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Arsenicum Album 30 for COVID-19 embraced in Gujarat?

Burdwan Town, Purba Bardhaman District, West Bengal / India - 14.05.2020: Homeopathic medicine 'Arsenicum Album 30' is being distributed free of cost to increase immunity against Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) under the direction of the Ministry of AYUSH, G
Arsenicum Album 30 being distributed in Purba Bardhaman district’s Burdwan in West Bengal. Image credit: Sanjoy Karmakar / 123rf

Reports indicate that homoeopathic treatments such as Arsenicum Album 30 for COVID-19 are being dispensed in significant numbers by the state government in Gujarat.

The Wire reports that the Gujarat state health department informed the World Health Organization (WHO) on August 20th that it had disseminated the homoeopathic treatment Arsenicum Album 30 as a prophylactic to more than fifty percent of the state’s near-63 million population. This is despite the fact that, as The Wire reports, “there is no scientific evidence that the drug works against COVID-19, a fact stressed not only by medical scientists but by some [homoeopathic] practitioners themselves.”

Arsenicum Album-30, The Indian Express explained at the beginning of June, “is made by heating arsenic with distilled water, a process repeated several times over three days.” That report noted that “the health hazards of arsenic contamination in water are well known: long-term exposure to the metal can cause skin cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases”, although the concentration of arsenic in the drug is less than one percent.

Nonetheless, the Indian Express report noted that “there is no scientific evidence that the drug works against COVID-19.” This notwithstanding, the report highlighted that the state governments of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu had recommended the treatment.

Telangana, too, recommended Arsenicum Album-30 – or ‘Arsenic Alb 30 P’. The take of Health Issues India was to classify this as “a highly reckless and dangerous idea and practice, given the lack of evidence for the arsenic-based treatment having any effect against COVID-19 or, indeed, against any disease at all…studies into the practice of medicating in such a way have described it as “against the laws of natural science” and “scientifically implausible.”

That such treatments are being embraced by not only practitioners but government agencies is, indeed, “reckless and dangerous.” The COVID-19 pandemic instigates fear and anxiety, undoubtedly. Many seek to ameliorate that fear and anxiety by offering cures, preventative measures and other treatments – but it is dangerous to do so without proper scientific backing. 

Alternative medicine has been embraced in India to treat a plethora of conditions, sometimes at the expense of allopathy. Whether by good actors or bad, it is crucial to stress that the scientific backing and evidence simply is not there. In a pandemic, the urgency of this is heightened. For governmental bodies to engage in misinformation of this kind only amplifies the recklessness.

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