Multiple instances of chemical conjunctivitis have been observed among COVID-19 patients who used the disputed herbal eye drops.

A Covid patient who took the Krishnapatnam herbal preparation for COVID
Coronavirus Coronavirus Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 11:10

Days after the video of a COVID-19 patient saying he felt better after taking the disputed Krishnapatnam herbal treatment in Andhra Pradesh went viral, authorities said that he has been hospitalised and is now undergoing treatment in an ICU with oxygen support. The patient from the video, a retired headmaster from the nearby Kota mandal of Nellore district, had visited Krishnapatnam to try the herbal preparations being distributed by a country medicine practitioner named Bonigi Anandaiah. In a video that was widely shared on social media and aired by several news channels, Kotaiah, who had arrived from a hospital where he was being treated for a week with an oxygen mask, said that he felt a lot better after being administered the eyedrops prepared by Anandaiah. 

Kotaiah‚Äôs was one among several similar testimonies vouching for Anandaiah‚Äôs preparations which had been widely shared. 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. Rationalists have urged the state government not to allow the Krishnapatnam ‚Äėtreatment‚Äô until it was proven to be effective, as it would promote belief in unscientific treatments.

Nellore Joint Collector M N Harendhira Prasad said that Kotaiah was admitted to a hospital on May 23, with a CT severity score of above 20 at the time of admission. According to a doctor familiar with Kotaiah‚Äôs condition, he is on oxygen support in the ICU with his blood oxygen levels fluctuating around 85. The doctor said that Kotaiah had complained of irritation and redness in the eyes at the time of hospitalisation, and was found to have chemical conjunctivitis. He added that several patients who took the herbal treatment continued to be hospitalised as the 'cure' failed to alleviate their condition. ‚ÄúWe have seen around 24 COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital, who had taken Anandaiah‚Äôs treatment. Some of them complained of eye irritation and had visited an ophthalmologist. A few people seem to have felt instantaneously better after taking the eye drops, but there are chances of getting chemical conjunctivitis eventually, although individual reactions may vary,‚ÄĚ the doctor said. 

With a few people stating that they felt better after taking the eye drops, and with their oxygen levels reportedly improving, the untested herbal concoctions which were being distributed by Anandaiah for free had become widely popular. 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 ‚Äėtreatment‚Äô works.

Officials from the state health department as well as AYUSH department have claimed so far that the medicine doesn‚Äôt seem to have any immediate negative effects. ‚ÄúPeople are worried there might be side effects in the long run. Once it's established that there are no side effects, distribution will be continued,‚ÄĚ the MLA had said.

Experts and doctors had suggested that the patients may have felt better either due to a placebo effect or because of natural progression of the disease in their body. The doctor who was familiar with the condition of patients who took Anandaiah‚Äôs preparations said that apart from the possibility of chemical conjunctivitis, the patients will have to be further monitored to observe any long-term side effects. 

On May 24, state AYUSH Commissioner Ramulu N said that the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Studies is conducting a comprehensive test of the herbal remedy by giving it to at least 500 people. ‚ÄúIt has to be found out if the herbal preparations prepared by Anandaiah caused any ill-effects on health and a report in this regard might come in about a week,‚ÄĚ he said. 

Also read: 

‚ÄėCOVID cure‚Äô in Andhra: Why scientific evidence is more important than people‚Äôs faith

Officials to conduct trial of Andhra ‚Äėherbal remedy‚Äô for COVID-19 on 500 people

Watch TNM's story on the huge crowds gathered for the Krishnapatma COVID 'cure'