After the controversial video of Baba Ramdev vilifying allopathy and Covid-19 research went viral and caught the ire of the Indian Medical Association, Patanjali has now issued a clarification. They claim Ramdev was only reading “a forwarded WhatsApp message received by him”, and has “no ill-will against modern science”. But the damage has been done.
As I stand sweating in my PPEs, caring for my Covid patients for the past one year, some people have suddenly started to question my intentions behind treatment protocols. They demand that I remove all those drugs that Ramdev, India’s favourite yoga influencer, claims have ‘failed’, including steroids and remdesivir. Instead, they want an unproven herbal concoction from Ramdev’s kitchen — ‘Coronil‘ — to be put on top of the treatment chart. Even if I don’t heed these demands, I know they will self-medicate themselves with it. My non-compliance with their requests sometimes escalates to verbal threats, and it takes up a great deal of my time to calm them down and rationally discuss their concerns. Their favourite spiritual influencer has, indeed, influenced them to no extent.
Constantly evolving treatment protocols
I understand that for a person of non-medical background, it’s hard to comprehend the twists and turns Covid-19 treatment guidelines and protocols have taken. Since the beginning of this pandemic, drugs like hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, steroids, plasma therapy etc, had been ‘repurposed’ for use in Covid-19 treatments on the basis of their deleterious effect on the virus under the microscope, in the lab. No one knew if these drugs would work when the virus was in the human body. After all, this was a new virus and there was no proven treatment available for it. Hence, we started our research on these promising drugs.
Over the past one year, some modern medicine drugs have been ousted in this process, for instance hydroxychloroquine, while some gracefully retained their place in Covid-19 treatment, such as certain steroids. To claim that some of these drugs ‘failed’ would be an extremely manipulative statement. Rather, the correct statement would be that modern medicine ‘didn’t fail us’ by giving us super solid proofs on what works and disproving what doesn’t. That’s the beauty of modern medicine — it changes, evolves, and adapts to new evidence. Simply put, if a doctor with an MBBS degree prescribes a drug, be assured that s/he has some proof that it works. If s/he de-prescribes the same drug, s/he now has proof that the drug doesn’t work at all for the said illness.
On the other hand, all this time, those promoting pseudoscientific medicine worked on monopolising upon people’s faith and fears, and came up with ‘miracle drugs’, ‘Covid cures’, and ‘immunity boosters’ — none of which could help prevent the disastrous consequences of the pandemic’s second wave in India. Only if sound principles of epidemiology, the branch of modern medicine that introduced us to the concepts of positivity rates and lockdowns, masks, and viral transmission cycles, preventive rather than therapeutic measures, were promoted in as sustained a manner as those immunity boosters were, perhaps we wouldn’t have had a second wave at all.
Covid frontlines are no joke
So far, thanks to different branches of modern medicine, we know what organism is causing this pandemic — it’s a virus. Thanks to modern medicine, we know the structure of this virus, how it spreads, and how it can be killed. Thanks to modern medicine, we now know what drugs don’t work at all and what drugs need to be studied further. Thanks to modern medicine, we have a rainbow assortment of vaccines available to us in just over a few months! It has been months of sheer hard work by scientists that has brought us here. These milestones were not reached through hit-and-trial methods, but by living through brutal days on the professional front, at huge personal and health risks. Any hate against these honest efforts would discourage scientists, doctors and all frontliners from pursuing the truth.
I know health workers who have lost a family member to Covid, but still stand strong at the frontline. I know health workers who have battled their own Covid illness in ICUs, but have soon come back to work with Covid patients again. To belittle efforts of modern medicine practitioners at the peak of these trying times is criminal, unforgettable, and unforgivable. I invite Baba Ramdev to spend a few days, or at least a few hours, at the frontline. I am more than sure that he would learn to respect modern medicine and eventually, practise some restraint while speaking ill about it.
The author is a Senior Resident doctor, Pt. B.D. Sharma PGIMS, Rohtak, Haryana, India. Views are personal, and not of employer’s.