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"World Health Minute" 13 June, 2017

News Highlights
Yemen cholera cases pass the 100,000 mark: WHO The number of suspected cholera cases in war-torn Yemen has risen to more than 100,000 since an outbreak began on April 27, the World Health Organization said. The rapid spread of the disease through 19 of Yemen`s 23 governorates highlighted a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen after two years of civil war that has disabled most health care facilities, according to the U.N. humanitarian office. "To date, 101,820 suspected cholera cases and 789 deaths have been reported in 19 governorates," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. The WHO has warned that the number of cases could hit 300,000, but the daily number of new ones declined slightly in the week to June 5 to 3,432, compared with 3,651 in the previous seven-day period
Cry for Venezuela Not so long ago, Venezuela enjoyed a semblance of comfort, security and hope; The Globe and Mail’s Stephanie Nolen reports that it is now a shambles, the people suffering from inadequate health care, food shortages – and government that appears to be looking out for its own, sometimes brutally
Syrian polio outbreak hits global effort to eradicate virus A polio outbreak has been confirmed in an area of Syria partly held by Islamic State, the first re-emergence of the virus in Syria since 2014, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the World Health Organization said. The virus was confirmed in stools of two people who had started to become paralysed and those of a healthy child. The discovery is a fresh blow for hopes of eradicating the disease globally - a goal that was set for the year 2000 when the eradication initiative was launched in 1988, but which has been repeatedly pushed back, with billions of dollars spent on trying to snuff out the last remaining pockets of disease
Preparedness, surveillance and response
Syrian polio outbreak hits global effort to eradicate virus
A polio outbreak has been confirmed in an area of Syria partly held by Islamic State, the first re-emergence of the virus in Syria since 2014, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and the World Health Organization said. The virus was confirmed in stools of two people who had started to become paralysed and those of a healthy child. The discovery is a fresh blow for hopes of eradicating the disease globally - a goal that was set for the year 2000 when the eradication initiative was launched in 1988, but which has been repeatedly pushed back, with billions of dollars spent on trying to snuff out the last remaining pockets of disease
Polio outbreak in Syria poses vaccination dilemma for WHO
Vaccinating too few children in Syria against polio because the six-year-old war there makes it difficult to reach them risks causing more cases in the future, the World Health Organization said, posing a dilemma after a recent outbreak. Vaccinating even 50 percent of the estimated 90,000 children aged under 5 in the Mayadin area of Deir al-Zor would probably not be enough to stop the outbreak and might actually sow the seeds for the next outbreak, WHO`s Oliver Rosenbauer said. Immunisation rates need to be closer to 80 percent to have maximum effect and protect a population, he told a briefing
China H7N9 bird flu death toll rose to 37 in May: health authority
China reported 37 human deaths from H7N9 bird flu in May, the national health authority said, up from 24 in April. It also reported 72 cases of human infection from H7N9 bird flu during May, according to a statement posted on the website of the National Health and Family Planning Commission
Yemen cholera cases pass the 100,000 mark: WHO
The number of suspected cholera cases in war-torn Yemen has risen to more than 100,000 since an outbreak began on April 27, the World Health Organization said. The rapid spread of the disease through 19 of Yemen`s 23 governorates highlighted a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen after two years of civil war that has disabled most health care facilities, according to the U.N. humanitarian office. "To date, 101,820 suspected cholera cases and 789 deaths have been reported in 19 governorates," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said. The WHO has warned that the number of cases could hit 300,000, but the daily number of new ones declined slightly in the week to June 5 to 3,432, compared with 3,651 in the previous seven-day period
Singapore confirms two new Zika virus cases
Singapore confirmed two cases of locally transmitted infections of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, bringing the total number of reported cases in the city-state this year to eight. The National Environment Agency said it had begun inspections and spraying with insecticide in some parts of the city
Iran: Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever outbreak now at 33 cases
In a follow-up on the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) outbreak in Iran, health officials now put the outbreak at 33 cases. Officials with the Communicable Diseases Department with the Ministry of Health say the spread of the disease in the country is comparable with the same period last year. To date, three deaths have been reported, including a pregnant woman
South Africa suspends Zimbabwe chicken imports after bird flu outbreak
South Africa said it was suspending all trade in birds and chicken products from neighbouring Zimbabwe after it reported an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu at a commercial poultry farm
Spurt in suspected dengue cases in Karnataka
With a spurt in suspected dengue cases across the State, larvae surveillance, fogging and other precautionary measures have been stepped up in high-risk areas. As many as 11,000 suspected cases of dengue — of them, 550 tested positive — have been reported from 1,139 villages in 123 taluks since this January, according to the Department of Health and Family Welfare. As many as 9,596 suspected dengue cases were reported in the State till May 5
Chienge cholera combated
The Zambian ministry of health declared Chienge district in Luapula Province cholera free after containing the disease which broke out in February of this year. The district has not recorded any cholera cases in the last month and the figure still stands at 82 cases
WHO, UNICEF rushing to address cholera outbreak in Yemen
The World Health Organization and the United Nations Children`s Fund are taking forceful measures to address the cholera outbreak in Yemen, a UN spokesperson said. UNICEF, WHO, and their partners have reached nearly 3.5 million people across the country by disinfecting water tanker filling stations, chlorinating drinking water, restoring water treatment plants, rehabilitating water supply systems, and providing household water treatments and distributing hygiene kits, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric
Pressure on Sudan government as cholera advances on Khartoum
The Sudanese Doctors Union and the National Epidemiological Corporation have called on the government to declare a state of health emergency in the areas stricken by the cholera epidemic, and request the World Health Organisation to intervene and provide material and in-kind support to fight the spread of the disease. After first appearing in Blue Nile state 10 months ago, the disease that spread throughout the Nile has now also spread to Khartoum state, threatening the densely populated areas of the national capital, despite attempts by the Health Ministry to hide the facts and reduce the scale of the disaster
Outbreak of Typhoid in Kalingalinga due to poor hygiene – LWSC
The Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company claims that following the recent outbreak of typhoid in some parts of Kalingalinga Compound, which serves 40% of the water to Lusaka City, its investigations into the matter have revealed that the outbreak of the disease is due to the poor hygiene practices and the general environmental conditions of the areas and not the quality of water being supplied. The Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company says it is concerned with the situation in the area and has since started distributing chlorine at all water kiosks and communal taps as well as affected properties. The residents are up in arms against this claiming the fault lies not with them but on the government side
District in the grip of dengue fever
Ernakulam is in the grip of dengue fever as at least 25 to 30 cases are getting reported every day from various parts of the district. On Friday, 29 cases were reported taking the total number of cases this month to 203, and the number of cases from January to June 9 to 988. The spurt in diseases had started last month with intermittent pre-monsoon showers. Payipra had reported most number of dengue cases last month (335). “The number of cases has gone down there now,” said District Surveillance Officer Dr. Jayashree. In April, there were 156 cases. There is also an increase in the number of leptospirosis and acute diarrhoeal diseases. Hepatitis A and H1N1 cases are also being reported daily
Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China
On 19 May 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 17 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in China. Then, on 26 May 2017, it notified WHO of nine more laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. No case clustering has been reported so far. There were 12 more human cases reported from June 2 to June 8
Dengue second wave hits Thiruvananthapuram
A second wave of spiralling dengue cases has swept the capital taking the life of a woman. While District Health Officials confirm only three dengue deaths this year, nearly 10 fever-stricken patients have died of suspected dengue
Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis on the rise in city
Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) Tuberculosis is on the rise in Kolkata and its outskirts at an alarming rate, said doctors who joined a programme organised by Tuberculosis Health Action Learning Initiative (THALI). Statistics say that 2 percent more paediatric TB cases have been reported from the city than the national average. Malnourished children in Bengal are more vulnerable to TB than others. Around 34 percent of children are overweight which also contributes to the increasing number of victims. Dr Sushmita Roy Chowdhury, a lung expert, said that what is alarming is that more children are falling victim to the disease
More than 29,000 breeding sites in Ahmedabad: Survey over 10,000 malaria cases likely
At least 10,295 suspected cases of malaria and 29,402 mosquito-breeding sites were identified in Ahmedabad city during the 16-day-long anti-malaria drive that concluded on Friday. Out of the suspected malaria cases, 56 have been confirmed. Besides, two cases of falciparum malaria — a more lethal strain of malaria — and two cases of dengue have also been detected
Zika affects 5 percent of babies with confirmed infections: CDC
The first report on how the Zika virus affected US territories showed that 5 percent of women with confirmed infections had babies with birth defects, US health officials said. The report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first to include official numbers from the territory of Puerto Rico, which on Monday declared that its Zika epidemic had ended, based on data showing the number of new cases has fallen. The CDC reiterated its recommendation that pregnant women not travel to Puerto Rico, noting that Zika remains a risk for pregnant women there and anywhere else the mosquito-borne virus is active
MERS: Saudi Arabia reported 6 fatal cases, United Arab Emirates and Qatar report cases
According to a World Health Organization outbreak update, for the five weeks from April 21 through May 29, Saudi Arabia reported an additional 25 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection cases, including six fatalities. Twelve of the 25 reported cases during this time period were associated with three simultaneous, yet unrelated clusters of MERS cases in Bisha city, Riyadh city and Wadi Aldwaser city. In addition to the Saudi Arabia cases, two more cases were reported in the United Arab Emirates and one in Qatar
Santé: la grippe H1N1 fait une cinquième victime
A 33 year old woman is the fifth person to die of an H1N1 virus infection on Mauritius. Since January, there have been 97 confirmed cases of H1N1 infection, with 24 people currently being treated in hospitals and private clinics. Since May 30th, there have been 81 new cases of H1N1 infection reported
Red Cross fears disease outbreak in Marawi City
The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed apprehension of a disease outbreak in evacuation centers by prolonged displacement as a result of the ongoing fighting in Marawi City. The ICRC has observed an increase in the number of reported cases of diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, hypertension and fever in different health facilities providing medical assistance to the displaced residents, particularly those who are staying in evacuation centers. “The health situation is not yet critical at this point, but we fear that this may worsen in the coming days with prolonged displacement,” said Jose Amigo, Health Coordinator of the ICRC in the Philippines
Highly Contagious Dog Flu Spreading Through U.S.
Dog owners need to be aware that a new strain of dog flu has been making the rounds in the United States and seems to be spreading. A news report out of Georgia said that the flu was spread by out-of-state dogs at a dog show in May. The dog flu, according to veterinarians is said to be so contagious that if a dog sneezes 20 feet away from another pooch it can be passed on
Kelantan almost free from H5N1
Kelantan is close to being declared H5N1-free now that it has passed 72 days without any new cases of the bird flu, the Veterinary Services Department director-general, Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizamm said that if there were no cases after 90 days, the state can be declared free of the virus
Health systems
Japan government scraps proposals for drug-price cuts in policy guidelines
Japan has dropped proposals on price cuts for prescription drugs aimed at boosting the use of generic drugs, underscoring the government`s struggle to rein in bulging social security costs for a rapidly ageing nation, this step comes as Japan looks to boost the use of generics to 80 percent by September 2020 from about 56 percent now, thus saving the government hundreds of billions of yen every year. In an annual draft of policy guidelines that incorporated the change, the government floated the idea of lowering the prices of these prescription drugs to the levels of generic drugs. But the proposals were missing from the final version of the annual policy guidelines approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe`s cabinet
South Korea to fine Novartis unit over unfair drug promotions
South Korean antitrust regulator said it would fine Novartis and its local unit 500 million won ($444,089) for alleged unfair promotions, in another setback for the Swiss drug maker that was fined earlier this year over kickbacks to doctors. The Korea Fair Trade Commission added that it would file a complaint against the company with prosecutors. It said that Novartis Korea had spent 7.6 billion won to fund overseas trips by medical practitioners to attend academic conferences from 2011 to 2016. Novartis Korea selected recipients for the funding based on their prescription of the company`s drugs, or anticipated prescriptions of the drugs, the regulator said
Why African nations lack access to medicine despite rise in disease – Yakasai
The President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and chairman of Pharmaplus Nigeria Limited, Ahmed Yakasai, said Africa remains a fertile region for the growth of the pharmaceutical industry, and that despite the rise in non-communicable and infectious disease in Africa, the region lacks access to medicines. He said, "Overall, 37 countries have some pharmaceutical production, and only South Africa has limited primary production of active pharmaceutical ingredients and intermediates. Local production in Africa therefore relies on imported active ingredients. As a result, the sustainability of African pharmaceutical sector remains highly contingent on foreign funding and manufacturing”
Lower Drug Costs Still ‘Absolute Priority’ for Trump, Price Says
Tackling the high price of prescriptions drugs in the US is still “an absolute priority,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told senators, and one way to lower costs is to enable more generics to come to the market. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the agency is looking at how to push applications to the front of the line in cases where there are fewer than three competing generic manufacturers. The FDA is seeking to eliminate within a year the backlog of 2,640 generic-drug applications, Gottlieb said
With its increasing population, what is India`s great healthcare challenge?
India added 450 million people over the 25 years to 2016, a period during which the proportion of people living in poverty fell by half, and this period of rising prosperity has been marked by a "dual-disease burden", a continuing rise in communicable diseases and a spurt in non-communicable diseases, which accounted for half of all deaths in 2015, up from 42 per cent in 2001-03. The result of this disease burden on a growing and ageing population, economic development and increasing health awareness is a healthcare industry that has grown to $81.3 billion (Rs 54,086 lakh crore) in 2013 and is now projected to grow at 17 per cent by 2020, up from 11 per cent in 1990
The AI Doctor Orders More Tests
The public internet cloud kingpins are trying to lure health-care providers with artificially intelligent cloud services that can act like doctors. The companies are testing, and in some cases marketing, AI software that automates mundane tasks including data entry, consulting work like patient management and referrals, and even the diagnostic elements of highly skilled fields such as pathology. This is happening against a backdrop of hospitals and insurers collecting mountains of health data on individual Americans, most of their spending being on extra data storage for their own old-school systems on their own premises, according to researcher IDC
Supreme Court speeds copycat biologic drugs to market
The US Supreme Court has cut the time it will take for copycat versions of biologic drugs to get to the market in a pivotal ruling about an expensive class of medicines that can yield billions of dollars in sales for drug companies, the justices, in a 9-0 ruling, overturned a lower court decision that had prevented Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG from selling its copycat version of California-based Amgen Inc`s Neupogen until six months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it
Health stakeholders call for more HIV and AIDS commodities
Stakeholders at a workshop on HIV and AIDS have appealed to the government of Ghana to release counterparts funding for the procurements of materials and drugs for the care and treatment of HIV/AIDs patients in the Western Region. They said many of the commodities needed to test, treat and provide overall care for persons living with the disease as well as the control of new infections continue to lag behind and this may hamper the achievement of the “90-90-90” targets. The stakeholders made the call during a regional introductory project meeting on the “Support Advocacy on ARVS and AIDS Commodities Shortage in Ghana”
`Withdraw irrational fixed dose combinations from government scheme`
In a letter on Thursday, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (People’s Health Movement – India) said the scheme operated by India’s department of pharmaceuticals, which falls under the ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, has about 90 Fixed Dose Combinations (FDCs) that are unscientific. “Most of these medicines are combinations of vitamins and supplements or that of antibiotics, which have no pharmacological validation. Only about a dozen of the FDCs in this list can be scientifically justified and out of these only half a dozen have been from those which have been included in the National List of Essential Medicines. (NLEM-2015),” JSA informed the minister. The many doctors who are part of this nationwide group said irrational FDCs are a matter of grave concern and expose patients to the risk of adverse drug reactions
Our so-called `universal` healthcare: the well waste money and the poor get sicker
Amy Corderoy writes about health inequality in Australia, and points out that only two out of every 10 people with a condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can expect to make it to the average Australian life expectancy, she is also concerned about the difference between city and country, where the further out you go the more likely you are to die an avoidable death. And even if you don’t have an obvious risk factor such as a mental illness, there is one clear way of predicting your chances of living a longer or shorter life: your income. When researchers divide Australians into five income groupings, they find a steady increase in the rate of deaths as they move from the very richest to the very poorest
Expired and fake drugs seized in Bujumbura
The police discovered a large quantity of expired and fake drugs in the capital of Burundi on 8 June. The police seized the drugs from a private house on 3rd Avenue in Muramvya, Kinama. The drugs included suppositories, quinine and paracetamol amongst other things. The Health Ministry’s spokesman urges residents not to buy inappropriate drugs. “The health inspector will start an investigation to identify the suppliers and buyers of these drugs”, said a spokesperson
Only 10% Pakistanis donate blood voluntarily
Pakistan is among those low-income bracket countries that suffer from a lack of blood donors, despite 70 per cent of the population being under 29, only 10 per cent of blood comes from voluntary donors, while 90 per cent of the collection comes from unsafe families’ replacement donations. In order to highlight the issue, the Federal Government Polyclinic Blood Bank and Safe Blood Transfusion Programme (SBTP) organised a function to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day
Scarcity of safe, inexpensive blood fast-tracking deaths
Despite the establishment of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) – a national blood system designed to make blood affordable and adequately available at all times, millions across Nigeria still toil very hard to procure increasingly expensive blood. Nigeria needs about 1.8 million units of blood yearly to save people from dying during emergency medical care. This is a far cry from the 51,433 units provided by NBTS in 2016, according Dr. Toyin Smith. Blood obtained from other medical facilities, mainly through commercial blood donors and family replacement methods, were about 1.4 million units. This takes the total figure obtained from NBTS and other facilities to 1.5m units
Fake drugs kill more people than terrorism, study shows
Counterfeit medicines kill more than 100,000 people each year globally, a number greater than terrorism deaths, a survey by the Institute of Research against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM) shows, speaking at a workshop on combating counterfeiting and piracy in Mombasa, IRACM director of studies Wilfrid Roge said the majority of unsuspecting consumers fall prey because “it is very difficult to recognise the fakes.” “Sh7.5 trillion is lost annually because of fake drugs with firms in Africa making fake vaccines and veterinary products,” he said. Roge, however, said his firm is investing in the training of customs officers in the region to enable them to conduct proper risk analysis and prosecute culprits as a way of cutting the supply chain
In global health, modest cuts do major damage
Among the headline grabbers emanating from Washington these days, a dire threat is being ignored: the White House’s proposed budget cuts would derail efforts to end the biggest infectious disease killers of our time: AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Even modest cuts to global health would have real and immediate human consequences. In fact, just a $1 million reduction to the Global Fund is projected to translate to 1,330 fewer lives saved, 62,000 fewer bed nets distributed, 1,530 fewer people treated for TB, and 1,070 fewer people receiving lifesaving HIV treatment
South Africa learns from HIV/Aids crisis on working with charities
There are significant gaps in access to high quality healthcare on the ground in South Africa, and only a fraction of the population can afford private healthcare. In the late 1990s, as the gravity of the HIV crisis in South Africa came into focus, a coalition of charities worked together to demonstrate the desperate need for affordable anti-retroviral drugs, despite the then government’s infamous denial of Aids. Médecins Sans Frontières, along with South Africa-based Treatment Action Campaign and other local partners, helped quietly bring generic anti-HIV drugs into the country and treated patients at a government clinic in a Cape Town township where infection rates were soaring. After that coalition demonstrated affordable, life-saving HIV treatment was possible, and lobbied for several years, the government changed its policies. It now runs the largest HIV drug treatment programme in the world
Communicable diseases
Brazil scientists develop biosensor for cheap dengue diagnosis
Brazilian scientists have developed a biosensor that can quickly detect dengue and could help create a cheap tool to diagnose the painful mosquito-borne virus that infects millions each year and they are looking to produce a testing kit that would cost clinics and hospitals around $30 and take about 15 minutes to analyse blood samples for a key dengue protein, said Cleverton Luiz Pirich, a researcher at the Federal University of Paraná
Doctor`s call to `equally protect` boys with HPV vaccine
A doctor is calling for boys to receive a vaccine currently only given to girls to protect against cancer. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) jab is offered to teenage girls in the UK to protect against cervical cancer. A health committee was expected to meet later to review whether boys should also get the jab, which can protect against throat and penile cancers. Dr Kirsty Bonney, from Devon, paid privately for her sons to be immunised. She made the decision after working on a chemotherapy unit, where she looked after two young men with HPV-related throat cancers
Pharmacists win big in HIV self-testing drive
The Government has partnered with pharmacists to drive the recently launched HIV self-testing programme and administering preventive drugs to people at high risk. The move is a major win for the more than 4,000 pharmacists registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) whose operations will be the primary healthcare centres to support the efforts to fight HIV/Aids. Heavy backing from the programme is expected to drive constant traffic of customers to pharmacies, thus boosting their businesses
Liberação de mosquitos transgênicos contra dengue e zika avança no país
After the success in Piracicaba (São Paulo) with its transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, Oxitec is likely to release them to fly higher and further, perhaps even in other Brazilian states. Some of the potential cities that could receive the modified mosquito include Juiz de Fora (Minas Gerais) and Búzios (Río Janeiro)
Anti-vaxxers don’t just put their own kids at risk, they imperil all
Mullumbimby has the lowest vaccination rates in Australia: the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has revealed the hippie hotspot has a vaccination rate of just 52 per cent, lower than any Third World country and shockingly far below the 95pc needed for herd immunity. That is why the town, and the schools, are awash with whooping cough. The one in two parents who do vaccinate their kids also end up with sick kids because the vaccine is not 100 per cent effective — it relies on herd immunity. That’s why the region has nine times the rate of whooping cough of nearby Primary Health Networks
Over 600 new HIV patients detected in a year
As many as 644 new patients, including 19 pregnant women, were detected as HIV positive in Aurangbad district over the last year, to date, a total of 70,250 individuals were screened for HIV between April 2016 and March this year, of which 625 were found positive. Another 19 pregnant women tested positive for HIV of the 72,805 checked during the same period. With this, the total number of registered HIV positive patients in Aurangabad district is now 15,977. Of these, about 4,889 have been taking regular medication at state-run Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) centres
NIAID scientists discover rare genetic susceptibility to common cold
Scientists have identified a rare genetic mutation that results in a markedly increased susceptibility to infection by human rhinoviruses (HRVs) — the main causes of the common cold. Colds contribute to more than 18 billion upper respiratory infections worldwide each year, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. Now that scientists have better understood the pathway to infection it ought to become quickly possible to investigate more targeted ways to intervene with better treatment
Flu killing 500 Kiwis each year, Otago University study says
The flu is killing about 500 New Zealanders each year - and men, Maori, Pacific Islanders and those living in poverty are at greatest risk of premature death from it. That`s according to new research from Otago University scientists who say the flu is likely New Zealand`s single biggest infectious disease killer, accounting for about 1.8 per cent of deaths in the country. A new study has, for the first time in any country, estimated the distribution of flu deaths in relation to ethnicity and social deprivation, as well as gender and age group. It found that, in the key 65-79 year age group, Maori were 3.6 times more likely to die of influenza than those of European or other ethnicity, while Pacific people were 2.4 times more likely to die during a typical flu season
Non communicable diseases
`Tumor agnostic` cancer drugs seen boosting wider genetic tests
New cancer drugs that target genetic mutations regardless of where the tumour is growing should expand the practice of testing patients for such glitches, oncology experts say. Such "tumour-agnostic" drugs from companies including Merck & Co and Loxo Oncology may help overcome misgivings by health insurers, who have balked at covering large-scale tests looking for genetic mutations in tumours, and quell concerns of some top cancer doctors who question whether enough patients benefit from such tests. Last month, Merck`s immunotherapy Keytruda became the first cancer treatment ever to win U.S. approval based on whether the tumour carried a specific genetic glitch, irrespective of the tumour`s location. More recently, Loxo showed that its drug larotrectinib helped shrink tumours in 76 percent of patients with a wide variety of advanced cancers who carried a specific genetic defect
U.S. asks drug maker Endo to withdraw opioid amid abuse crisis
As the United States battles a growing opioid abuse crisis, the Food and Drug Administration asked Endo International Plc to withdraw from the market its long-lasting opioid painkiller, Opana ER. The move marks the first time the agency has called for the removal of an opioid painkiller for public health reasons and comes after a panel of advisers concluded in March that the drug`s benefits did not outweigh the risks. "We are facing an opioid epidemic - a public health crisis, and we must take all necessary steps to reduce the scope of opioid misuse and abuse," Scott Gottlieb, the FDA`s newly appointed commissioner said
More than 2 billion people are overweight or obese, global study reveals
Globally, more than 2 billion children and adults suffer from health problems related to being overweight or obese, and an increasing percentage of people die from these health conditions, according to a new study. The study, which spans 195 countries and territories from 1980 through 2015, was released at the annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum, which aims to create a healthier, more sustainable food system. It is based on data from the most recent Global Burden of Disease study (GBD), a systematic, scientific effort to quantify the magnitude of health loss from all major diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex, and population
Novo Nordisk reveals results from real-world study of Tresiba drug
Danish diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk presented its findings from the real-world study EU-TREAT at the American Diabetes Association`s 77th Scientific Sessions. "Switching to Tresiba provides significant reductions in blood glucose and lower rates of hypoglycaemia in a real-world settings," Novo Nordisk said. People with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes experienced a significant reduction in HbA1c, a measure of long-term blood glucose levels, six months after switching to Tresiba from another basal insulin, primarily rival Sanofi`s Lantus (insulin glargine), and its own insulin Levemir (insulin detemir), in a real-world setting
Black and Hispanic patients less likely to see neurologists
Black and Hispanic patients with neurologic disorders are less likely to see brain specialists than white people with these conditions, a recent US study suggests. Researchers examined data on more than 279,000 patients, including nearly 17,000 who reported having neurological disorders, like epilepsy, Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis or other conditions like headaches or cerebrovascular disease. They found that black patients were 28 percent less likely to see neurologists for outpatient care than white patients. Hispanic patients were 39 percent less likely to see neurologists
IBD patients living far from specialists may not get needed care
The further away inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients live from specialist doctors, the more likely they are to need IBD-related surgery or drug therapy to manage their disease, a small study suggests. Because people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis require specialized care, having to travel long distances to get it may lead to worse outcomes, the study team writes in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Lower-income U.S. adults haven`t seen heart health gains
Heart health in the US has generally improved since the start of the 21st century, but not for adults living in poverty, a new study suggests. Between 1999 and 2014, high-income people had decreases in rates of high blood pressure, smoking and high risk for heart disease. The same wasn`t true for low-income people, however. The data shows that primary care and prevention is important for people with low incomes, researchers added
Novartis’s Next Challenge: Pricing Breakthrough Cancer Treatment
Novartis, set to beat Kite Pharma to the finish line in one of the most promising new areas of cancer research, is examining how to price a revolutionary therapy patients will need to take just once. The two therapies are vying to become the first blockbusters in an emerging field known as CAR-T, in which a patient’s immune cells are extracted and genetically modified to hunt and kill cancer before being returned to the body. Novartis may link the price of its treatment to results in each patient, according to global head of drug development Vas Narasimhan. It’s also using stem cell transplants -- which cost as much as $800,000 apiece -- as a yardstick
OPPI to develop integrated disease management process
Speaking at the OPPI Sixth Healthcare Access Summit, Shailesh Ayyangar, President of OPPI and Managing Director of Sanofi India, said, “Collaborating with the government and other stakeholders at national, state and local levels, the summit endeavours to develop and expand an integrated disease management process broadly engaging with affected communities in the fight against non-communicable diseases.” “The good news is that we have therapies that can combat the non-communicable diseases and help patients live a full and normal life by strengthening patient self-management education; community-based supportive services and broad-based community mobilization,” said Ayyangar – this is needed given the scale of the issue and the rising costs of NCDs to the Indian healthcare system
Chandigarh: Health department seeks central funds to screen patients
The Chandigarh health department, which has set up non-communicable disease (NCD) clinics at four major hospitals in the city, has asked for funds from the Union Ministry of Health to start screening patients aged 30 years and above under the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS). “We have sought Rs 14 lakh to run the programme properly,” said a senior health official, adding that the department hoped to get funds for the programme soon
Health Canada considers sweeping ban on junk food ads aimed at children and teens
Health Canada is considering a widespread ban on the marketing of unhealthy food to kids under the age of 17. It could cover everything from TV, online and print advertising to product labelling, in-store displays and even end some sponsorships for sports teams. The federal government announced the first step by launching public consultations on how foods are marketed to kids in Canada. "A predilection to choosing foods high in sugar, salt, and fat as teenagers, can result in poor food choices for the rest of their lives," said Senator Greene Raine. "It`s recognized as one of the precursors to becoming overweight and obese, leading to all kinds of other chronic diseases"
India’s improving economy driving diabetes rise among urban poor
Diabetes in India is undergoing a demographic transformation, shifting from largely afflicting the affluent to increasingly burdening the poor and middle income population. According to a new study, this metabolic disorder is increasingly affecting the urban poor in part due to the improving economy. On average, the study found that diabetes was twice as common in urban areas as rural – 11.2 percent and 5.2 percent respectively. And although the disease was still more common, for the most part, in wealthier populations, it was actually higher among the urban poor in seven of the more economically advanced states
How low to push blood sugar, and how to do it?
Growing evidence suggests that the method by which blood sugar is lowered may make a big difference in heart risk. That has raised a medical dilemma affecting tens of millions of people with type 2 diabetes — and for the doctors who treat them. At identical A1C levels, some drugs lowered risk, some did not change it — and some actually increased the chances of heart disease. Older and much cheaper diabetes medications, like metformin, have not been subjected to such tests, although they do have long and well established safety records. But whether they actually prevent heart problems is unknown
Promoting health through the life course
Delaware is first U.S. state to enact abortion rights law under Trump
Delaware`s governor has signed into law a bill ensuring abortion remains legal in the state, the first such move in the United States since President Donald Trump was elected on a pledge to overturn a landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationally. A spokesman for Democratic Governor John Carney Jr. said he supported the rights and protections afforded under Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting a woman`s right to abortion. "For that reason, he signed the bill into law," said the spokesman, Jonathan Starkey, noting that the law takes effect immediately
Deadly heatwaves surge in India, with worse ahead, researchers say
Increasingly scorching summer heat in India is leading to a big jump in heatwave deaths – and much worse is likely on the way, researchers said. A modest 0.5 degree Celsius rise in average temperatures in India over the last 50 years has led to a nearly 150 percent hike in heatwaves that kill at least 100 people, said researchers at the University of California in Irvine. But with India now on a path to between 2.2 and 5.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise by the end of the century, the rate of heatwave deaths in India – and other Asian nations – could soar
Deadly protests in India highlight despair of poor landless farmers
The killing of five farmers in clashes with police in central India exposes the plight of landless peasants struggling to pay back debt with meagre earnings from lower produce prices, activists say. Low prices for produce such as lentils and cereals amid a glut in supply have triggered protests by farmers in central Madhya Pradesh state and neighbouring Maharashtra, where officials have said they will waive loans of some defaulting farmers. But the waivers will only benefit farmers who own land and do not address the main reasons for farmers` distress including landlessness and the small size of holdings, said Kishor Tiwari, head of a committee set up by the Maharashtra government to address farmers` issues
Ethiopia, humanitarian groups say food aid for 7.8 mln to run out
Ethiopia will run out of emergency food aid for nearly 8 million people hit by severe drought by the end of this month, the government and humanitarian groups said. In Ethiopia, the number of people now critically short of food is expected to rise by at least two million by next month, according to figures compiled by the government and its humanitarian partners
China`s $10 billion strategic project in Myanmar sparks local ire
Myanmar`s Kyauk Pyu port is key to China`s "Belt and Road" plans as an entry point for the pipeline that gives China an alternative route for Middle East oil and is part of the nearly $10 billion Kyauk Pyu Special Economic Zone, a scheme at the heart of fast-warming Myanmar-China relations and whose success is crucial for Aung San Suu Kyi. Internal documents show up to 20,000 people may be relocated. Although the Chinese developer claims the project will create 100,000 new jobs, few of the villagers suffering from relocation have been able to land work on this project. Suspicion of China runs deep in Myanmar, and public hostility due to environmental and other concerns has delayed or derailed Chinese mega-projects in the country in the past
Nigerian shelter shrugs off attacks to save girls from marriage and street work
The Thomson Reuters Foundation News looks at the Yola, Nigeria Charity Centre for Women and Adolescent Empowerment that has been repeatedly attacked for offering help to thousands of girls and women. The Centre also supports parents, giving them money so they can send their daughters to school rather than making them sell wares on the streets or marrying them off in the predominantly Muslim city. UNICEF data says at least four in ten girls in Nigeria are married before they turn 18, while almost a fifth are wed before fifteen
Even low arsenic levels in water tied to small, preterm babies
Low levels of arsenic naturally found in drinking water in many US states are associated with an increased risk of premature and underweight babies, a study in Ohio suggests. In counties where less than 10 percent of the population used private wells, arsenic in public drinking water was associated with 14 percent higher odds of very low birth weight babies and 10 percent higher odds of premature deliveries, researchers report in Environmental Research. The study found negative birth outcomes even when women lived in counties where tap water might expose them to arsenic levels below 10 micrograms per litre (10 ug/L), the maximum amount considered safe by the EPA
`Wombs for rent` business flourishes in communist Laos
Dozens of fertility clinics have mushroomed in land-locked Laos after scandals over commercial surrogacy have spurred wealthier southeast Asian neighbours to ban the controversial procedure since 2015. Rights groups say communist Laos, one of Asia`s poorest countries, is a linchpin of transnational crime, and a transit centre for contraband from drugs and wildlife to timber - and recently, semen. Paid surrogacy is illegal in much of Asia, having been forbidden in neighbouring Thailand in 2015, after a series of high-profile cases, with Cambodia following suit last year. Despite the bans, would-be parents are drawn by Asia`s lower costs, as compared to wealthier countries
Do antidepressants in pregnancy raise kids’ ADHD risk?
Women with depression may be more likely than other mothers to have children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) even if they don’t take antidepressants during pregnancy, a recent study suggests. The results indicate that at least part of the link previously seen between kids’ exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and their risk of developing ADHD may be explained by “family factors” such as maternal depression, rather than the drugs themselves, the study authors write in The BMJ
Plastic to outweigh fish in the sea if waste keeps flowing
Internationally, significant efforts are being made to remove plastic from the world`s water bodies: one example is "The Ocean Cleanup", a Dutch foundation formed after a speech by a concerned Dutch teenager went viral online. It aims to clear over half of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", an area between Hawaii and California where ocean currents have concentrated plastic debris. Last month, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Prince of Wales` International Sustainability Unit launched a $2-million prize to come up with new ways to design packaging to help keep plastics out of the ocean
Why Safe Drinking Water Should Be At The Centre Of Public Health Policy In India
India, with the second largest population in the world, is staring at a major health hazard due to poor drinking water and hygiene facilities. According to a report by Water Aid (2016), India has the highest number of people in the world without access to safe drinking water. The delinking of safe drinking water from public health policy, thus, has led to the state`s failed response in making potable water available for all
The weaker sex? Science that shows women are stronger than men
When it comes to longevity, surviving illness and coping with trauma, one gender comes out on top – women. The Guardian profiles scientists working on studies to find out
Aid groups seek to turn on funding tap to douse drought crises
The Start Network, funded by the British, Dutch and Irish governments, is putting together a new financing facility to enable a faster and more coordinated response to droughts, and plans to test its model in Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The "drought financing facility" aims to combine contingency funds, insurance and new modelling technology to shift humanitarian response from reaction to anticipation, a spokeswoman said. "This will save more lives, livelihoods and assets, and significantly reduce costs”
Sustainable Development Goals for environment and health are within Europe’s reach, but we need to act better
Each year, nearly one and a half million Europeans die prematurely from polluted environments; that is at least 15% of total deaths in Europe. Countries have to strategically streamline beneficial environment and health policies across their SDG priorities. This means investing in health promoting and smart, green urban planning and sustainable transport systems, including public transportation, cycling lanes, pedestrian zones and green spaces. It also means developing new and adopting latest technologies, for example, in energy generation, water reuse, waste management, elimination of informal waste collection and reducing the environmental footprint of the health sector
Cry for Venezuela
Not so long ago, Venezuela enjoyed a semblance of comfort, security and hope; The Globe and Mail’s Stephanie Nolen reports that it is now a shambles, the people suffering from inadequate health care, food shortages – and government that appears to be looking out for its own, sometimes brutally