Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, chairman of interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force on Covid-19 | ThePrint team
Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, chairman of interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force on Covid-19 | By special arrangement
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New Delhi: It is incorrect to call Ayurveda or homoeopathy an “alternative medicine” in the context of Covid-19, said a top government official, who heads the committee on research and development of AYUSH-based medicines.

In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Dr Bhushan Patwardhan, chairman of interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force on Covid-19, said: “Currently, we are in the evidence-based precision medicine era. As of now, there is no proven treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection or Covid-19 in any medical system.” 

The task force that Patwardhan heads was constituted by the Ministry of AYUSH.

“Current management of Covid-19 is largely based on experience and empirical evidence. Therefore, what is conventional and what is alternative is difficult to decide,” he said, adding that “when several allopathic drugs are being repurposed based on empirical evidence, there is no reason as to why safe AYUSH interventions are ignored”. 

Patwardhan, who is also the vice-chairman of the University Grants Commission, further explained that “immune-inflammation is known to be a key driver in Covid-19 progression”.

Patwardhan is a biomedical scientist who is also the chairman (additional charge) of the Indian Council of Social Science Research and has worked on several policy-making committees, task forces of the National Knowledge Commission, Planning Commission, NITI Ayog and the Ministry of AYUSH. AYUSH is the acronym for Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy.

Recent studies, he emphasised, “have identified genetic factors that may influence susceptibility to Covid-19″.

“This may explain why SARS-CoV-2 virus may cause serious harm to certain individuals while others largely remain mild or asymptomatic,” he said.

“Over this background, research on Ayurvedic rasayana (chemicals), ahara (food), Yoga, meditation as well as the role of Ayurvedic dosha prakriti (nature of the disease) types in pathophysiology and therapeutics of Covid-19 is very exciting.”

Patwardhan advised that “integrating protocols involving best from modern and traditional systems of medicine can offer substantial benefits to improve quality of medical care and public health”.

“In a sum, adhering to scientific standards of quality and safety, integrating simple measures from Ayurveda and yoga in the standard of care for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 is reasonable, ethical and fair in the interest of larger public good,” he added.


Also read: Why India needs to regulate Ayurveda to win the world market for natural remedies


Need to break existing silos of medical systems 

Modern medicine, Patwardhan said, has greatly contributed to manage various symptoms such as fever, pain, infections and most importantly the critical care. However, “there are no proven measures for prevention of Covid-19”.

“Ayurveda can contribute to boost immunity and help in systemic and local prophylaxis. Yoga and meditation can improve respiratory function and mental health,” he said, adding that “simple home remedies such as hot medicinal kadha, steam inhalation, and spices such as turmeric, clove, cinnamon, liquorice can also help in slowing the disease progression”.

“There is a need to break existing silos of medical systems and use the best available options in the interest of patients and people. The global consensus is emerging in favour of integrative approach and complementary medicine,” said Patwardhan, who has been awarded by the World Health Organization for a study on the role of traditional medicine in public health.

R&D going on for Covid-19

The primary objective of Patwardhan’s task force is to demonstrate the value and scientific basis of AYUSH systems in the management of Covid-19. 

“We wish to strengthen interdisciplinary collaborative research culture among Indian scientists. We wish to establish a network of medical institutions where the strengths of modern medicine and AYUSH systems can be scientifically integrated for the benefit of people,” he said.

“We hope that rigorous research on AYUSH systems can help India to innovate and aspire global leadership in healthcare.”

According to Patwardhan, the Ministry of AYUSH in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has planned systematic clinical trials to study Ayurvedic medicines for prevention as well as adjunct treatment of Covid-19. 

“Ashwagandha is known to stimulate antibody formation and also T cell response. A randomised controlled clinical trial on high-risk individuals such as healthcare providers to compare efficacy of Ashwagandha with hydroxychloroquine has been planned,” he said. 

“The task force has selected four Ayurvedic (herbs) — ashwagandha, yashtimadhu or liquorice, guduchi also known as giloy, pippali also known as long pepper (to study their efficacy in preventing Covid).” 

Patwardhan said a large number of top medical scientists, physicians, pulmonologists, pharmacologists “are working hand in hand with Ayurvedic vaidyas”

“A large number of studies, including prospective and retrospective population-based, epidemiological, observational studies and randomised controlled clinical trials are under way.” 

Various preclinical studies, he said, have been planned in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology both in vitro and in vivo using animals, tissues and cell systems. 

“The task force has also facilitated creation of various guidelines for medical practitioners and common people.” 


Also read: Forget coronavirus, homoeopathy can’t cure anything. It’s a placebo, at best


How govt is giving strength to AYUSH system 

The clinical protocols for the studies to find out the efficacy of Ayurvedic herbs as a prevention for Covid have been developed under the leadership of chief clinical coordinator Dr Arvind Chopra, who is a well-known physician-scientist with considerable experience in rheumatology and immunology, Patwardhan said. 

“These protocols have been reviewed by experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research and other leading medical research institutions. All the clinical studies are closely monitored by a high-level committee chaired by renowned medical scientist Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, former director general of ICMR,” he added.

The Data Safety Monitoring Board, which monitors clinical studies, is chaired by Dr Nandini Kumar, former senior scientist from ICMR who is known for her contributions in bioethics, according to Patwardhan. 

A working group under the chairmanship of Dr M.D. Gupte, former director of ICMR and the National Institute of Epidemiology, has given valuable advice to refine study designs being used for various studies, he said. 

“In short, the task force has adopted globally accepted scientific standards. It is hoped that the data from these studies will be publishable in reputed scientific journals,” Patwardhan said.


Also read: Early data from alternative medicine trials shows promising results against Covid: AYUSH secy


 

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22 Comments Share Your Views

22 COMMENTS

  1. The Ayush Minister Shri Shripad Naik had to be hospitalised and had to undergo plasma therapy which is an allopathic intervention.

    Coronavirus infection can be deadly for those who are unlucky.. Some who have recovered have long term organ damage. I humbly request the Ayush Task Force not to take SARS COV-2 lightly and give false hopes to the public that there are simple and sound prevention methods available. Good quality research takes a long time. This pandemic should not be the occasion to have a competition between modern medicine and Ayush. In a crisis only modern medicine can save lives even though the intervention may be costly. Needless to say a good doctor is important.

    • He will probably just say that he also took some herb alongside and it was really that herb that cured him.
      “Sadhvi” Pragya was getting cancer surgeries, but said she got cured by cow urine and didn’t mention the modern treatment.
      These people are shameless liars. Quack treatment for you and me. Modern treatments and even expensive foreign hospitals for them when they get sick.

  2. How easily does Dr Patwardhan relate genetic factors to Ayurvedic doshas !

    Modern medicine is still far away from knowing which genes influence human body types !

    • And Ayurveda didn’t even know how blood circulated. It thought diseases are caused by humors when they are really caused by microbes. They still are stubborn about their wrong theories. It’s an ego issue for them to admit they were wrong about almost everything.
      The level of understanding of human body in Ayurveda is just pathetic.

  3. In modern medicine working of drugs is studied at the molecular level. The studies are very pointed and focused and too many variables do not lead to valid conclusions.

    In Ayurveda they use whole herbs. Any herb contains umpteen number of molecules. Studies with whole herbs may be done by botanists or herbalists but for medical scientists there will be too many variables in a study if herbs are used.

    It will be interesting to see what ICMR and the Ayush ministry is up to with ayurvedic herbs. It will be hilarious if ICMR is doing any studies or trials with homeopathy!

  4. Hon’ble Dr. Bhushanji you are the only personality who has expressed so profoundly for Ayurveda. My family has experienced the best results of Ayurveda in this Covid situation. On of the young Vaidya from pune treated my whole family with fantastic results and virtually No Cost.
    We need to appreciate and further make Ayurveda acceptable as the main Medicinal stream as Allopathy.
    Thanks again for your approach

  5. “As of now, there is no proven treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection or Covid-19 in any medical system.”

    Is there any proven treatment for any viral infection in any medical system ? At least modern medical science is honest enough to admit that it is difficult to evict and kill viruses within our body. At best the immune system can hold viruses at bay. Or viruses can go into hiding in our cells and stay dormant.

    Our country does little research in medical sciences because of lack of funds. Many of the papers or studies published are sub-standard and do not meet international standards. Health ministry should allocate more funds to do medical research for the diseases Indians are prone to. ICMR should ensure quality research output.

    With above context, I wonderwhat will be the quality of the studies to be done on ayush medications.

  6. “simple home remedies such as hot medicinal kadha, steam inhalation, and spices such as turmeric, clove, cinnamon, liquorice can also help in slowing the disease progression”.

    Where is the scientific evidence that these remedies can slow Covid disease progression ? No doubt some anecdotes will be provided.

    virology and immunology are still not well understood by science, there are still many many gaps in our understanding of how things work in these fields.

    But Mr Patwardhan boldly claims Ayurveda can “boost immunity” . Can he be more specific please when he addresses the Press and highlight scientific research or conclusive studies based on which he makes such assertions to the Press ?

  7. Do Ayush practitioners vaccinate their children or grandchildren for all the dangerous viruses that strike children – polio, hepatitis A/B, TB, typhoid etc. ? Are they confident without vaccination that their medical systems can protect their own children or grandchildren ?

    When the corona vaccine comes out it will be interesting to know how many Ayush practitioners will refuse to take the vaccine for themselves and their families.

  8. The Indian government seems to be promoting pseudo-science.

    Anyway, let’s await those studies and papers that Mr Patwardhan promises and see how many of those papers will actually meeet scientific standards.

    In the past publishing studies of treatments of Ayurvedic medications in scientific journals did not produce clear results.. Several studies were also showing conflicting results.

    I hope in India allopathic practitioners do not succumb to pressures from the Ayush ministry to offer “integrated” treatments to patients. Principles of modern medicine is based on physics, chemistry and statistics …. There is no notion of treating a whole person , instead it is about treating the body’s biophysical and biochemical processes… It is quite different from the treatment principles of ancient medicine systems. In fact there is still a lot modern medicine does not know about the body, but it has progressed a lot in the last 100-150 years, even learnt from it’s own mistakes.

  9. Mr Patwardhan propagates the lie that ayurvedic medicines are safe. In truth every medicine be it synthetic or non-synthetic has a side effect. Just because ayurvedic medicines are from Nature does not mean they are absolutely safe.

    In allopathic hospitals in cities, many allopathic doctors will
    readily stories of patients whose kidneys and livers have been damaged through ayurvedic treatment. Most of these patients are from smaller towns or villages where there is lack of access to a good allopathic hospital nearby.

  10. Lack of basic knowledge on the vast system of Homeopathy as well Aryuveda is main factor behind such reckless expressions particularly by persons sitting in top positions. Dr Samuel Hanneman spent his entire life in experimenting the Homeo medicines and documenting the observations. One can not ignore such efforts by great people. Homeopathy medicines need to be given a trail by the experts because this is not a time taking process as observed in making vaccines. ICMR appears to in grip of typical bureaucratic environment.

    • And all of Hanneman’s medicines was proved wrong by studies taking even more time.
      200 years of science since Hanneman taking a million times more time than his foolish ideas, and still homeopaths want to live in dark ages of medicine where their competitor was a greek medicine guy who was using leeches.

      All AYUSH people belong in a mental hospital.

  11. More BULLSHIT!!!

    Homeopathy is not an alternative medicine to anything. All scientists in the world are saying that. All tests have failed to show any evidence that it works in even a single disease. There is no medicine in it. It is based on fully disproven ideas like miasmas.

    Ayurveda is not much better. Nobody believes in Ayurveda principles outside India. There is just no evidence for that. It is pure politics. No one believes in studies done by these people.

    This guy is not a real scientist. He really does not understand evidence based medicine. You can’t call it evidence when no one else accepts it.

    • It’s not just a science vs pseudoscience thing.
      There are political and business angles to the clash of these medical systems in india.

      Business: Allopathic (modern medicine) interventions are costly, especially in private hospitals. Drugs are also costly but thanks to govts over decades pharma drug prices have been kept under control. But not for specialised drugs like for cancer. Homoeopathic and ayurvedic interventions are cheaper and so also their formulations. So there is more incentive for a patient to go to an ayush doctor to save money on medical expenses especially for chronic diseases or conditions for which there is no cure in Allopathy. Consultation charges for ayush is cheaper also.

      Political: There are almost as many number of ayush practitioners in India as allopathic practitioners. Which govt can really discourage ayush practice…Ayush practitioners income will go and their own families will be at financial risk. No govt will allow this to happen.

      • Except homeo does not work for anything and Ayurveda definitely does not work in cancer or any disease more complicated than a tummy ache. So any cheap consultation and medicine money in quack medicine is money entirely wasted.

        How will they make money? So stop making more Ayush quacks. And do you care about the lives of patients at all that invariably get subjected to quack medicines?

  12. sometning Unscietific. Consider alternative system of medicine accoring to its therory , not in the light of aleopathic philosopy. Then the inferense will have meaning.

  13. Interesting parts of the essay:
    “The clinical protocols for the studies to find out the efficacy of Ayurvedic herbs as a prevention for Covid have been developed under the leadership of chief clinical coordinator Dr Arvind Chopra, who is a well-known physician-scientist with considerable experience in rheumatology and immunology, Patwardhan said.
    “These protocols have been reviewed by experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research and other leading medical research institutions. All the clinical studies are closely monitored by a high-level committee chaired by renowned medical scientist Dr Vishwa Mohan Katoch, former director general of ICMR,” he added.
    The Data Safety Monitoring Board, which monitors clinical studies, is chaired by Dr Nandini Kumar, former senior scientist from ICMR who is known for her contributions in bioethics, according to Patwardhan.
    A working group under the chairmanship of Dr M.D. Gupte, former director of ICMR and the National Institute of Epidemiology, has given valuable advice to refine study designs being used for various studies, he said.”
    Then there are some basic questions: Where is the VAIDYA in these studies? Where is ayurvedic thought in the designs? Do you think that there is no logic in ayurvedic interventions? Do you think that Ayurveda is an empirical herbal folk medicinal approach having no logical foundation? How can these research be beneficial for the development of Ayurveda in India?

    • In Ayurveda there is no concept of a virus or a bacteria or a cell or an enzyme or protein etc.
      It is an old system of medicine. The treatment philosophy of ayurvedic system is limited to the times during which it evolved.
      Even if some Ayurvedic herbs are effective, Ayurvedic treatment through herbs cannot be called a science. Science is when we are able to understand through scientific methods and studies why a herb works, what is the molecule in the herb that makes it work and how that molecule interacts with the body’s own cellular processes.

      Making tall claims about Ayurveda curing HIV and other viral infections – provide studies/papers of those claims based on hard statistical evidence across a statistically significant population and not based on anecdotal evidence.

  14. As an alternative system of medicine , Homeopathy and Ayurveda were not given adequate support even in India . The present regime of Sh Narendra Modi , may be some what an exception . Every one knows , there is no medicine in allopathy against COVID-19 , then why Ayurveda or Homeopathy is not given a chance . The difficult part is that there is less research and development in Ayurveda and Homeopathy . There is no point in looking at modern medicine , for all your health problems . One major drawback may be alternative system of medicine are not using lab test or modern diagnostic techniques for diagnosis . Diagnostic techniques should not belong to one system of medicine alone . If any government tries to take a chance and experiment with homeopathy or ayurveda , allopathic medical practitioners jump , citing public interest as if they are the only savior of the general public . The comments are not intended to undermine the progress achieved by humanity through allopathy. But wWe need an integrated system which could benefit the public at large .

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