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

It has been reported that Karnataka’s Deputy Chief Minister, Dr CN Ashwathnarayan, has launched eight products, several of which fall in the category of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), aimed at mitigating COVID-19, developed by various start-ups at Bangalore Bioinnovation Centre (BBC). Dr CN Ashwathnarayan said the launch of the products shows that Karnataka has emerged as a leading state in developing solutions to fight the COVID 19 pandemic.

Here are short descriptions of the innovations:

  • Padma Vitals +: Developed by Innovator start-up Dr. Madan Gopal of Cardiac Design labs,Padma Vitals + is a  centralized monitoring system for ECG, respiration, Spo2 and body temperature, which can measure the vitals continuously and the analysis sent through telemetry, with an alerting system embedded in it. The device is much needed for contactless monitoring of patients during COVID 19 Pandemic. The product has been validated at Narayana Hrudayalaya.
  • Malli’s Cordytea: Developed by Dr. Moushmi Mondal from Mallipatra Neutraceuticals, this product is an Immunity booster tea prepared from medicinal mushroom – Cordyceps. The mushroom variety grown under laboratory conditions is developed by the Innovator. Cordicepin, an active ingredient is known to have anti-viral properties too. In the COVID 19 times, it will be helpful in boosting the immunity levels. The product has been patented and is approved by FSSAI.
  • CD4 Shield : Developed by Dr. Vijay Lanka and his team from Stabicon, this product is a chewable tablet containing curcumin and Vitamin B12. Both the ingredients fight inflammation and infection. The product ensures activation of innate immunity by activating CD4+, CD8+ and IFN 1 to virus specific effect and has immunomodulatory properties. It also reduces cytokine storm in response to viral infection. The product is approved by FSSAI.
  • BeamRoti : Developed by Dr. Srinivas from Aspartika, the product is an immunity booster chapati having mixture of herbs recommended by AYUSH ministry. The ingredients have been prepared using supercritical fluid extraction technology to ensure optimum concentration of herbal extract reaches the body. The chapatis are easy to store with good shelf life and Patent application has been filed. The product is approved by FSSAI.
  • Immune booster daily drops: Developed by Dr. Srinivas from Aspartika, the product is an immunity booster drop having mixture of herbs recommended by AYUSH ministry. The ingredients have been prepared using supercritical fluid extraction technology to ensure optimum concentration of herbal extract reaches the body by mixing just one drop of the product in a glass of hot water. The product is approved by FSSAI.
  • VegPhal – Fruit and Vegetable Sanitizer: Developed by Deepak Bhajantri from Krimmi Biotech, this fruit and vegetable sanitizer is prepared using edible ingredients effective against microbes and removal of pesticides. It is chorine and alcohol free.
  • Water Sanitizer – Kitchen Tap: The product is developed by Ravi Kumar from Biofi and is a miniaturized version of UV purifier that can be attached to a water tap and kill 99% of microbes including viruses such as phages.
  • nti-Micobial HVAC module: The product is developed by Ravi Kumar from Biofi and is a module that can be fitted to HVAC system to ensure circulating air is sanitized. This is especially useful during COVID 19 times as many enclosed spaces in which AC circulated air may be contaminated. Based on UV-silver titanium dioxide technology, the product is patented and has been validated.

Karnataka is of course a state in the south western region of India. The region has so far about one million COVID-19 cases, while almost 12 000 people have died. One would therefore very much hope that the newly launched innovations can make a difference.

But will they?

As far as the SCAM-related products (e.g. ‘immune boosters’) are concerned, I see no convincing evidence to assume that they are effective. If anyone has information to the contrary, please let me know.

But why not? They can’t do any harm!

Sadly, I am am not so sure. I see the potential for considerable harm from all the useless SCAMs that are being promoted left right and centre for protecting the public against COVID-19. Firstly, there is the financial harm of paying for products that are useless. Secondly, ineffective effords might distract from finding and adhering to efforts that are effective. Thirdly, believing in a SCAM that does not work will create a sense of false security which, in turn, renders consumers more vulnerable to catch the virus.

As always in healthcare, even harmless interventions that do not work can become dangerous, as they lead to neglecting effective measures. I shudder to think of how many deaths have been caused by the many SCAM merchants who see the current pandemic as an opportunity.

5 Responses to Eight new products aimed at mitigating COVID-19. But do they really work?

  • In a quick word – NO

  • If you wanted to design a product to reduce the virulence of and increase survival from SARS CoV-2, you would follow the Epidemiological and clinical research into environmental factors. If you did that, you would include selenium and vitamin D for sure, probably zinc and vitamin C. If you wanted to add a herb, andrographis would be my first choice though there is no evidence that a deficiency of it increases risk.
    But of course the individual people buying the product might need more, or less, of these nutrients than your supplement supplies, depending where they live. However, the people designing the 8 new supplements you review seem to be doing it independently of the medical literature.
    https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/111/6/1297/5826147
    https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/7/2098
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7574778/

  • There is a highly dangerous level of belief in SCAM in India. The fact that they even have a Ministry of AYUSH which is literally a Ministry of SCAM (seriously) is a terrible sign.
    The Indian government literally promotes SCAM at every turn despite the fact that the country also has excellent levels of conventional medical schools, hospitals and doctors etc. Nonetheless AYUSH promotes quackery in the form of Ayurveda, NAturopathy, Homeopathy and all the other useless quackery relentlessly, claiming it to be as good if not better than conventional medicine.

    Because all of this is traditional and because the government idiotically and quite irresponsibly promotes this nonsense quite naturally much of the population remains confused as to the relative merits of the different schools of thought. In general the more educated and wealthy veer towards conventional medicine whereas the poorer and less educated make do with the SCAM crap – and consequently suffer with much poorer levels of health.

    It is a national tragedy.
    Of course Indian politicians are known for strange ideas – recently some of them have even been making claims that ancient Hindus had stem cell technology, airplanes, space travel, nuclear weapons and even the internet thousands of years ago. One can only wonder why if they had managed to discover such wonders they regressed so far backwards as to end up with homeopathy of all things. From stem cells to diluted water – what an ignominious end for a mighty civilization!

    • The same nationalistic nonsense is alive and active in China, also pumped by government there in same service to ego and profit. Hmm, almost as if rich, powerful, controlling ideolgues might be pursuing some agenda other than figuring out what is correct and what is not.

      Not that western societies should ever feel complacent. Civilizations rise and civilizations fall. Any society that hasn’t been through that cycle at least once just hasn’t been around long enough yet.

      Truth may be their first casualty, but it’s epistemology they’re ultimately after.

      • The correct way to do public health in an emergency was laid out by Austin Bradford Hill in the 1960s. Using a checklist to identify the major environmental factors associated with the outcome and testing those.
        It was already known before COVID-19 that deficiency of the mineral selenium was a critical factor in the virulence and mutation rate of other RNA viruses and that supplementation improved viral clearance and survival. String epidemiological confirmation of the association for COVID-19 soon followed. Yet one only finds a few clinical trials registered, only one is prophylactic, and none has been published (trials organised in countries that have controlled the pandemic, such as China, which has most reason to test Se based on its experience with other RNA viruses, have been suspended due to insufficient patient numbers)
        Similarly, associations between vitamin D and COVID-19 mortality soon appeared, have remained consistent, yet there have only been 2 trials of vitamin D, both positive. In the latest,
        “cholecalciferol booster therapy was associated with a reduced risk of COVID-19 mortality, following adjustment for potential confounders (ORadj 0.13, 95% CI 0.05–0.35, p < 0.001)."
        https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/12/3799/htm

        Yet according to NICE today there is "not enough evidence" to recommend vitamin D.
        If true, this sums up a deadly failure of public health prioritization and of EBM.
        Remember, there have been 227 RCTs of HCQ for some reason, supplying no evidence to recommend it, and with an a priori case so non-specific that it could have applied to hundreds of drug candidates.

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