A medical worker wearing protective gear collects a swab sample from a man to test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Colombo on May 24, 2021. ( AFP / Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI)

False posts claim Sri Lankan regulators approved traditional medicine as Covid-19 cure

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A claim has been shared in multiple social media posts that Sri Lankan regulators have purportedly approved a brand of traditional medication as treatment for Covid-19. But this claim is false: an official told AFP no traditional medication has been approved as treatment for Covid-19 as of July 7, 2021; and warned against using unproven remedies for the disease.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on January 14, 2021.

The Sinhala-language post states: "Epirepies, the drug produced in Sri Lanka against the coronavirus has received the approval of the Ayurveda drug formula committee."

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured on June 25, 2021

Text superimposed on the image in the post claims that a "renowned" medic called Dr. Tharanga Wickramasooriya invented Epirepies, which could purportedly "completely flush the virus out of the body".

The National Ayurvedic Formulary Committee operates under Sri Lanka's Department of Ayurveda -- and has the mandate to approve traditional medication used in the country.

A similar claim was also shared on Facebook here and here and on YouTube here.

However, the claim is false according to the Department of Ayurveda.

"The committee has not approved any treatment as a cure for Covid-19," a spokesperson for the department told AFP on July 7.

"They have received over 30 requests. But only about two or three received approval and those too received approval to be marketed as immunity boosters considering the herbal properties of the material used and not as Covid-19 cures.

"Those who have received approval cannot market the treatments as Covid-19 cures."

Dr. L. P. A. Karunathilake, a senior lecturer of indigenous medicine at the University of Colombo, told AFP the post’s claim that a single Ayurveda product can cure Covid-19 is "misleading".

"Ayurveda medicine customises its treatment approach for every individual depending on their health and immunity," Dr. Karunathilake told AFP.

"Therefore, it is misleading to claim a single formula in the form of a tonic has the ability to cure a viral infection in any individual irrelevant of their individual health conditions."

Dr. Tharanga Wickramasooriya, the purported inventor of Epirepies, did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.