India’s government dangerously pushes homeopathy to combat its deadly swine flu epidemic while its news media censors criticism

India not only has a growing and deadline swine flu epidemic, but its government is using worthless homeopathy to combat it.  Meanwhile, the country’s newspapers seem to be censoring objections to the strategy.

I’ve been impressed for some time with the large English-language daily newspaper, The Hindu, and its often excellent coverage of astrology and other paranormal skepticism.  So it was with extreme surprised that I read this article advocating homeopathy a few days ago, titled  Swine flu prevention: homeo pills effective, say officials.

Officials of the Ayush and Medical and Health wings of the district on Tuesday launched distribution of the homeopathic medicine for prevention of swine flu, at various centres in district, and appealed to the people to shun panic and take the pills…

District Coordinator of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBKS) Dr Annareddy Sudarsan formally inaugurated the homeopathic medical camp at Prakasam High Road here, and within a couple of hours a large number of people thronged the camp to receive the medicine.

Speaking to the media, Dr Sudarsan said that homeopathic pills had always proved effective deterrents against mass epidemics like swine flu and brain fever. “The pills are safe and can be consumed by people of all ages, including child in arms. The three-dose course spread over three days is considered the best preventive method at present…” he said.

Medical officers Dr Sree Vani and Dr Selvaraj said that thousands of doses of homeopathic pills were distributed to students in several schools, in addition to the public at the distribution camps.

No opposing view or skepticism was present in the article.  National news articles at The Hindu, as far as I can tell, always have a comment section.  So,  quite disturbed by this piece, I posted the following polite and hopefully informative comment:

“It’s disturbing and dangerous that health officials are giving out fake pills that do nothing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy). The pills are cheap because they have no active ingredients, so handing them out makes it look as if they’re doing something when they’re not. And by giving false info that the pills are “considered the best preventive method at present,” they encourage people to let down their guard and be lax in truly preventive methods.”

I was even more surprised when shortly afterward, I received the following email:

Gmail - Bo, Sorry your comment just got rejected! 2015-01-31 11-35-55

I returned to the article online to see whether other  comments were critical, only to see this:Swine flu prevention- homeo pills effective, say officials - The Hindu 2015-01-31 11-51-17

I looked at other national news articles for the last several days, and could find no other article that was closed for comments.  So I promptly did as asked, and emailed the editor, asking why my comment was rejected, and why the article was closed for comments while others were not.  I’ve received no reply.

So it was with no shock that I saw later that same day UK science writer Simon Singh’s post that the Hindustan Times refused to publish his article expressing concern for homeopathy’s ubiquity in India.  The rejected article said:

Whenever I return to India, I am always unpleasantly surprised at the popularity of homeopathy. I hear of senior political figures endorsing this quackery. I read that PM Narendra Modi has appointed a minister whose portfolio includes homeopathy. And I see that Bollywood stars endorse this pseudoscience…

Homeopathy was invented in Germany in the late 1700s, and soon became popular among the gentry in Paris and London. In 1829, Dr Martin Honigberger, a Transylvanian physician, brought it to India when he joined the court of Maharajah Ranjit Singh… As the decades passed, tens of millions of Indians came to rely on homeopathy for their healthcare, and this European invention is now firmly embedded in the Indian culture of healthcare. And, back in Europe, homeopathy still remains popular in Britain, France and Germany.

… the overwhelming majority of real doctors think homeopathy is pseudoscience. After all, homeopaths typically dilute their remedies until they contain no actual ingredients….

Swine flu killed almost 700 people in India last year, and has already killed almost 200 in the month of January, with over 2,000 cases reported so far this year.

India’s news media do its people a terrible injustice by suppressing the facts they need to protect themselves from this deadly disease.

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