A fresh controversy began in the field of medicine with Baba Ramdev releasing a scientific research paper prepared by the Patanjali Research Institute on Coronil, dubbed as the “first evidence-based ayurvedic medicine” against coronavirus. The paper was launched in the presence of Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan and Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari.
A poster claiming that the “medicine” was Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CoPP) and the World Health Organisation’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certified. However, the WHO later tweeted that it has not reviewed or certified any traditional medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19. “@WHO has not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment #COVID19,” WHO South-East Asia tweeted.
Reacting to the development, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), said that the false projection of an unscientific medicine made in the presence of the health minister, later dismissed by the WHO puts the entire country in a bad light. The IMA also questioned Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s ethics as a physician and the Union Health Minister for attending the launch event organised by Patanjali.
The association questioned how can a drug be effective for prevention, treatment and rehabilitation from the disease. “If Coronil is effective for prevention, why [is the] government spending Rs 35,000 crores for vaccination?” it asked. “Is the Health Minister promoting Coronil for prevention than the vaccine as Ayurveda may not prescribe vaccination for preventing a disease?”
The association pointed to a clause under the National Medical Commission (erstwhile MCI) which bars a physician from promoting a drug. The association further said, “Under Section 6:1:1, a physician shall not give to any person, whether for compensation or otherwise, any approval, recommendation, endorsement, certificate, report or statement with respect of any drug, medicine, with his name, signature, or photograph in any form or manner of advertising through any mode nor shall he boast of cases, operations, cures or remedies or permit the publication of report thereof through any mode.” The association will be writing to the NMC, seeking a suo moto explanation for Harsh Vardhan’s “blatant disrespect to the code of conduct of Medical council of India”.
WHO provides benchmarks for certifications but does not certify or approve the medicine itself. The GMP guidelines provide a set of quality control benchmarks to ensure that medicines are consistently produced and controlled to the quality standards appropriate for their intended use.
When the WHO dismissed the claims, Patanjali’s CEO Acharya Balkrishna clarified on Twitter and posted: “We want to clarify to avoid confusion that our WHO GMP compliant COPP certificate to Coronil is issued by DCGI, Government of India”. He further added that the “WHO does not approve or disapprove of any drugs. Instead, it works for building a better and healthier future for people all over the world”.
We want to clarify to avoid confusion that our WHO GMP compliant COPP certificate to Coronil is issued by DCGI, Government of India.
It is clear that WHO do not approve or disapprove any drugs.
WHO works for building a better, healthier future for people all over the world. pic.twitter.com/ZEDPdWy0tg
— Acharya Balkrishna (@Ach_Balkrishna) February 19, 2021
A report by fact-checking website AltNews found that CPPs are issued independent of the WHO. Therefore, Patanjali’s Coronil has been issued a CPP by the AYUSH section of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation under the Government of India.
Patanjali first launched Coronil in June 2020 when the pandemic was at it’s peak claiming it to be a cure for the coronavirus infection. However, the company had to change its licenced use from cure for corona to “immunity booster” after it failed to produce supporting evidence.