Coronil is a drug launched in June 2020 by Patanjali Ayurveda, a company founded by yoga guru Baba Ramdev. At the time of launch, it was claimed to be a cure for coronavirus, and it could help patients recover in seven days. However, the AYUSH (Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy) ministry had then stepped in to say that the medicine’s license mentioned it as an immunity booster and the company was forced to sell it as one.
Why was it relaunched?
At the time of the initial launch, the AYUSH ministry had asked Patanjali Ayurveda to submit detailed reports related to the medicine’s composition, clinical trials, drug efficacy and other technical information. The relaunch of the medicine which took place on February 19, 2021, also saw Baba Ramdev releasing the details they had been asked for in the form of a booklet. The company also announced on the day that it had received approval from World Health Organization (WHO).
What went wrong during the relaunch?
First, two central ministers – health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and transport minister Nitin Gadkari – were present on the stage alongside company representatives at the launch. Such blatant endorsement of a private company’s product was seen in a negative light, especially for Dr Harsh Vardhan as doctors arent allowed to endorse medicines.
Second, several statements made by the company were proven to be false.
What false claims did the company make?
During the relaunch, it was claimed that Coronil was the country’s first “evidence-based Ayurvedic medicine”. It was also claimed that the drug had received a Certificate of Pharmaceutical Product (CoPP) from WHO.
On the sidelines of the event, the health minister himself said that Coronil had been accepted as a “supporting measure” to be taken along with allopathic medicines by the AYUSH ministry.
Though not naming it directly, WHO South Asia also released a statement saying it had not reviewed any traditional medicine. The company also had to clarify that the certification was, in fact, issued by the Drug Controller General of India.
How did the IMA get involved?
In a press statement following the relaunch, the Indian Medical Association called it a shame on Dr Harsh Vardhan that he broke the code of conduct for doctors put up by the Medical Council of India by promoting a drug. It further pointed out that the minister also broke the code of ethics by promoting a proprietary medicine whose composition and efficacy he didn’t know. It went on to ask many pointed questions directly to the minister.