Research on drug treatments and vaccines for Covid-19 is taking place at unprecedented pace around the world and there are indeed some rays of hope. Like the widely used and inexpensive steroid dexamethasone, the antiviral remdesvir, and the potential vaccine for which human trials have started in Brazil. Peer review of the data and regulatory oversight slow this process down. But of course these are essential for safety, to ensure that the promised cure is not a fraudulent bromide or a hazard in itself. It is in this context that the Ramdev owned Patanjali’s well publicized claim that it has found a cure, namely two drugs Coronil and Swashir Vati, set off alarms.
ICMR, which is India’s apex body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, as also the nodal agency for the country’s war against Covid-19, does not anyway deal with ayurveda in the normal course of events. But if there are indeed ayurveda clinical trials taking place the protocol should be signed off by ICMR. The agency has made it very clear that no such thing has happened with the Patanjali project. In general, ayurveda is the domain of the Union Ayush ministry. After initially confusing statements, the ministry has directed Ramdev’s company to stop advertising and publicizing its claims about the drugs till they are fully examined.
There is still so much we do not know about the virus that has created havoc across the world and daily continues to increase its toll in India. In this scenario there couldn’t be anything more dangerous than the false confidence that can follow from fake claims about cures. Such claims should not only be speedily halted in their tracks but also penalized suitably.