MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

While many of us are wondering what SCAM will be promoted next for the corona pandemic, the editor of the infamous JCAM thought it wise to publish this note along with an article advertising the wonders of Ayurvedic medicine and yoga for the corona-virus entitled: ‘Public Health Approach of Ayurveda and Yoga for COVID-19 Prophylaxis‘.

Here are John Weeks’ remarks:

National governments are deeply divided over whether traditional, complementary and integrative practices have value for human beings relative to COVID-19. We witness a double standard. Medical doctors explore off-label uses of pharmaceutical agents that may have some suggestive research while evidence that indicates potential utility of natural products, practices and practitioners is often dismissed. In this Invited Commentary, a long-time JACM Editorial Board member Bhushan Patwardhan, PhD, from the AYUSH Center of Excellence, Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the Savitribai Phule Pune University, India and colleagues from multiple institutions make a case for the potential roles of Ayurvedic medicine and Yoga as supportive measures in self-care and treatment. Patwardhan is a warrior for enhancing scientific standards in traditional medicine in India. Patwardhan was recently appointed by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, as Chairman of an 18 member expert group known as “Interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Taskforce” for initiating, coordinating and monitoring efforts against COVID-19. He was last seen here in an invited commentary entitled “Contesting Predators: Cleaning Up Trash in Science” (JACM, October 2019). We are pleased to have this opportunity to share the recommended approaches, the science, and the historic references as part of the global effort to leave no stone unturned in best preparing our populations to withstand COVID-19 and future viral threats. – John Weeks, Editor-in-Chief, JACM

His remarks are, I think, worthy of four very brief comments:

  1. As far as I can see, national governments and their advisors struggle to make sense of the rapidly changing situation. In all the confusion, they are, however, very clear about one thing: traditional, complementary and integrative practices have no real value for human beings relative to COVID-19.
  2. The double standards Weeks bemoans do not exist. There are dozens of studies currently on their way testing virtually any therapeutic option that shows even the smallest shimmer of hope. Testing implausible options only because some quacks feel neglected would be the last thing the world needs in the present situation.
  3. Weeks claims that ‘evidence that indicates potential utility of natural products, practices and practitioners is often dismissed’. What evidence? The article published alongside his remarks is free of what anyone with a thinking brain might call ‘evidence’. If there is evidence, Weeks or anyone else should approach the experts responsible for conducting the current trials; I am sure that they would listen and be only too happy to consider any reasonable option.
  4. The Indian Ministry of AYUSH has indeed been promoting all sorts of quackery for the corona-virus. This behaviour is likely to cause many fatalities in India. It should be squarely condemned and not promoted as Weeks seem to think.

4 Responses to Is evidence for the utility of natural products, practices and practitioners being unfairly dismissed in the current pandemic?

  • Ernst, Dear fellow,

    It is of passing interest to note historical fact that in the 1919 epidemic, the homeopaths were achieving over 96% success rate, whilst the conventionals were losing on average nearly one in four. Over-use of aspirin may not have helped (for all sorts of obvious reasons), and this was before sulfa and penicillins although those do not directly address viral illness.

    That’s ~3.4% mortality with homeopathy vs ~24.4% mortality under the then conventional treatments, according to Dr.Andre Saine (although others have put it as about 1% to 30%)

    https://homeopathy.ca/debates_2013-03-22Q1ns.shtml

    Also from historical fact, there is the evident and notable success of homeopathy in many previous epidemics up to recent times (yes, we know, the pseudo-skeptics will not stomach this, so commonly have to invent unjustified and unproven alternative hypotheses to explain it away).

    I certainly would like to see the opportunity to opt for homeopathy – properly applied – made available. But of course the ‘conventional’ faction are deeply scared of allowing homeopathy to demonstrate any further success, and seek to save us from it. How nice of them (#sarcasm).

    Then we could get another good comparison of homeopathy vs conventional care, as confirmation of one bias or another.

    Also, news here regarding Chinese success with TCM (in particular “Qingfei Paidutang” 清肺合剂 – after which the first ‘recovered’ patients were released from hospitals), is downplayed to zero or even distorted. I leave it to the pseudo-skeptics to come up with unwarranted alternative hypotheses.

    And I am sure anyone sensible would like to see more attention paid to good (i.e. not conventional) nutrition, and to stop the attacks on use of vitamin C.

    I wonder what the death-toll will be from conventional medicine of itself? Excessive respirator pressure, failure to use zinc sulphate with HCQ, failure to support oxygen transport, adverse effects and so on. Is it even recorded?

    Perhaps there shall be a post-mortem. Perhaps not. Maybe the results would be unpalatable.

    • “It is of passing interest to note historical fact that in the 1919 epidemic, the homeopaths were achieving over 96% success rate, whilst the conventionals were losing on average nearly one in four.”
      I guess you know that you are trying to promote utter BS with your comment, don’t you?
      https://edzardernst.com/2017/02/homeopaths-love-it-the-epidemiological-evidence-suggesting-that-homeopathy-works/

    • So, Will. The homeopaths will have to deal with acutely-ill patients using only homeopathy and nothing else. Allopathic medicines and systems, as we are told often, interfere with the energies in homeopathic remedies. So no respiratory, renal, or fluid support. Or will homeopathy prevent patients with covid-19 from becoming acutely ill? How are you going to persuade patients to see only a homeopath? Do you think people are going to accept the delusional assertions of homeopaths that magic shaken water will be their salvation? What excuses do you think the homeopaths will use when their sugar pills are found to do nothing?

      Of course no homeopaths will be let anywhere near any of these patients. And rightly so. Their dreams of significance will remain just that.

  • Mark my words: homeopaths will no doubt subvert history in the years to come, and turn the AYUSH ministry’s silly recommendation to use homeopathy against Covid-19 into claims that homeopathy was actually and successfully used against Covid-19.

    After all, in the world of homeopathy, ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ are whatever homeopaths care to dream up – it makes life so much easier than having to cope with the unpleasantly rigid laws of the real natural world.

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