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Iranian Official Blasts Naming Medicines After Shi'ites' Imams

IRAN -- Iranians wait to get prescription drugs at the state-run "13 Aban" pharmacy in Tehran, February 19, 2020

The deputy of Iran’s Ministry of Health, Iraj Harirchi, has criticized proponents of unconventional medical treatments for naming supplementary drugs after Twelver-Shi'ite Imams and claiming they can treat COVID-19.

There are no drugs attributed to the twelve Imams, Harirchi said.

"We should be careful to avoid naming our hand-made drugs after holy persons, even if they are somehow effective," Harirchi said, adding, "Because if complications emerge, it could lead to insulting our Imams."

On November 5, the Iranian government’s official news agency, IRNA, cited Harirchi as saying, "Since more than 50 percent of the novel coronavirus patients recover without any medication and 80 percent recover with minor side effects, they will get better even if treated with sour cherry syrup."

Referring to the necessity of testing drugs scientifically, Harirchi noted, "Even the government of Somalia, where there are numerous claims about the country's traditional medicine and herbal drugs, has announced that some of the supplements claimed to be effective in treating coronavirus, were first tested on the claimants. If they recovered, the drug could be used to treat others."

In recent months in Iran, some traditional medicine advocates have marketed herbal remedies for COVID-19, including one named after the Shi'ites' seventh Imam, Kazem.

The “Imam Kazem" drug is one of the so-called "Islamic medicines” compounds prepared with ingredients including brown sugar and mastic.

The chairman of the Traditional Medicine Association in the Khorasan Razavi province, Saeed Eskandari, recently announced a variety of herbal compounds, including "Imam Kazem" and "Violet Oil," that had been distributed in different cities, especially in Mashhad. The producers claimed they were effective in treating COVID-19.

The claims made by these individuals were met with a series of harsh criticism from the Ministry of Health and other specialists.

While the Ministry of Health's stance on rejecting coronavirus treatment with herbal medicines has been repeatedly criticized by proponents of traditional medicine and some Twelver-Shi'ite clerics, a spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration of Iran announced last week the approval of four herbal remedies for treating COVID-19.

However, Iran's health ministry spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, has repeatedly claimed that recommending traditional medicine for treating COVID-19 amounted to "fraud" and "charlatanism."

The Deputy of the Ministry of Health for Educational Affairs announced last June that all students of general medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy, regardless of the year of study, were required to take a course in traditional medicine.

Nonetheless, Iran's Medical Association has repeatedly criticized the involvement of "Islamic medicine” promoters in patients' treatment.