Homeopathic Doctors can now prescribe preventive, prophylactic medicines for Covid-19: Kerala HC
Kochi: In a significant judgment, the Kerala High Court has observed that qualified Homoeopathic Physicians can prescribe and dispense preventive and prophylactic homoeo medicines, for preventing Covid-19, taking note of the various guidelines issued by the Government of India and the Apex Court.
This judgment by the Kerala High Court bench comprising of Justice N. Nagaresh comes while considering a petition by a a homeopathic practitioner seeking directions upon the Central and State Government to ensure that the petitioner is not obstructed in any manner from treating Covid-19 patients.
Noting that there was no prohibition in the advisory issued by the Kerala Government allowing AYUSH practitioners (which term would include Homoeopathy Practitioners also) to prescribe immunity booster mixture or tablets, and taking note of several other Guidelines issued by the Centre and Apex Court, the HC bench issued the following directions:
(1) A qualified Homoeopathic Physicians can prescribe and dispense preventive and prophylactic homoeo medicines, for preventing Covid-19.
(2) The Homoeopathic Physicians can resort to Homoeopathy for symptom management of Covid-19 like illnesses.
(3) They may provide Add on interventions to the conventional cases of Covid-19 and prescribe drugs as mentioned in the guidelines but the suggested medicines should be as adjuvant to Standard Management Guidelines in the hospital setting only with the approval of authorities and willingness of the patient/guardian.
(4) Advertisement by Homoeopathic Physicians is prohibited in view of Regulation 6 of the Homoeopathic Practitioners (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Code of Ethics) Regulations, 1982 read with Sections 33 and 24 of the Homoeopathic Central Council Act, 1973.
The homeopathic doctor submitted before the Court that when he attempted to treat Covid-19 patients at Thiruvananthapuram recently, he was informed by the officials of the State Health Department that action will be taken against him under the Disaster Management Act.
The issue arose when during the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of Kerala, invoking provisions of the Disaster Management Act issued a State Medical Protocol. As per the protocol, Covid-19 affected persons should not be treated by anybody other than the Government and those authorised by the Government.
However, as per the advisory there was nothing prohibiting the qualified medical AYUSH practitioners (which term would include Homoeopathy Practitioners also) to prescribe immunity booster mixture or tablets, as suggested by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.
The counsel for the petitioner argued before the Court that the Apex Court has upheld the right of Homoeopathic Practitioners to treat Covid-19 patients and hence invoking provisions of the Disaster Management Act against the petitioner is highly arbitrary and illegal. The action of the Governmental authorities offends the right of the petitioner guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution.
"When the Kerala State itself holds an extensive network of Homoeopathic Clinics and Hospitals, prohibiting the Homoeopathic Practitioners from dispensing medicines to patients would destroy the very system of Homoeopathy," contended the petitioner for the counsel adding that although the Ministry of AYUSH has issued guidelines in this regard, the Union Ministry has not taken effective steps to properly implement them.
The Centre in its response submitted that the Ministry of AYUSH has issued recommendations advising utilisation of Homoeopathy for preventive and prophylactic purposes, for symptom management of Covid-19 like illnesses and for add-on intervention to the conventional care. There is no prohibition imposed by the Government of India on Homoeopathy for treatment of such patients.
The counsel for the State Government, on the other hand, submitted that Kerala had formed an expert committee for chartering the protocols for treatment for the management of Covid-19. The Government has approved the action plan of the Homoeo Department for giving Homoeo medicines as prophylactic. However the target population was not intended to include Covid-19 patients or their contacts or those people under quarantine.
Referring to a judgment by the Supreme Court, the HC bench noted that in this regard the Circular issued by Kerala Government asked the Homeopathic practitioners to follow advisory and guidelines issued by Ministry of AYUSH and various Government orders issued by the State Government.
The Court noted that on March 6, 2020, the Ministry of AYUSH had authorized using several medicines for managing the symptoms of Covid-19 and taking preventive measures for the same. The same circular mentioned that those medicines can also be given as add on to conventional care and all these medicines should be taken in consultation with qualified physicians of AYUSH systems.
The State Government approved that advisory in a Government Order. The said GO dated 08.04.2020 however was silent on any Action Plan for Homoeopathic strategies for prevention, mitigation or rehabilitation of Covid19 patients in Kerala.
The HC bench then referred to a similar petition W.P.(C) No.9459/2020 which sought that Homoeopathic Practitioners be immediately allowed to perform as per the AYUSH circular. The Kerala HC while listening to the petition had earlier held that 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, and held 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, the same order also mentioned that 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.
This judgment was challenged and in the Supreme Court and the Apex Court after considering the various Government Orders and hearing the contentions on the behalf of Ministry of AYUSH, held that it is clear from the advisory dated 06.03.2020 and the specific stand taken by the Ministry of AYUSH that Homoeopathic Medical Practitioners are not only constrained to prescribe homoeopathic medicines only as Immunity Booster.
Referring to the judgment of the Apex Court and mentioning the guidelines issued by the Ministry of AYUSH clarifying what is permissible for Homoeopathic Medical Practitioner in reference to Covid-19 symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, the Kerala HC vacation bench noted,
"A qualified Homoeopathic Physicians can prescribe and dispense preventive and prophylactic homoeo medicines, for preventing Covid-19."
To view the original court order, click on the link below.