The Indian Medical Association on Thursday criticised the Union health ministry’s new protocols based on ayurveda and yoga for the prevention and treatment of mild and asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus.

The health ministry had on Tuesday released the National Clinical Management Protocol that said yoga, dietary measures and ayurvedic herbs as well as formulations such as ashwagandha and AYUSH-64 can help prevent and treat the infection, according to NDTV.

The IMA, the largest body of private practitioners in the field of allopathy, cited two conditions – reproducibility of a claim elsewhere in non-conflict situations and double-blind control studies – and asked Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan if the new protocols had enough satisfactory evidence based on the two criteria. “If so whether the evidence is weak or moderate or strong?” the IMA asked. “The evidence should be in public domain and available for scientific scrutiny.”

A double-blind study is a randomised clinical trial where the participants do not know if they are receiving experimental treatment, standard treatment or a placebo, which refers to substance or treatment designed to have no therapeutic value.

It further asked if the ministry personnel were ready to volunteer for an independent prospective double-blind control study in the prevention and treatment of the coronavirus. In a statement, the doctor’s association said Vardhan claims the studies are empirical evidence, which the IMA said, means that the evidence is “anecdotal and based on individual subjective experiences”.

The IMA also asked how many of Vardhan’s ministerial colleagues have made the “informed choice” of getting treated under these protocols. “Whether the severe form of Covid-19 a hyperimmune status or an immune deficiency status?” the body asked.

The doctors’ association said that the health minister himself downgraded AYUSH or ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy as history by saying that ayurveda has contributed to the foundation of modern medicine. With the news protocols based on alternative treatment in place, the IMA further asked what was stopping Vardhan from handing over Covid-19 care and control to the Ministry of AYUSH.

“[The] IMA demands that the Union health minister should come clean on the above posers,” the statement said, “If not he is inflicting a fraud on the nation and gullible patients by calling placebos as drugs.”

Doctor RV Asokan, IMA’s honorary secretary general, said that the minister has to answer to the people of India, according to the Hindustan Times.

“We have written an open letter to the health minister, and he has to answer to the people of India. He is the health minister, not the Ayush minister. What is the credibility of the document he has given? They have used words like ‘informed choice’ and ‘empirical evidence’ but these are quite vague. There is a risk of mixing systems during treatment – who will be answerable? We are in the middle of a pandemic, and trying to save lives. This is a serious issue.” 

— Doctor RV Asokan

An unidentified health ministry official, however, told the Hindustan Times that the protocal was meant to be followed for AYUSH hospitals.

India’s coronavirus count rose to 69,06,151 on Friday as the country reported 70,496 new cases in the last 24 hours. The toll rose by 964 to 1,06,490.