Ayurvedic ‘cure’ for COVID-19 draws thousands of people in Andhra Pradesh, threatens to become a super-spreader event

Published : May 21, 2021 21:17 IST

People waiting to receive the ayurvedic ‘medicine’ at Krishnapatnam in Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh on May 21. Photo: PTI

Medical practitioners and rationalists view him as just another charlatan out to fool COVID-19 patients and a gullible public, but to literally thousands of people, Bonigi Anandaiah has become a miracle man whose concoctions of herbs and spices protect them from the dreaded coronavirus and cure them of the disease.

On the morning of May 21, Krishnapatnam, the small port town in Muthukur mandal of Andhra Pradesh’s Nellore district, was abuzz. Thousands of people, including a few critically ill COVID-19 patients waiting in ambulances, were lined up, eagerly awaiting the resumption of the distribution of a herbal/ayurvedic “cure” for COVID-19 that Anandaiah has been dishing out pro bono for nearly a month. The “cure” is not approved by the government and, in fact, the distribution had been suspended for a few days by the district administration.

But the relaunch of the miracle cure by Kakani Govardhan Reddy, Sarvepalli MLA, lasted but a few hours. The large and unmanageable crowds forced the organisers to announce the postponement of the distribution by two days. The police were just mute spectators, their checkposts and feeble attempts to control the traffic defeated by the surging crowds.

Besides questions over the medical veracity of his “miracle cure”, it threatened to become another super-spreader event in Andhra Pradesh as the disorderly rush of people did not bother to observe the mandatory physical distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols.

Hailing from an agricultural family from Krishnapatnam, Bonigi Anandaiah has been peddling five different formulations made of ingredients such as honey, pepper, green camphor, nutmeg, black cumin, cinnamon and leaves of some herbal plants. While three of his preparations were curative, specifically meant for those who had tested positive for COVID-19, one was a preventive medicine. The fifth formulation, which is in the form of eye drops, Anandaiah claims, will help patients with dropping/low blood oxygen saturation levels.

Taking note of Anandaiah advertising his “medicine” as a cure for COVID-19, the District Collector K.V.N. Chakradhar Babu, on the directions of the Lokayukta, constituted a three-member committee to probe the veracity of the claim on May 17. The committee, comprising M. Dhanalakshmi, District Panchayat Officer, Dr S. Rajyalakshmi, District Medical Health Officer and Y. Harinath Reddy, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Nellore Rural, along with a few Ayush doctors visited and collected samples from Anandaiah. Their report stated that Anandaiah had been distributing the preparations as COVID-19 treatment for nearly a month starting from April 21, initially to a small number of people. But by May 17, the number had swelled to around 4,000 to 5,000 every day.

According to their report, which was submitted to the Collector, Anandaiah was not a qualified ayurvedic doctor and his formulations were not standard formulae. The committee further reported that the ingredients being used in the preparation were general herbs available in the market and the dosages were substandard. The team also stated that the ingredients used in the eye drops could cause long-term damage to the eyes. The District Collector has submitted the report to both the Lokayukta and the Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy government.

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