FPJ Edit: Let it not be forgotten that over the last 18 months, doctors have gained enough experience in treating Covid-19

Nothing has impacted human life more than coronavirus. When it surfaced in China in the latter part of 2019 and, soon, spread to the far corners of the globe by the first quarter of 2020, the medical fraternity was as dismayed as the general public. Few had any clear idea of how the virus spread and attacked the human body. The various systems of medicine were at sixes and sevens on how to treat the victims of coronavirus. None of their texts dealt with the specific virus.

Nobody even knew whether the virus was a natural phenomenon or was created in laboratory conditions in man’s diabolical quest to perfect biological warfare. Small wonder that, soon, Covid-19 became the one major disease for which anybody and everybody had a remedy to suggest. It could be drinking hot water boiled with ginger, garlic, lemon and turmeric. They might even prescribe steroid tablets, without as much as batting an eyelid. The tragedy is that such prescriptions are acted upon, unmindful of the dangers they pose to the human body.

On their part, the doctors sought to treat Covid-19 patients on the basis of their symptoms. They cannot be blamed because there is no medicine available that can strike the coronavirus attacking the human body, making vital organs like lungs and heart dysfunctional and hastening death. The trial-and-error method the doctors adopted in their attempt to evolve a definitive treatment plan led to laughable discoveries.

It was the doctors in the US who first found that the anti-malaria drug chloroquine was effective in the treatment of Covid-19. As doctors began using the medicine, they realised, sooner than later, that it had no medicinal properties against coronavirus. What was not taken into account was the proclivity of the ordinary people-turned-quacks to prescribe such medicines. The lax policy that allows medical shops to sell even prescription drugs over the counter only heightened the problem.

If, under these circumstances, patients began to believe more in their fate than the efficacy of the medicines prescribed, it could not be helped. The doctors did not improve matters when they began to rely excessively on a medicine like Remdesivir, which was available only in the black market at 10 to 15 times its market price. No, it was not a wonder drug against coronavirus, as doctors began to realise gradually.

Similarly, much reliance was made on transfusion of plasma from Covid-19-cured persons to Covid-19 patients. There was no certainty that transfusion of plasma was a sure-shot cure against Covid-19. In symptomatic treatment, antibiotics and steroids were weapons the doctors wielded with some effect. What they could not have foreseen was that many people were already antibiotic-resistant, as they had been recklessly using antibiotics even for minor colds. In fact, India is one of the few countries where antibiotic resistance is widespread, thanks mainly to over-the-counter sale of such drugs.

Steroids have been found to be effective in tackling certain health conditions caused by coronavirus. However, there is no medicine which does not cause a side effect. Use of steroids without medical advice can worsen a person’s diabetes and even hasten their death. When people are discouraged from going to hospital except in an emergency, they are tempted to use the prescription for one patient as a prescription for another, little knowing that doses and medicines vary from person to person. If a penicillin-allergic patient uses a medicine that contains penicillin, it can even be fatal. No such thoughts ever crossed the minds of those who used others’ prescription to cure their own coronavirus problem.

Since all this happened in the public domain, with social media activists playing up what they perceive as the inadequacies of the medical fraternity, there is now a trust deficit in the health sector. Of course, this does not mean any underestimation of the stellar role played by the health workers, especially doctors and nurses, in the war against coronavirus. The so-called yoga expert, Baba Ramdev, who presides over a multi-billion rupee business empire, made matters worse when he questioned the very rationale of allopathic medicine, which has stood the test of time for hundreds of years.

What should not be forgotten in all this is that, over the last one-and-a-half years, the doctors in India have gained enough experience in treating Covid-19. Of course, it needs to be perfected, just as sure-shot medicines like chloroquine and rifampicin were invented. Like Rome, no medicine was made in a day!

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