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‘They cannot give any such medicine without our permission. What if the medicines have some adverse effects?” asks District Health Officer Dr Janardhan.

Representative image of the herbal medicine being distributed by Anandaiah
news Controversy Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 21:06

“I took the medicine last week along with the rest of my family. We were told that it boosts our immunity and will help us fight COVID-19. At a time when other medicines have failed, we are happy to have been given an option,” said Chiddarangaiah from Kamalpura. “So many people in Andhra have taken it, what is the problem? The media has been reporting negatively on it, no media person is welcome in our village,” he added.

After Andhra Pradesh, this ‘herbal medicine’, made of brinjal, tailed pepper and honey, prepared by B Anandaiah is being distributed in Karnataka by the Swarna Hampi mutt as a pilot project in Kamalapura, a village 5 kms from Hampi. TNM has learnt that a pontiff named Govindananda Saraswati Swamy has already distributed the medicines to thousands of people without any permission from the government and has also written to the Chief Minister making false claims about the medicine. 

This concoction, Anandaiah claims, keeps COVID-19 at bay by boosting the immunity, a claim that has been widely contested. The Andhra Pradesh government approved the herbal concoction after reports from the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Studies (CCRAS) stated that it was harmless. The state has said that while it cannot be advertised as a cure for COVID-19, it is only a health supplement that people can choose to consume. 

Govindananda Saraswati Swamy in the newly formed Vijayanagar district has been distributing the herbal concoction in Kamalapura. “We have sent a letter to the Karnataka CM’s office regarding the free distribution of Anandayya Aushadhi in Karnataka. We are waiting for the reply. We have already distributed the medicine to 15,000 people (2500 families). If the government gives permission, we plan to distribute it free of cost to everybody in the state,” Govindananda Swamy told TNM. 

TNM asked the Chief Minister’s office if permission has been given for distribution of the herbal concoction and it has been confirmed that no such letter has reached the CM and the question of giving permission does not arise. “We cannot just permit such things randomly. There has been no research or any proof of the claims made. The pontiff must have decided to distribute on his own,” a source in the CM’s office confirmed.   

Read: ‘COVID cure’ in Andhra: Why scientific evidence is more important than people’s faith

TNM accessed a letter addressed to the CM dated June 29 from the office of Sri Pampakshetra Swarna Hampi Bhaktinagarasamrajya Samsthanam. It states that the ‘medicine for COVID-19 and other such diseases’ has already been approved by the Andhra Pradesh High Court, government and the Ayush Department. “Lakhs of people have been cured by consuming this medicine. Clinical trials conducted by the Andhra Pradesh government have shown that there are no side effects to this medicine,” the letter reads. 

“Many people who were on ventilators have been cured because of the medicine. In Andhra Pradesh, all police, health and district officials, ministers in the state government have all consumed this medicine,” claims the letter while seeking permission for free distribution across Karnataka.  

While the Andhra Pradesh government and High Court did give their nod for some of Anandaiah’s preparations (excluding the eye-drops), the government stressed that it must be widely publicised that these concoctions are not cures for COVID-19, and that people consuming them must continue to take any medicine prescribed by doctors. The Andhra Pradesh government insisted that the preparations can only be publicised as a health supplement or immunity booster that people may choose to consume. The government’s approval for distribution was based on reports from the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Studies (CCRAS) which found the oral preparations to be harmless, and no evidence was furnished to show that the preparations were effective. Many critical COVID-19 patients who consumed the preparations and were administered the eye drops continued to remain critical, and were admitted in the hospital.

Read: Andhra ex-headmaster who took ‘herbal’ eye drops for COVID-19 dies

Meanwhile the Karnataka district authorities said that they have not permitted any alternate medicine for COVID-19, let alone a herbal one. Dr Janardhan, the District Health Officer for Ballari district told TNM that they had not received any prior information about the distribution of Anandaiah’s herbal medicine. “This has come to our attention only through media reports. I have instructed our Taluka Health Officers(THO) to find out more about it,” he told TNM on June 28.

“We heard that permission has been given for the same in Andhra but in Karnataka, no permission has been given for the same. But they cannot give any such medicine without our permission. What if the medicines have some adverse effects?” Dr Janardhan said. 

On June 29, Dr Janardhan spoke to the media in Ballari and reiterated that they had received no request for permission for distribution from the Swarna Hampi mutt. He also said that after learning of the same from media reports, he has dispatched THOs to look into where the ‘herbal medicine’ is being given. 

But despite there being no permission, no proof of the ‘medicine’ curing COVID-19, locals in Hospet continue to support the distribution. Many like Raju Ramanjaneya back the pontiff and say that reports which call the ‘medicine’ unscientific are spread by those who are profiteering from modern medicine. When asked if he had no qualms believing that a ‘medicine’ which contains five different herbal concoctions, claiming to cure a disease that has wreaked havoc across the world, Raju said “If there was something wrong with the medicine, would it have been so popular in Andhra? We saw how people were lining up to get it and we are lucky it is being distributed for free,” he added. 

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