Days after the BMC issued a circular stating that homeopathic medicine Arsenicum Album 30 is a “preventive medication” for Covid-19 – following an advisory by the Ayush ministry – and allowed its use for high-risk contacts at quarantine facilities in G South and K West wards, the Maharashtra National Health Mission said on Tuesday that it is yet to take a call on the Union ministry directive.
On May 8, BMC had said it will distribute Arsenicum Album 30, commonly used for respiratory tract infections and flu, for free in the quarantine facilities. There is, however, no scientific evidence that it can help in the treatment or prevention of Covid-19.
The Ayush ministry had first recommended it controversially in January 29 as a prophylactic against Covid-19, shooting up its demand across the country. The advisory had recommended one dose of Arsenicum Album 30 for three days in a row on an empty stomach.
However, Anup Kumar Yadav, Director of Maharashtra National Health Mission, said, “We have formed a task force to decide on the Ayush protocols.” An official from the state public health ministry added that no advisory has been issued by the government to use Arsenicum Album 30 as a preventive medicine for the general population.
The BMC circular had stated that it would start distributing the medicine at G North (Worli) and K West (Andheri) wards, which have reported the highest number of cases in the city, as a preventive medication. It also quoted the Ayush ministry saying that the medicine has been found to be beneficial. Since then, in Mumbai, the cost of a bottle of Arsenicum Album 30 has gone up from Rs 20 to 30 to Rs 50 with homeopathic doctors contacting housing societies to sell the medicine.
BMC Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani confirmed that the medicine is being administered as a preventive to Covid-19. “We are using this as a preventive medication in two high-risk wards. This decision was taken on the basis of the Ayush ministry’s notification,” he said.
However, Dr Padmaja Keskar, BMC’s executive health officer, said, “We are using this medicine only as immunity booster in quarantine centres. Later, we will use in containment zones and also give to the general population.”
“It is worrying that this medicine is being administered as a prophylactic in the absence of any scientific evidence. People are panicking and will try anything that government propagates. They may develop a false sense of security after taking this,” said Dr Bahubali Shah, former president of Maharashtra Council of Homeopathy.
In Malad, Andheri and Worli, private homeopathic practitioners are using the BMC circular to sell the medicine. At Veera Desai in Andheri West, homeopath Priyam Sharma is selling the medicine to over 100 people a day, at a cost of Rs 30. Letters from her clinic encouraging people to buy Arsenicum Album 30 as a preventive medicine have been pasted in housing societies.
In Malad, homeopath Dr Arshi Tank said she is selling over 1,000 bottles a day. “I have approached housing societies to distribute this medicine. I am maintaining details of each person, after a month, I will check their susceptibility to the infection. I will compile the data to measure its efficacy.”
Dr Gulnar Khan, medical officer in Andheri West, said they have neither authorised any private homeopathy doctor to sell the medicine on behalf of BMC nor advised the general public to take it.
While Kerala and Andhra Pradesh have been giving the medicine to Covid-19 patients, Rajasthan has advised it as an immunity booster. The medicine contains diluted arsenic, and is not known to have any side effects.