A patient uses an oxygen mask inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on April 27, 2021. (Money SHARMA / AFP)

Homeopathy medicine not a substitute for oxygen when treating Covid-19 patients, experts say

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Multiple posts shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram claim that a homeopathy medicine could  substitute for oxygen therapy when treating severely ill Covid-19 patients. The posts circulated online in India as it faced a shortage of medical oxygen while coronavirus cases soared. The claim is false, according to health experts. The World Health Organization (WHO) also said it would not recommend the homeopathy medicine as an alternative to oxygen as of May 4, 2021.

The claim was published here on Facebook on April 28, 2021.

The Hindi-language text superimposed on the image translates to English as: “If the oxygen level is falling in Covid-19 then don’t wait for oxygen cylinders, add a drop of Aspidosperma Q 20 in a cup of water and drink it to maintain oxygen levels immediately, which remains stable forever. This is a homeopathic medicine. Don’t waste time in searching for Oxygen.”

The text written on the medicine bottle reads: “Aspidosperma homeopathy medicine.”

Screenshot of the misleading post taken on May 5, 2021

Aspidosperma is a homeopathy medicine sold in India. The product is listed here on a website.

The listing claims: “It is used for treating disorders associated with the respiratory system / Highly beneficial for people suffering from asthma and influenza / It helps in relieving congestion in the chest and prevents frequent coughing.”

A devastating surge in coronavirus infections has exposed India's dilapidated health infrastructure and a deep shortage of oxygen -- a key treatment for seriously ill Covid-19 patients, AFP reported.

A similar claim has also been shared here and here on Facebook; here and here on Twitter; and here and here on Instagram.

The claim is false.

Dr. Bhaskar Bhatt, former president of Homeopathy Medical Association of India, told AFP homeopathy medicines were not a substitute for oxygen treatment for Covid-19 patients.

"Homeopathy medicines given according to the patient's symptoms usually help the patient recover, but none of the medicines can replace oxygen,” he said. “The capacity of lungs can be increased and improved, but if there is a lack of oxygen, it has to be supplied”.

India’s Ministry of Ayurveda and Homeopathy said the purported medicine was not a substitute for oxygen.

“Fake post circulating on social media claims that Homeopathy medicine Aspidosperma Q 20 can be taken as a substitute for oxygen when oxygen levels fall,” reads the tweet on April 30, 2021.

In a follow-up tweet, the ministry said: “A case requiring #oxygen rehabilitation or medicinal support is solely dependent upon the discretion of the treating physician. The public is warned not to #selfmedicate in critical conditions.”

The regional office of the World Health Organization in South East Asia told AFP there is no scientific evidence to support the claim.

Health experts working with US-based non-profit Meedan said the purported medicine should not be used as a treatment for Covid-19 or any other medical condition. 

This story has been published as part of the Ekta News Coalition, a collaboration of six fact-checking organisations in India.