Patanjali: Kerala doctor's fight against misleading ads brought firm under scanner

Dr Babu K.V. moved various central agencies against Patanjali's misleading ads

PTI02_19_2021_000116B (File) Baba Ramdev releasing the scientific research papers which he claimed was on the Patanjali medicine for COVID-19 | PTI

The Uttarakhand government's decision to suspend the manufacturing licence of 14 Patanjali products has come as a huge setback to the firm, which is battling a case in the Supreme Court over misleading ads. The Uttarakhand government's decision, which came after the top court rap for inaction, also resulted in the shares of Patanjali Foods Ltd plunging four per cent on Tuesday. 

However, it was a Kerala-based doctor who was at the forefront to raise the issue before authorities. Dr Babu K V approached various central agencies, seeking to stop Patanjali Ayurved Limited from publishing advertisements prohibited by the law in national dailies. He sent over 100 RTIs and related communications to the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI), the Ministry of Ayush, Ayurveda and Unani Services, Uttarakhand and the Press Council of India. 

Babu, an opthalmologist based in Kerala's Kannur, first stumbled upon the Patanjali advertisement that claimed to offer a single-drop solution for cataracts and glaucoma. Babu, realising this was factually incorrect, took to X (then Twitter) tagging the Advertising Standards Council of India.

He approached authorities again in 2022 against an advertisement that appeared in newspapers that offered a cure for heart disease and cholesterol. He wrote to the Drugs Controller General of India, which took note of the issues. 

Babu told The Print that he learnt that his complaint was forwarded by the DCGI to the Union Ayush Ministry which forwarded a communication to the office of the licensing officer, Ayurvedic and Unani Services, Uttarakhand.  The Uttarakhand licensing authorities wrote to Patanjali directing it to remove such misleading advertisements immediately, following which Divya Pharmacy agreed to stop publication of the advertisements mentioned by it. 

In July 2022, Babu saw another advertisement titled ‘Misconceptions spread by allopathy’.

"This ad boasted that for a permanent solution for lifestyle disorders, incurable, chronic and genetic diseases, register for a one-week residential cure in Patanjali wellness and become everlastingly healthy. It was shocking to me," Babu told ThePrint. 

"This was a really serious public health issue and nobody was doing anything about it," he told ThePrint. He has since approached the Uttarakhand State licensing authority, the Union Ayush Ministry and even the Press Council of India to put a stop to these misleading ads. 

Babu could also bring the issue to the attention of MPs Karti Chidambaram and V Sivasadan, who raised the issue with the Union Ministry of Ayush. 

However, the case came to the attention of the IMA in 2022 after an advertisement appeared wherein the firm boasted that their products could cure chronic illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and even COVID-19. 

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