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Patanjali “Coronil” Sparks Controversy as IMA pulls up the Health Minister for endorsing an unscientific medicine

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) pulled up the Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan for endorsing an unscientific medicine, terming it as “unethical

Baba Ramdev and Patanjali relaunched the same tablet, Coronil’ Once again with the claim that it helps cure COVID-19. This however wasn’t the only claim made by the brand. The brand also claimed to have been approved by WHO as a cure for the virus.

Baba Ramdev and the phenomenal rise of Patanjali is a story that probably every citizen of India knows. In the period of development and progression that India is currently in, as an economy, this brand has done the unthinkable. India’s love for Ayurveda is not hidden and the marketing prowess of Baba Ramdev took that love and fused it with Patanjali, making it one of the most interesting marketing case studies for MBA students. But how did Patanjali manage this? The answer is simple. Patanjali and Baba Ramdev made sure that the brand always stays in the news. Be it with Baba Ramdev’s controversial statements, the brands huge and unproven claims, or its endorsement by huge public figures.

In January 2020, taking advantage of the pandemic and the fear it had spread among people, Patanjali and Baba Ramdev claimed to have found a cure for the virus, with its “Coronil” and “Swasari”, medicine.

Patanjali claimed ‘Coronil’ and ‘Swasari’ had shown “100% favourable results” during clinical trials on affected patients, at Patanjali Yogpeeth in Haridwar, curing the patients in “7-days”.

In the aftermath of this launch event, a FIR was registered at the Jyoti Nagar Police station of Jaipur against Baba Ramdev. Other Patanjali affiliated people named in the FIR were Acharya Balkrishna CEO of Patanjali Ayurveda Limited, and a Patanjali employee Anurag Varshney.

Following up on its last year claims, in a recent turn of events, Baba Ramdev and Patanjali, relaunched the same tablet, Coronil’. Once again with the claim that it helps cure COVID-19. This however wasn’t the only claim made by the brand. The brand also claimed to have been approved by WHO as a cure for the virus. And what makes the controversy humungous this time around is the presence of the Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan and the Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari on the stage with Ramdev, at the launch event.

In aftermath of this claim, the chain of events that followed was that:

  • The World Health Organization issued a statement, rebuking Ramdev’s and Patanjali’s claim.

The WHO South-East Asia took to Twitter and said, “WHO has not reviewed or certified the effectiveness of any traditional medicine for the treatment of COVID-19”, rebuking Patanjali’s claim once again.

  • The Indian Medical Association pulled up the Health Minister for endorsing an unscientific medicine, terming it as “unethical”.

In a press release, the IMA questioned Dr. Harsh Vardhan, who himself is a Physician of Modern Medicine and his decision to be present at the launch event of Coronil.

“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,” read the IMA press release.

The association also said that it will approach the National Medical Council (NMC – The erstwhile MCI) and seek suo moto explanation of the “blatant disrespect to the code of conduct of Medical Council of India”, shown by the Union Health Minister.

When the controversy arose, the CEO of Patanjali – Acharya Balakrishna took to Twitter to clear the air, tweeting:

“We want to clarify to avoid confusion that our WHO GMP compliant COPP certificate to Coronil is issued by DCGI, Government of India. 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.”

In the latest development to this controversy, on 24th of February, 2021, the Delhi Medical Association (DMA) came to the aid of the Union Health Minister, slamming the IMA.

“IMA which stands against mixopathy has no business to question the methodology of a trial of an Ayurvedic drug. How it was conducted? Where it was conducted? How many patients were involved is to be seen by the certifying authority and not the IMA”, said DMA.

DMA also said that the Union Minister did in no way promote the Patanjali medicine but was merely attending an event that focused on making Ayurveda scientific evidence-based medical system that can complement the other systems of medicine including the Modern system of Medicine.

Though the fight between the two Medical Associations looks absurd, what is noteworthy is that once again Patanjali made unscientific and unproven claims and got away with it. The controversy may have shifted to the Union Health Minister and the two Medical Associations, but the Ramdev promoted brand has already gained millions in terms of marketing.

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