made by Kerala health minister K. K Shailaja on the efficacy of homoeo medicine in preventing COVID-19 has triggered a controversy. Even though the Kerala government has started free distribution of homoeo medicine ‘Arsenicum Album 30C’ to all the households as a COVID-19 preventive drug in April, it is the health minister’s remarks which sparked a heated debate.
During the virtual inauguration of the new building of the homoeopathy medical college in Kozhikode, the health minister referred to a study conducted by Dr. Biju Kumar, district medical officer (Homoeopathy) Pathanamthitta district. According to the study, ‘Arsenicum Album 30C’is effective in increasing immunity and preventing the virus infection.
Soon after the minister’s remarks favouring homoeo drug’s role in COVID-19 prevention, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Kerala chapter came up with sharp criticism. According to the IMA, the health minister’s statement will send out a wrong message to the public as the study does not have scientific evidence.
However, the Homoeopathic Association alleges that the IMA is intolerant to other streams of medicine. According to them, homoeo drugs are better preventives against COVDI-19 as they will boost immunity.
In Panthalam municipality, homoeo immunity booster drug was distributed to more than 2000 people in two wards in July after two persons in the area tested positive for the virus. The 107 persons in the primary contact list of the patients were quarantined and given the drug. After six days, samples of the 107 primary contacts were tested negative.
No one among the 2000 people tested positive. The municipal chairperson sent a letter to the Pathanamthitta DMO (Homoeopathy) expressing gratitude in helping the local body to prevent possible community outbreak.
Even as the controversy is on, distribution of ‘Arsenicum Album 30C’ through government homoeo hospitals and local bodies is continuing in the state.
In the wake of the controversy, K. K Shailaja issued a clarification to her statement. In a recorded statement which was posted on social media Shailaja said her statement had been misinterpreted. “I only said Kerala is employing modern medicine and also taking assistance of indigenous medicine to fight Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
She said though a section of ayurveda and homeo experts had claimed that they have medicine to treat Covid-9, the government had made it clear that these can be used for treatment only if scientifically validated. Hence such medicines should not be given to Covid-19 patients and also to those under quarantine.
“As I hold the portfolio of Ayush department also, I have to hear them too. The chief minister had also convened a meeting of ayurveda practitioners to seek their views on tackling the pandemic. They informed him that immunity booster medicines were available in their stream. However, they were told that these should be given only if there are no side effects,” the minister said.
Shailaja said research was happening in modern medicine, ayurveda and other streams. “At present we have medicines only for treating symptoms. Right from the outbreak of the pandemic, we have been treating patients using modern medicine in Covid first line treatment centres, Covid second line treatment centers, quarantine centres and ICUs with ventilator support,” she said.
“There is a deliberate attempt from a section of people to create unnecessary controversy by blowing the statement out of proportion. Let’s not waste time and join hands to fight the pandemic,” she said.
Earlier, high level expert group of the government on Covid – 19 and state chapter of the IMA had criticized the minister’s statement. They said the statement would be misused by people to administer medicines which are not scientifically validated.
“The minister’s statement amounted to mocking modern medicine and health care workers who were risking their lives in battling the pandemic. The authorities should not endorse medicines which are not scientifically validated,” said IMA state president Dr Abraham Varghese.
The minister had clearly stated that those who had consumed homeo medicine did not get infected and those who got infected got cured in a couple of days. “Such statements can result in people violating all Covid- 19 safety norms. They will stop maintaining safe physical distance and wearing masks or using sanitisers. This will do great harm to the fight against Covid – 19,” the IMA state president said.
The IMA claimed that the minister had made a statement supporting homeo medicine on the basis of a study conducted by a homeo doctor in Pathanamthitta district. "The study was conducted among 16 persons. How can this be justified," the IMA president asked.