The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that there was lack of clarity in the Ministry of Ayush advisory on allowing homeopathic medical practitioners to prescribe even add-on or preventive treatment for COVID-19 patients. The top court said that it would clarify the position and reserved its verdict on a plea challenging the Kerala High Court order which had said that AYUSH medical practitioners can prescribe government-approved mixtures and tablets only as immunity booster for COVID-19.
The Centre told the top court that medicines, which are permitted to be prescribed by the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) to COVID positive patients as an add-on treatment was allowed. A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah said it would like to clarify the position on allowing homeopathic doctors to prescribe prophylactic interventions for improving the immunity of COVID-19 positive patients.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre said that as per the advisory dated March 6, of Ministry of AYUSH, homeopathic practitioners cannot prescribe medicines for COVID-19 treatment but can prescribe drugs which are preventive in nature like for immunity boosting. He said that an affidavit has been filed by the Ministry in this regard, which the bench took into record. The top court was hearing an appeal against the Kerala High Court order of August 21.
The affidavit said, “thus in the respectful submission of the answering respondent, prescription of the medication prescribed by the Ministry of AYUSH to COVID positive patients as an add-on treatment is permitted, and therefore, any contention to the contrary stating that homeopathic medical practitioner cannot prescribe any treatment to COVID-19 positive patients, even as an add-on to conventional treatment is liable to be rejected”.
The Ministry said in its affidavit that, “It is stated that the only embargo is that the said medicines should not be administered or advertised as a cure but should be administered as preventive measure/immunity booster or as an add-on to the conventional treatment”.
It said that the Ministry of AYUSH had clearly provided that administration of the medicine was to be done only as a preventive measure and the same should not be claimed as a treatment advice for the Coronavirus infection. The affidavit said that the Ministry of AYUSH has clearly permitted the homeopathic medical practitioners to prescribe the drugs, as mentioned in the guidelines, as an add-on drug to the conventional treatment for patients who have been tested COVID positive and are undergoing conventional treatment.
The Ministry of AYUSH said that drugs which can be prescribed by a homeopathic medical practitioner are for preventive and prophylactic use, for symptom management of COVID-19 like illnesses; and add on interventions to the conventional care. It said that all these medicines are to be administered as a preventive measure or as an add-on to the conventional treatment and should not be treated and/or prescribed as a cure.
The Ministry further said that its Guidelines for Registered Practitioners of respective system of AYUSH including Homoeopathy have been prepared by Director Generals of Research Councils and Directors of National Institutes with their team of experts and after vetting by the Interdisciplinary AYUSH Research and Development Task Force of Ministry of AYUSH.
“While noting and acknowledging the role played by homoeopathy medical practices for preventing the spread of diseases like Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and Cholera with good results, the Ministry of Ayush prescribed the intervention and preventive management steps under the homeopathic practices at three stages– preventive and prophylactic, symptom management of COVID- 19 like illnesses and add on interventions to the conventional car,” it said.
On November 19, the top court had observed that everybody cannot be allowed to prescribe medicines. The high court had passed the order on a plea which had sought a direction to the state authority to ensure that homoeopathic practitioners are immediately allowed to perform in accordance with the March 6 notification of the Ministry of AYUSH, which had said that state government shall take steps to adopt homoeopathic system among other systems of medicines in the fight against the menace of Coronavirus.
“Advisory of the Ministry of AYUSH is being followed by the government and tablets are given free of cost to those persons as immunity boosters. As per the state medical protocol, COVID-19 affected persons should not be treated by anybody other than the government and those authorised by the government,” the high court had noted in its order.
The high court had further noted that as per the medical protocol of the government, doctors practising in AYUSH medicines are not supposed to prescribe any medicines stating that it is curative for COVID-19 disease.
“However, as per the advisory, there is nothing prohibiting the qualified medical AYUSH practitioners to prescribe immunity booster mixture or tablets, as suggested by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, New Delhi,” it had said.