19:06 GMT28 October 2020
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    Indian Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan released a national clinical protocol based on Ayurveda and Yoga for the management of COVID-19 on 6 October. The Indian Medical Association, a national body of practitioners of modern medicine in the country, took strong exception to the protocol calling it a "fraud on the nation and gullible patients".

    Researchers involved in integrative medicine India have challenged the Indian Medical Association (IMA) for its brazen rejection of Ayurveda and Yoga in the management of COVID-19.

    Some have even claimed that the IMA was ill-informed about the research database on Ayurveda, including randomised control trials of ayurvedic medicines for various ailments.

    On 8 October, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) posed several questions to federal Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, asking whether there was satisfactory evidence about the claims in the Ayurvedic and Yoga protocols for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. It also asked if proponents of the claim were prepared to subject themselves as volunteers to an independent prospective double-blind controlled study in the prevention and treatment of COVID.

    "IMA demands that the Union Health Minister should come clean on the above posers. If not, he is inflicting a fraud on the nation and gullible patients by calling placebos drugs", reads the IMA statement.

    "We have always conducted studies (on various diseases) and scientific temperament is always maintained. You conduct double-blind control studies, and say these are the benefits, these are not", Dr Rajan Sharma, the IMA President, clarified to Sputnik about the statement. 

    Dr Akshay Anand, a Chandigarh-based neuroscientist and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Integrative Medicine Case Reports and Annals of Neurosciences, slammed the IMA, calling it "ill-informed".

    "In various clinical trials and animal experiments, herbs like ashwagandha, guduchi, and clove have been found to have effective preventive and anti inflammatory effects which can be optimised for risk reduction of COVID-19", Dr Anand told Sputnik.

    He reminded the IMA about Chinese Nobel laureate Professor Youyou Tu, who integrated modern and traditional medicines to invent the drug artemisinin – a cure for malaria.

    He alleged the pharma industry has been failing one-by-one in all clinical trials for most disorders.

    "We didn't have any effective medicine for Alzheimer, solution for multiple sclerosis – neither for muscular dystrophy or genetic ataxia, hypertension, except to a limited extent, asthma – only symptomatic", pointed out Dr Anand.  

    "Unless we have co-localisation of modern medicine, Ayurveda, and yoga, we cannot find a cure for most of the ailments of the day", he added.

    Dr P. Rammanohar, the Research Director at Amrita University's Centre for Advanced Research in Ayurveda, said that COVID-19 has brought modern medicine and Ayurveda to a level-playing ground.  

    He said that with the viral infection still rampaging across the globe, the burden on the healthcare system can be reduced by integrating Ayurveda into COVID-19 management.

    "It is unfortunate that IMA has challenged the minister in the present chaotic situation of the pandemic. When modern medicine is itself yet to discover effective remedies for the pandemic, denying the integration of Ayurveda into the national protocol is unethical. This is a violation of the freedom of the people to make choices in seeking healthcare", Dr Rammanohar told Sputnik, reacting to the IMA statement.

    Dr Rammanohar, who is also a member of the Interdisciplinary Research and Development Task Force set up by the federal government to initiate, coordinate, and monitor research and development activities in traditional systems of medicine, pointed out that modern treatment protocols for COVID-19 have also been formulated on the basis of weak evidence.  

    "In the situation of the present pandemic, we cannot wait for evidence to be generated. Classical Ayurvedic texts describe epidemic fevers and provide a line of management for COVID-19 like illnesses. The practices that have sound rationale and the best available evidence should be recommended for offering care to COVID-19 patients", he suggested.  

    The Ayurvedic researcher, Dr Rammanohar, further said the national protocol for the management of COVID-19 was drawn up by a task force that includes modern healthcare experts, eminent scientists, along with Ayurvedic physicians and representatives of other traditional systems of medicines, by examining the best available evidence. "How can we shift the goal posts and impose double standards when it comes to Ayurveda?", he asked.

    A joint research study by the premier Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has found the natural compounds from ashwagandha and propolis have the potential to be an effective preventive drug against the novel coronavirus.  

    Meanwhile, according to data released by the federal Health Ministry, India has 826,876 active COVID-19 cases, while cumulative mortality was 110,586 on Wednesday.

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    Yoga, COVID-19, New Delhi, India
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