New Delhi: A group of researchers associated with Ministry of AYUSH, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) have questioned the usage of only “modern medicines” and the “neglect of Ayurveda” for treatment and prevention of Covid-19.
The researchers, in an article published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, have called the neglect of Ayurveda an “ethical issue”.
“The decision not to include evidence from the Indian AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) systems in the search for solutions and management of Covid-19 seems unreasonable and unfair,” the researchers wrote in the paper titled ‘Ayush, modern medicine and the Covid-19 pandemic’.
The authors of the paper are Sarika Chaturvedi from DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune; Nandini Kumar, former deputy director general (senior grade), ICMR, and vice-president, Forum for Ethics Review Committees in India; Girish Tillu from Ayush Centre of Excellence; Sharad Deshpande, former professor and head of the Department of Philosophy, University of Pune; and Bhushan Patwardhan, vice-chairman of the UGC, who is also part of the Ayush Centre of Excellence.
Patwardhan and his team are researching whether Ashwagandha can be an alternate to hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a potential preventive medicine for Covid.
‘Not in the interests of people or science’
“Currently, only modern medicine therapies are used on an empirical basis, however, the same principle is not considered for the use of AYUSH systems. Appropriate use of evidence is required,” the paper states.
“In the ethics context and in the interest of the larger public good, we suggest the inclusion of simple and safe measures from AYUSH systems in the integrative protocols for prophylaxis and treatment of Covid-19.”
Pointing out that Ayurvedic therapies are known for their immunomodulation and rejuvenation properties, which are important in Covid-19 management, the paper says that a refusal to accept empirical evidence in support of the immunomodulatory potential of Ayurvedic rasayana and other AYUSH measures is “neither in the people’s interest nor that of science, besides being unethical”.
“Several in vitro, animal and clinical studies have demonstrated the immunomodulatory effects of the rasayana drugs such as Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifoloia), Amalaki (Emblica officinale) among many others,” the paper adds.
Not giving patients a choice
The paper also states that patients should be informed about all kinds of treatments available for the disease, including alternate Ayurvedic medicines, and that not giving a choice to patients is “unethical”.
“The person’s preference should be respected by providing all the relevant details about available evidence from the prevalent systems of medicine. Not informing patients of established and available alternatives is unethical,” it says.
Currently in India, no hospital asks patients about their choice of therapy if they are Covid-positive. The protocol is to put patients on allopathic medicines.
The team of researchers says this is unfair, and has also questioned the exclusion of AYUSH in policy formulation.
“The procedural conditions to guarantee fair decisions recommended in public health ethics include transparency, reasonable explanation and openness to revision, in addition to adherence to regulation. On this premise, the decision not to include evidence from the Indian AYUSH systems in the search for solutions and management of Covid-19 seems unreasonable and unfair,” the paper argues.
While the paper raises questions, the Narendra Modi government has been trying to propagate the use of Ayurveda, with the PM himself, in one of his addresses to the nation, urging people to follow an AYUSH ministry advisory that suggested various measures to increase immunity.
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