Mumbai

Homeopathy drug untested for efficacy against COVID-19 widely distributed in Mumbai

Homoeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album 30 tablets and liquid.

Homoeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album 30 tablets and liquid.  

Corporators freely distribute bottles of Arsenicum Album 30 as a feel-good factor for constituents; experts fret as no data exists on efficacy against COVID-19

A corporator from Borivali, Riddhi Khursange, has distributed 10,000 bottles of Arsenicum Album 30, the homoeopathy medicine that was recommended by Ministry of AYUSH as a prophylactic for COVID-19. Another corporator from Ghatkopar, Pravin Chheda, has bought 25,000 bottles and has distributed over 7,100 in the past four days.

There is no evidence on whether the medicine, which is given for a broad spectrum of respiratory illnesses, holds any preventive properties for COVID-19, yet its demand has skyrocketed. Experts, however, say such large-scale distribution without a trial may lead to a false sense of security among people.

Ms. Khursange, who has ordered 10,000 more bottles, said her family members have also taken the dosage recommended by the AYUSH Ministry: once on an empty stomach for three days, to be repeated every month till the SARS CoV-2 continues to lurk.

“I have procured it at ₹12 per bottle. Before such a mass distribution, we did our due diligence by talking to doctors,” said Ms. Khursange. A local homoeopath is making the medicine for her, she said. “The demand is so high that chemists are selling one bottle for ₹100.”

No data yet

One bottle has around 90 tiny pills, enough for a family for several months. The pills consist of the water memory of arsenic trioxide, otherwise a highly toxic substance, which is diluted to a point that only the nanoparticles remain in the solution and nullify the toxicity.

The concept of ‘memory of water’ used for homoeopathic dilutions has been debated globally.

“The AYUSH Ministry must have based their claims on the benefits of the medication. The municipal corporation has also approved it for distribution,” said Mr. Chheda, who aims to distribute one lakh vials. He said all his family members have taken the three-day dose.

While the recommendation from AYUSH was issued on March 6, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on May 8 issued a circular that 20 lakh people, including those in quarantine centres, will get the medicine.

Some experts, however, do not agree with such random, mass distribution. Also known as Ars Alb, the medication was termed as genus epidemicus (homoeopathy medicine indicated for an epidemic) during the H1N1 outbreak of 2008-2009. “Back then, Ars Alb proved extremely beneficial. But the current claim of AYUSH Ministry has not been backed by the process of genus epidemicus,” said Dr Bahubali Shah, former president of the Maharashtra Council of Homoeopathy.

“Another major problem is this general mass distribution of the medicine without an attempt to collect data on efficacy. There has to be a proper distribution protocol and a protocol for analysis. Right now, corporators, NGOs, the BMC and everyone who can get their hands on the medication are distributing it without any record-keeping,” he said.

Well-known chest physician, Dr. Zarir Udwadia, who is part of the State’s COVID-19 task force, said any alternative treatment still has to undergo a trial. “In my opinion, it should not be added on ad hoc,” said Dr. Udwadia.

Agra trials

The State government has set up a new committee to exclusively look at AYUSH remedies. Dr. T.P. Lahane, who is a part of the committee, said a meeting was planned on Thursday evening to discuss various options.

Meanwhile, a trial on 44 COVID-19 patients in Agra has shown that a homoeopathy medicine called Bryonia Alba was more beneficial than Ars Alb. “We have submitted our findings to Central Council of Homoeopathy and are now enrolling more patients for a bigger trial,” said Dr. Pradeep Gupta, principal of the Naiminath Homeopathy College and Hospital, who is conducting the trial.

He said 22 patients were given a placebo while 22 others were given homoeopathy medicines, Bryonia Alba, Ars Alb and Gelsemium. “19 patients who had fever, cough and weakness, responded to Bryonia within the first three days, two patients who had respiratory distress were first given Ars Alb, which relieved the breathing discomfort, but they had to be put on Bryonia Alba to relieve their fever and cough. Only one patient who came in with drowsiness was first given Gelsemium, but later put on Bryonia Alba for other symptoms,” said Dr. Gupta.

For patients in Agra, Bryonia Alba seems to be the genus epidemicus, he said. Dr. Gupta has now written to the Maharashtra government to conduct a similar trial on patients here.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 7:27:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/placebo-effect-untested-homoeopathy-drug-being-distributed-widely/article31645532.ece

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