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Editorial: Self-medication, a prescription for disaster
The search for a vaccine to cure the disease caused by coronavirus is driving the political discourse the world over. On one hand, pharmaceutical companies are racking their brains over possible combinations of dosages that can fight the mutating virus, while offering alarming timelines concerning when a possible cure may see the light of the day.
On the other hand, segments of a population frustrated without any clear answers, are beginning to explore the possibilities of self-medication.
Just this week, US President Donald Trump stumped the world with his revelation that he has been self-medicating using the controversial drug HCQ – hydroxychloroquine, to build some resistance against COVID-19. The medicine used to treat patients with malaria, is reported to have many side-effects and experts have stated it should be administered only under the guidance of a medical practitioner. A possible explanation for Trump’s behaviour could be a fallout of conditioning in a highly medicated society, a cultural stereotype often associated with the American populace.
But, such paranoia concerning the deadly virus has reared its head in developing economies too, and with deadly consequences. A case in point is that of a city-based pharmacist employed with an Ayurvedic products company, who died after consuming a concoction he had prepared himself for treating the coronavirus. The MD of the firm, who had also sampled the medicine, had survived the incident, following which it was reported that the pharmacist was inspired by President Trump who had referred to the ‘wonder drug’.
Ordinary citizens aside, the hunt for the cure prompted even the country’s Jal Shakti ministry to make a splash in the COVID-19 pool. It came up with a proposal that said Gangajal, or holy water from India’s most sacred river could be a potent weapon in the fight against corona. The proposal, which claimed the presence of ninja virus, also known as bacteriophages in the waters of the Ganga was sent to the ICMR, with a request to conduct clinical trials for the same. The ICMR politely declined the proposal citing it needed stronger scientific data and background hypotheses. This notion of adherence to scientific principles, that are tested thoroughly to derive the same result every time, is what many fast track operators in a parallel industry of alternative remedies, are ignoring in their quest for a cure.
The latest addition to the bandwagon, is COVID Organics, a herbal remedy from Madagascar, produced from the Artemisia plant, compounds from which are used to treat malaria. The herbal tea-based remedy got a thumbs up from Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar, who went on to take a swig of the cure from a bottle in a televised event. The risks of propagating such methods of treatment are self-explanatory. But when the cheerleaders of such remedies are those vested with the power of leading the masses, it begs the question, “Who’s really in charge here?”