IMA paints itself into a corner

Doctors’ forum draws flak for endorsement of product

Updated - May 14, 2020 11:42 pm IST

Published - May 14, 2020 11:41 pm IST - KOCHI

Endorsing a wall paint, which claimed to be capable of killing “99%bacteria” on walls, reducing pollution and protecting immunity, has landed the Indian Medical Association (IMA) in the soup.

The advertisement, which claimed that the paint would protect one from “viral transmissions” and reduce the quantity of harmful gases such as sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide, has led to criticism. It went on to state that one need not be safe by sanitising hands and the product would serve as sanitiser for the house. The approval of the IMA was prominently featured in the advertisement.

Many public health activists have criticised the IMA for approving the product advertised at a time when the world was fighting the pandemic, COVID-19.

K.V. Babu, a central committee member of IMA, said it was unethical for the organisation to endorse such products. While the IMA was talking about physical distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, it was also allowing commercial brands to misuse its name and mislead the public. It was not the language of science, said Dr. Babu, who had earlier campaigned against such endorsements.

The Kerala unit of IMA distanced itself from the controversy by stating that it was the national leadership of the organisation that had endorsed the product last year.

Abraham Varghese, the State president, said the Kerala unit was not in favour of the endorsement and had communicated its opposition to such practices. Many of the members had raised concern over such endorsements. Other than keeping a wall neat and tidy, applying a coat of paint would not kill any bacteria or reduce pollution. There was no scientific basis for such claims, said Dr. Abraham.

Defending the decision, R.V. Asokan, IMA (Headquarters) Secretary, said the organisation had endorsed the product through a legal process last year. The IMA had certified the product as having anti-bacterial qualities and not anti-viral properties. The endorsement was not issued during the time of the pandemic. The company, which had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the association, had every legal right to advertise its product and the endorsement was valid for three years, said Dr. Asokan.

The company might have released the advertisement to capitalise on the current situation. The IMA could not take a call on the moral issues involved in releasing the advertisement during the pandemic, he added.

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