Quackery in the times of Covid 19

Dr. Narendra Nayak

As usual as I expressed in my previous write up in the last issue, every quack loves a good pandemic because there is money to be made. These are joined by the asstrologers  who have got a bonus too- the solar eclipse. While the effects of the former can be ascribed to a virus though some would like us to believe it is a bacterium and others that it is an evil spirit to be prayed to and propitiated through appropriate offerings. We have seen pictures of coronamma temples at some rural areas where the images are being prayed to and a monotheistic place of worship in Kerala where the devotee and the object of worship are one each- the devotee also standing by as the priest and the object of worship the replica of an electron microscope picture of the virus!

As I have already said a viral disease without an appropriate treatment protocol and self limiting   in more than 95% of the infected is a fertile field for all sorts of quackery. If the non randomized selection results in a closed group of young people in small enough numbers the cure can be even 100%! This was the case in a set of prisoners ‘treated’ by a Siddha concoction in Tamilnadu!  Some 37 or so prisoners were treated by that and were ‘çured’ and now it is claimed the govt has recommended the same! But going to facts Chennai has a huge number of cases and is going into total shut down for trying to bring them down rather than feeding this to the people. In fact a Tamilnadu govt. official communication states that warm water prepared from a certain herbal powder is to be used for  drinking as a protection against covid 19 infections!

When the solar eclipse came around on the 21st June, the opinions were of two types. One was that of an ‘engineer’ who claimed that the last solar eclipse on 26th of December,2019 caused mutations in a virus in the stratosphere and this caused the disease conveniently forgetting that the first reported case was in the first week of December,2019 and the zoonotic jump would have happened much before that. Anyway this would be a interesting case of a mutation happening due to an event which happened later to the event! However, another ‘engineer’ proposed a solution that the disease would end on the 21st January,2020 solar eclipse day because of yes- the same reason mutation by some mysterious rays emitted!

The sugar pill dispensers about whom I had already mentioned in my last write-up have come up with another  addition this time. Though the hype used to be about arsenicum album so far,a new addition of some other concoction called camphorum something has happened. But, they are careful enough to say that these are not curative or specific but only boost the immunity for which no evidence is needed. For reacting to it on a face book post I have been threatened by the president of IHMA of the district that I have mocked their ceremony of presenting sugar pills to boost the immunity of the members of the DK working journalists association! I have repeated my statement that if any one claims that their concoction boosts immunity to the covid 19 causing virus is doing quackery and I repeat the same this time too because such claims have to be backed by evidence. With the development of a vaccine not yet near such claims raise false hopes.

While the pills and concoction dispensers are having their time in the lime light, the breathing teachers and yoga masters are not far behind supported by the prime minister who claims to be practitioner of the same who claimed on the world yoga day that many covid 19 patients had been benefited by yoga and pranayama, Jaggi the self proclaimed Sadguru has claimed that he has conducted classes for the doctors associated with covid 19 treatment. The contortionist who dispenses gaumutra has also come up with his own brand of hyperventilation while his associate has come up with a concoction which is allegedly undergoing ‘scientific testing’.

When such things are going on can evidence based medicine be far behind? First came the claim that HCQ about which I have already discussed in the previous issue.  WhatsApp university has its share of ‘scientific knowledge’ to contribute! One post started doing the rounds that Italians have discovered that covid 19 is not caused by a virus but by a bacterium! It also went on to describe how patients were cured by them. But, like everything else it turned to be of the same as other gyaan of this university! But, this university never gives up! We have posts of how drinking hot water, inhaling steam, eating ginger and turmeric cured people in X, Y or Z locations!

While claims are being made with clever riders like improving immunity and increasing resistance power, some are using science to sell their ware. Recently in this list came Glenmark whose shares jumped up when they got approval for their product flavipiravir to be used for mild  and moderate cases of covid 19. While there some scienitic evidence to support their claim, the crux of the matter lies in its price and its usefulness! While covid 19 illness passes off asymptomatically for a large number in fact at one time in Karnataka 96% of the admitted cases were asymptomatic and were being just held in isolation and not really for treatment, what is important are the 15% of the cases who need care and 5% ICU care. If any line of treatment could be made for them that would have been really path breaking but most why almost everyone is concentrating on the other 95%! This is because there is money to me made there- easy money in fact and no fear of any lawsuits because only a very rare fatality would occur that too almost of every one of them had comorbidities!

As I am going to press the bearded winking contortionist and his business partner have started shouting from the roof tops about ‘scientific evidence’ for cure of mild and moderate cases having been found based on so called research using a group of 50 patients that too of the age group between 16 and 59 and with no co-morbidities they have shown that there is an improvement in the time taken for the patients to test negative- mind all whom who would have recovered any way and they all did! This was being touted as a Nobel prize winning research work! As soon as he hit the headlines and the product hit the market the govt finally woke up and banned it.

But certain protocols have been devised to save lives and improve recovery rates. The quest for vaccines is on the way and the recovery rate has improved thanks to these. However, those are not for discussion here as the choice of these is to the treating physician. But, one thing is for certain and that is that this virus is there for the long haul and as of now the immune mechanisms of the body are the only protection may it be through an infection and going through the course of the disease or getting vaccinated after one is developed.  The way things are going on as of now leave us with no choices as none has immunity to this infection. As of now the govt policy seems to be that people are to be left to their own devices! My appeal to you is to stay safe, keep from getting infected and used that mask and wash your hands with the good old fashioned soap and water.

Courtesy: Mangalore Today