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From claiming a COVID cure to receiving an anonymous letter: The unfolding of the Patanjali case

Apr 12,2024

The Supreme Court has issued strong remarks against the Uttarakhand authorities for their failure to take action against Patanjali Ayurved, founded by Yoga guru Ramdev and Balkrishna. The court’s comments came as it rejected apologies from the duo, with Justice Hima Kohli and Justice A Amanullah stating that they will pass an order on April 16.

“What about all the faceless people who have consumed these Patanjali medicines stated to cure diseases which cannot be cured?” the court questioned, highlighting the seriousness of the issue.

The Beginning: Coronil’s Launch

In February 2021, Ramdev launched Coronil, just before the Delta wave of Covid wave struck. Coronil was touted as the “first evidence-based medicine for COVID-19”. The launch, attended by then Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, claimed WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practices recognition, a statement later clarified by WHO as false.

Initially the event poster claimed that Coronil was a pharmaceutical product which was also recognised by the WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practices. Later, however, WHO clarified that it had not reviewed or certified any traditional medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The Indian Medical Association stated that it was shocked by the ‘blatant lie’ of WHO certification for the reportedly ‘secret medicine’ which was launched in the presence of the Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan. The country “needs an explanation” from the minister, it said.

Months later, a video of Ramdev went viral, in which he was heard saying that allopathy was a “stupid and bankrupt science” that is “responsible for the deaths of lakhs of people”. He claimed that no modern medicine was curing Covid. In response, the IMA sent a legal notice to Ramdev, seeking an apology and withdrawal of statements. It appealed to then Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan to take action against the Yoga guru under the Epidemic Diseases Act. Patanjali Yogpeeth responded by stating that Ramdev was only reading out from a forwarded WhatsApp message and has no ill-will against modern science.

According to a BBC report, in December 2020, Patanjali urged state authorities to change Coronil’s license from an “immunity booster” to one for “medicine for Covid-19”. The following month, the company claimed that the product had received approval as a “supporting measure” against Covid-19.

The AYUSH Ministry and Uttarakhand state authorities confirmed to the BBC that a new license had been issued, but emphasized that Coronil was “not a cure” for Covid-19. Dr. YS Rawat, then director of Uttarakhand traditional medicine department and state licensing authority , explained that the upgraded license meant Coronil could be sold like zinc, vitamin C, multi-vitamins, or any other supplemental medicines, but it was not a cure.

In its reply to the Supreme Court, the Centre stated that Patanjali had been instructed not to publish misleading advertisements until the Ayush Ministry had reviewed the matter. It further stated that after a detailed interdisciplinary process, the State Licensing Authority was informed that the Coronil tablet “may only be considered as a supporting measure in Covid-19”. The Centre also mentioned that it had taken proactive steps regarding false claims related to Covid cure.

In August 2022, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) filed a petition against Patanjali after it published an advertisement in newspapers titled ‘Misconceptions Spread By Allopathy: Save Yourself And The Country From The Misconceptions Spread By Pharma And Medical Industry’. The ad claimed that Patanjali drugs had cured people of diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid, liver cirrhosis, arthritis, and asthma.

The IMA highlighted the “continuous, systematic, and unabated spread of misinformation” by Patanjali, along with Ramdev’s earlier remarks on modern medicine. The doctors’ body criticized Patanjali’s efforts to make false and unfounded claims about curing certain diseases through the use of Patanjali products.

The Drugs and Other Magical Remedies Act, which regulates magic pill claims, stipulates a jail term and fine for misleading advertisements.

On November 21, 2023, the Supreme Court warned Patanjali against claims that its products can completely cure ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure, threatening heavy fines.

Patanjali’s counsel assured the court that there would be no further violations of laws, especially regarding advertisement and branding of products. He also assured that “no casual statements of claiming medicinal efficacy of any system of medicine will be released to the media in any form”.

On January 15 of this year, the Supreme Court received an anonymous letter addressed to Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud with copies marked to Justice Kohli and Amanullah. The letter highlighted misleading advertisements being continued by Patanjali. The IMA’s counsel, Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, also presented newspaper advertisements after the November 21, 2023 warning and transcripts of a press conference by Ramdev and Balkrishna following the court’s hearing.

Source: Healthworld

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