Andhra ex-headmaster who took ‘herbal’ eye drops for COVID-19 dies

The retired headmaster from Nellore had been hospitalised and admitted to the ICU with oxygen support after taking the disputed herbal preparations.
Screengrab from video of Kotaiah, a retired headmaster and COVID-19 patient who took the Krishnapatnam herbal preparation
Screengrab from video of Kotaiah, a retired headmaster and COVID-19 patient who took the Krishnapatnam herbal preparation
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The Andhra Pradesh COVID-19 patient who had claimed in a viral video that he felt better after taking the disputed Krishnapatnam herbal treatment has died. While the cause of death is awaited, an official from the Government General Hospital in Nellore confirmed that he died on the morning of Monday, May 31. Kotaiah, a retired headmaster from Kota mandal of Nellore district, had been hospitalised after getting chemical conjunctivitis and was admitted to the ICU with oxygen support. He had taken the herbal preparations being distributed by a country medicine practitioner named Bonigi Anandaiah. Doctors had told TNM that Kotaiah had developed some other complications as well and had a CT severity score of above 20 at the time of admission. The doctors had also said that around 24 other COVID-19 patients who had taken Anandaiah’s treatment were admitted to the hospital and many had complained of eye irritation.

The retired headmaster had claimed in a video that was widely shared on social media and aired by several news channels that he “felt a lot better” after being administered the herbal eyedrops prepared by Anandaiah. Despite there being no proof of the herbal concoction curing COVID-19 and not being harmful, this treatment was being administered after it was allowed by a local MLA to be distributed. The eyedrops were being administered with claims that they could help raise dropping blood oxygen levels in critical COVID-19 patients. The drops were made of honey, tailed pepper and the pulp of a certain kind of brinjal, according to information shared by Anandaiah.

Kotaiah's video, which was made after he had arrived from a hospital where he was being treated for a week with an oxygen mask, was one among several similar testimonies that vouched for Anandaiah’s preparations and had been widely shared. Rationalists have urged the state government not to allow the Krishnapatnam ‘treatment’ until it was proven to be effective, as it would promote belief in unscientific treatments.

Last week, distribution was halted by district authorities, who sent the preparations to be studied in an Ayurveda laboratory. On May 21, the distribution was resumed with the support of YSRCP MLA Kakani Govardhan Reddy despite lack of permission from district authorities, and tens of thousands of people gathered at the distribution site, violating COVID-19 protocols. The MLA had defended the move claiming some patients were seeing good results, based on which many people had developed faith that the ‘treatment’ works.

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