India’s Supreme Court Paves the Way for Cheaper Pharmaceuticals

India continues to pave the way for providing cheaper generic drugs for its citizens compared to other nations which have a heavy patent system. Previously India has produced drugs for 97% less than ‘normal’ costs as well as committing to the development of generic drugs. Looking out for their citizen’s wellbeing has got them in trouble with a Swiss pharmaceutical company though.

The company took the government to court and after seven years of legal battles the court sided with the government’s goal of providing affordable health care.

Healthcare activists have called on the government to make medicines cheaper in a country where many patented drugs are too costly for most people, 40 percent of whom earn less than $1.25 a day, and where patented drugs account for under 10 percent of total drug sales.

“This appears to be the best outcome for patients in developing countries as fewer patents will be granted on existing medicines,” said Leena Menghaney, Medecins Sans Frontieres’ Access Campaign manager for India.

Over 16,000 patients in India use Glivec, the vast majority of whom receive it free of charge, Novartis says. By contrast, generic Glivec is used by more than 300,000 patients, according to industry reports.

“It’s a victory for patients who take these medicines and also for the government,” said M. Adinarayana, company secretary at Natco Pharma.

Read more here.

Will the 9/11 First Responders Law Do the Job?

This is a guest post written by Barbara O’Brien.

In the final days of the 111th Congress, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Act, also called the “9/11 First Responders bill,” finally passed. The Act will provide medical monitoring and care for those who worked on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks, as well as for many who lived and worked nearby.

However, at the insistence of some senators, the final bill was considerably watered down from what it had been originally. More than $3 billion in funding was cut from s previous version of the bill, for example. Will the revised bill still do the job?

When the Senate passed the bill, initial news reports said that the monitoring and health care program would end after five years. However, the actual language of the bill provides for funding limitations for monitoring and health care after fiscal year 2016, which suggests the program might continue if Congress authorizes funding for it.

The monitoring issue is particularly critical. The collapse of the mammoth World Trade Center towers released thousands of tons of toxic particles into the air. For many weeks after the attacks, people who lived and worked in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn suffered burning eyes and hacking coughs from the foul air. Yet at the time, the federal government and the city of New York assured people the stinging fumes were not dangerous, just unpleasant.

Several days after the terrorist attacks, some independent researchers slipped past the police barricades to take samples. They found the air contained more than twice the number of asbestos fibers considered “safe,” as well as deadly levels of benzene, dioxin, and other toxins.

Why should people exposed to the toxins continue to be monitored? Asbestos in particular is a very slow killer. It has been well documented that the first symptoms of the deadly lung cancer mesothelioma may not show up for 20 to 50 years after exposure to asbestos. But early detection should prolong lives and make mesothelioma treatment and other medical care more effective.

The final bill does close the Victims Compensation Fund in five years, which is separate from the health monitoring and care part of the bill. It also provides for more stringent monitoring of benefits, which might make it harder for people to get into the program.

Today — more than nine years after the attacks — many rescue and recovery workers are suffering deteriorating health. A study published in April 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that New York City firefighters and emergency workers continue to suffer from severe and persistent lung problems because of their exposure to the World Trade Center debris. Some of these 9/11 heroes already have died.

Firefighters, police officers, and other responders who had been begging Congress for help for nine years called the passage of the bill a “Christmas miracle.” Let us hope the final version of the bill will do the job.

This is a guest post written by Barbara O’Brien.

Malawi Handing Out Free Drugs

The African country of Malawi is expanding a successful program that gave out free drugs to fight AIDs. The country is founding a new company to make the drugs for their people and to export drugs to their neighbours.

“Some 250,000 Malawians are receiving ARVs. We are doing well because many of these could have died by now,” Mutharika said at an AIDS candlelight memorial on the outskirts of the commercial capital Blantyre.

Describing the drugs roll-out as a “success story”, Mutharika said Malawi would establish a local company to “produce ARVs locally and export extra drugs to neighbouring countries”.

Talking on the Phone is Healthy

A recent study that set out to lower the risk of heart disease and strokes in people predisposed to have them by talking to them over the phone. The patients received health “report cards” letting them know how they’re doing. Based on the report cards a kinesiologist would talk to the patient about their health. The results appear to be positive!

Andrew Lister, one of the study’s authors and chair of the gerontology department at Simon Fraser University, said the study was also meant to act a model for a community-based health-care program that could be implemented at a fairly low cost to lower a population’s heart and stroke risks.

The intervention consisted of a health report card that was sent to the participants and their family doctors. This included a profile of risks such as high cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, diabetes and smoking status. Physical activity, body mass index, waist circumference, nutrition status, stress level and health confidence were also factored in.

The other component of the intervention was a telephone discussion between a lifestyle counsellor — trained as a kinesiologist and well-versed in cardiovascular disease prevention — and the participants. Two kinesiologists performed all 611 interventions.

“Two people did it all, one full-time and one part-time,” Lister told on Friday. “You could reach a lot of people if you were doing this on a continual basis.”

Proper Back Stabbing Healthy

A recent study has looked at the effect of acupuncture treatments compared to more “conventional” treatments for lower back pain and have concluded that acupuncture is better. The German researchers split participants into many different groups receiving differnt kinds of treatment and those who received acupuncture got better results.

“The superiority of both forms of acupuncture suggests a common underlying mechanism that may act on pain generation, transmission of pain signals or processing of pain signals by the central nervous system and that is stronger than the action mechanism of conventional therapy,” the authors conclude.

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