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AYUSH doctors can prescribe immunity boosters, but not claim a cure: SC

93998254 - new delhi india - october 28, 2017: people visit supreme court of india in new delhi. CAPTION: The Supreme Court, which has weighed in on the role of AYUSH doctors during COVID-19. Image credit: tktktk / 123rf
The Supreme Court, which has weighed in on the role of AYUSH doctors during COVID-19. Image credit: tktktk / 123rf

The Supreme Court has weighed in on Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) doctors being able to dispense treatments for COVID-19. 

The apex legal body said that qualified AYUSH doctors may prescribe immunity boosters, on the proviso that the treatments are approved. However, they are prohibited from prescribing or advertising any alternative or natural medicament or drug as a cure for COVID-19. The bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, held that prophylactic and preventative AYUSH therapies could boost immunity.

“The prescription of the medication prescribed by the Ministry of AYUSH to COVID-19 positive patients as an add-on treatment is permitted, and therefore, any contention to the contrary stating that homoeopathic medical practitioner cannot prescribe any treatment to COVID-19 positive patients, even as an add-on to conventional treatment is liable to be rejected,” read a government affidavit. 

The ruling followed an appeal against a similar order by the Kerala High Court on August 21st, which also held that alternative medicine products could be prescribed as immunity boosters albeit not a cure by AYUSH doctors. This applies solely to those specified in a March 6th advisory by the Ministry of State. The Dr AKB Sadbhavana Mission School of Homeo Pharmacy appealed against the Kerala High Court order, taking the matter to the Supreme Court which has ostensibly disposed of the subject in its ruling. 

The involvement of AYUSH doctors and other practitioners in managing the COVID-19 pandemic has been embraced by some, but also been the subject of criticism and ridicule. It has been alleged that the promulgation of alternative therapies in treating and managing COVID-19 by the AYUSH Ministry and AYUSH doctors, practitioners, and advocates does more harm than good. Some have gone so far as to describe the Government’s endorsement of some AYUSH therapies as “a fraud on the nation.” The Indian Medical Association (IMA), among other bodies, has criticised roping in AYUSH in the response to the pandemic. 

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