This whole exercise may be a good business strategy but certainly a big loss to science.

To date, the total number of coronavirus disease infections have crossed 10 million mark and caused the death of nearly half million people worldwide. In spite of global efforts, there is no definitive treatment for the disease despite the multiple claims that have created controversy in the past few months. Antiviral therapy, chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with Azithromycin, Convalescent Plasma therapy have been tried for treatment of COVID-19 but no trial has been able to show a reduction of the viral load and/or symptoms. Preventing infection is still the best available medicine in view of no standard treatment or vaccine.

Patanjali, an Ayurvedic drugs manufacturer in India launched Coronil, an Ayurvedic drug to treat COVID-19 on 23rd June 2020. The launch was based on their placebo controlled clinical trial results on 95 COVID-19 positive patients aged between 15-59 years, out of which 69 per cent were cured within three days, and 100 percent within 7 days. Given the intense global interest in all reported treatments of COVID-19, Coronil inevitably started trending on Twitter straight after Patanjali held a media launch of the product as a COVID-19 cure.

Wishing to avoid another false start in the search for a cure, the Ministry of AYUSH quickly asked the manufactures to furnish details of the study and banned the advertising or publicizing such claims until the issue could be duly examined. Patanjali has taken a U turn on the claim to cure COVID-19 and planning to market it as an immunity booster.

Such promising results have naturally caused a media sensation in India, but without the supporting evidence that these steps have been followed it is another false dawn for Corona patients. When taking in the bigger picture, it is a sad fact that Ayurveda medicine will be viewed from a Western perspective with immediately skeptical eyes. Clinical trials conducted in this space have a duty to follow standard protocols, otherwise complementary and alternative medicine will be potentially irreversibly damaged and harm the rich history of Ayurveda and reputation of this science of Indian Origin. 

This pandemic has united the world irrespective of caste, creed and religion and reminded us of the importance of collaborations. This kind of unverified claim will be a big blow to the credibility of scientific research in India especially Ayurvedic research.

This whole exercise may be a good business strategy but certainly a big loss to the science.

Dr Abhishek Shankar, Assistant Professor, Preventive Oncology, DRBRAIRCH, AIIMS, New Delhi

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