November 01, 2021


Cancer is not like any other disease. It drains you physically, emotionally as well as economically. In Indian scenario, entire family along with the patient plays a major role. In the close knit families not only the immediate family but also the distant relative’s opinion matters. We often see in our out patient departments where the final decision of treatment is influenced by the choice of all the family members.
Death is not discussed openly here in India compared to western scenario, so the acceptance of death is also little bit late. Terminally ill patient as well as the family members blindly believe on Desi medication(T
RADITIONAL HOME MADE) given by quacks. Why do people still believe in Desi medication is a question often asked by the young oncologists. I can give three reasons here.

First one is love. Desperate times make you accept desperate measures. Even though educated people know nothing about Desi medication and even though they don’t believe it, they give it a try. Comparing it to my current scenario, when my baby starts crying for a long time and if she doesn’t calm down, my mother in law takes salt in her hand and performs a ritual to remove Drishti which might be reason for her crying according to her. Even though i don’t believe it I don’t stop her because I want to give it a chance. What if she stops crying? What if it works? The same thing applies to desi medication. What if some miracle happens and the patient survive, What if your loved one gets cured? That, what if question makes them accept Desi medication.

Second reason is money. At some places Desi Medication is free of cost and at other places it is cheaper than evidence based medicine. The accessibility and low cost makes people from lower socio economic status accept it.

Third reason is an interesting one. I call it vicious cycle of false propaganda. The quacks who give these medicines, unlike Oncologists, assure you of 100% cure rate. That belief in miracle and hope attracts the patients. How this propaganda continues is what makes it interesting. Lets consider patient A. ‘Patient A’ who uses this Desi medication, due to placebo effect, combined with dexamethasone and low dose of anti-carcinogenic substances mixed in Desi medication will get a temporary relief. The ‘Patient A’ will convey the same thing to other people. But eventually this ‘Patient A’ succumbs to the disease as well as the side effects but the person who earlier interacted with him would have already passed the information of his well being to others. Now the new ‘patient B’ who heard about this miracle medication from his relatives will take the medication and the cycle continues.

Not only terminally ill patients, but patients with curable stage of cancer also sometimes believe in Holy Desi medication and end up with serious side effects. They present to us in metastatic status and we can do nothing to prolong their life.

We can eradicate this practice of quackery with the help of strict government policies which are lacking. This practice is more prevalent in Himachal Pradesh and few regions of Punjab and Haryana.

More and more palliative care clinics and palliative care specialists who can talk to the patients and explain them about the disease and measures for symptomatic relief, more and more oncologists who can learn the art of breaking bad news and increase their accessibility, more and more oncology centres which can provide evidence based cancer care free of cost or with minimal cost, increase in practice of buying health insurances which cover cancer treatments may help in eradicating this quackery.

Overall there is no benefit of desi medication other than to the persons prescribing them.

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