Quacks, Charlatans and Covid-19

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

If you want to start a career as a Spiritual Guru or a Baba, as we call them in India, then this is the country for you. It can be the most rewarding career and you can have it all if you are successful in making a name for yourself. Money, luxurious cars, palatial Ashrams, a huge following, powerful friends and impunity from the law are just some of the perks that come with the job, who said spirituality doesn’t sell? Please, don’t get offended, I am not saying that every spiritual guru out there is bad but there are quiet a few bad apples who shouldn’t be roaming around free.

Few days ago, a reputed baba-ji launched a drug to cure Covid-19 called Coronil. Claiming a 100% success rate within 7 days, he launched the drug with such a fan fare that many media houses, who should have been asking some serious questions in the first place, joined the baba-ji in his marketing campaign in spreading the awareness of this Indian magical pill. Forget, the approvals, licenses, clinical trials, quality check or the due process of vetting the medicines before they come to market, according to baba-ji the Coronil was the answer to this deadly disease that is claiming thousands of lives everyday. As soon as the word got out people saw through the ludicrousness of the whole thing. Sensing trouble, the Ayush ministry that oversees the drug regulation in India, banned the promotion and selling of Coronil till further notice and that is where, the absurdity went to a whole new level.

It turns out the original license that was taken for Coronil by baba-ji’s company mentioned the drug as an immunity booster in the paper work and not a remedy for Covid-19 as he so haughtily claimed. Moreover, the testing process, as it turned out, can simply be described as dubious at best. It was touted as magic of Aurveda and Indians were expected to be proud of this achievement. As per Encyclopedia Britannica the definition of Quackery goes something like this, “Quackery, the characteristic practice of quacks or charlatans, who pretend to knowledge and skill that they do not possess, particularly in medicine. The quack makes exaggerated claims about his or her ability to heal disease, generally for financial gain.” It is a crime as per Indian law, Coronil manufacturers and promoters can and should be investigated for the crimes related to health fraud, in fact an FIR was filed against the Baba-ji but then again, do you think he’ll be answerable to anyone, let alone to law or the public? Do you think he’d be arrested for this transgression?

In fact, after few days baba-ji simply did an about turn and said he never made any claims about Covid-19 cure and he simply marketed an immunity booster drug, just as he was proclaiming his innocence in the whole matter it was also reported that Ayush Ministry has cleared the selling and marketing of drug as an immunity booster. Everyone behaved like it was no big deal.

Can other pharmaceutical companies get away with such shenanigans? Can we trust the quality of drugs and items manufactured by Baba’s company? Can we trust the Indian government to strictly enforce quality control and regulatory compliance on drugs and food items in India? Can our system be so easily manipulated by few powerful individuals and corporations?

I leave you to draw your own conclusions but it signifies the necessity of asking questions, if not for democracy at least for your own good health.

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