New Delhi: The Ministry of AYUSH plans to conduct a study on 50 lakh people to find “evidence” about the efficacy of alternative medicines to fight Covid-19, ThePrint has learnt.
To design the format of the study, the AYUSH ministry has formed a working group, consisting of eight officers that is led by P.K. Pathak, additional secretary of the ministry.
The committee was formed after the ministry held an internal meeting on 17 April.
“We are planning to conduct a population-based study on huge number of people to collect evidences and strengthen the use of AYUSH interventions,” Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, secretary, AYUSH ministry, told ThePrint, adding that “the proposed size of the study is 50 lakh”.
The working group will consult the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide training to its researchers for the study.
“… The study will be divided into three parts — general public, frontline workers and Covid-19-positive patients,” said a senior official from the ministry, who didn’t want to be named.
“We have already received the approval of 1,80,000 people for participation through state governments. Many more nominations are coming,” he added.
The design of the study, the official said, has been made in consultation with various epidemiologists and health experts, including from the Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India and National Institute of Epidemiology.
Besides the study, the ministry also plans to conduct clinical trials on traditional herbs ashwagandha, guduchi, mulethi to find out if they can prevent Covid-19.
The Ministry of AYUSH — which stands for ayurveda, yoga, unani, siddha, sowa rigpa and homeopathy — has faced repeated criticism for propounding pseudoscientific medicines as alternative medicines.
Medical staff, police officials to be part of study
The study will focus on the preventive usage of alternative medicines, as well as its usage for treatment as standalone and add-on with modern medicines.
For the study on the general public, the government will survey common people to check if they have followed the advisory issued in March by the ministry about using home remedies to boost immunity against Covid-19.
The advisory asked people to frequently sip water boiled with tulsi (basil) leaves, crushed ginger and turmeric, sleep on time, eat freshly cooked food and practise yoga under the guidance of qualified instructors.
The advisory was also endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the nation last month where he asked people to follow home remedies for Covid-19 suggested by the ministry.
“The ministry will conduct the survey through our mobile application ‘Sanjivani’ and also go door-to-door to understand how people use alternative medicines in their daily lives and what differences do they find,” the official added.
Study on frontline workers and Covid-19 patients
The official quoted above said the study on frontline workers will include “all quarantined police officials, officers deputed in containment zones, quarantine zones and those working in the field”.
“Delhi Police has already enrolled 80,000 of its personnel under the study. Ayurvedic immunity boosting measures will be studied like chaywanprasha, Anu Talia (herbal oil) and Sanshamani Vati (ayurvedic herbal formulation),” he added.
Police officials and health workers will be given these ayurvedic formulations along with other ayurvedic medicines as part of the study.
For the study on Covid-19 patients, the ministry will give them exclusive AYUSH-based treatment along with modern medicines.
For instance, The Ayurvedic and Unani Tibbia College in New Delhi is presently treating 30 Covid-19 positive patients and Chaudhary Brahm Prakash Ayurved Charak Sansthan, also in the national capital, has around 80 patients. These hospitals are treating patients, exclusively through alternative medicines, the official added.
However, in Medanta, a super-specialty hospital, the ministry is running a trial where patients are being given AYUSH treatment along with modern medicines, the official said.
“The ministry is planning to launch such kind of studies in various hospitals across the country,” the official added.