June 19, 2007

Punjab wants ban on advertisements by doctors

Taking serious note of doctors using advertisements to lure patients to their clinics and hospitals, the Punjab government Monday asked the state's medical council to take steps to ban such advertisements.

Punjab's medical education and research minister Tikshan Sood said here that advertisements given by medical practitioners were not only unethical but also a violation of the Medical Council Act.

"The prime object of the medical profession is to serve humanity. A number of cases came to our notice that some doctors were issuing advertisements to lure patients and also exploiting them in connivance with some local laboratories to get huge commissions for prescribing certain tests," the minister said.

He directed the Punjab Medical Council and medical education and research department to take strong action against such cases and advised the council to cancel the registration of doctors indulging in such malpractices.

Sood asked councils of different schools of medicine to register their respective practitioners again so that it was clearly known how many genuine doctors were practising.

This step will also help to know about the unemployed doctors, he said.

June 14, 2007

Independent post-graduate medical board recommended

A high-level committee, set up by the Centre, has recommended a Postgraduate Medical Education Board for higher education in medicine.

The committee of academicians and scientists was set up after the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, co-chaired by the finance and health ministers, suggested that standards of higher medical education needed to be raised and monitored.

Currently, the Medical Council of India (MCI) and National Board of Examination (NBE) award postgraduate degrees in medicine and surgery. But both bodies are often in conflict since both follow different rules for PG admission. The MCI holds its PG courses in medical colleges while the NBE’s PG degree courses are in recognised hospitals.

The committee, headed by Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhury, former chairman of the National Sub Commission in Macroeconomics and Health, has recommended that only one PG degree be awarded by a Centre-financed autonomous body, set up by an Act of Parliament. “Today, the standard of doctors acquiring post-graduate degrees varies from college to college, state to state and university to university,” Dr Chaudhury told HT.

There are two types of PG medical degrees — MD and MS — awarded by medical colleges and diplomas awarded by the National Board of Examination.

“The confusion results in our PG degrees not getting the credibility they deserve, putting our doctors at a disadvantage as they compete with doctors from countries with a single degree,” said Dr Chaudhury, who is also the National Professor of Parmacology National Academy of Medical Sciences.

The new Board — the Postgraduate (PG) Medical Education Board — would regulate all PG medical examinations across the country. “At a time when India is becoming the centre of international healthcare, a single independent body overseeing all PG medical education becomes imperative.

It should hold the same examination at recognised centres and monitor training of future doctors on a semester basis,” said Roy Chaudhury. The degree awarded should be called Diplomate (Approved) of the Postgraduate Medical Board of India, he added. He said it was imperative the Board was run by academicians, not politicians.

June 13, 2007

Technophile MD builds doctors-only Web site: relaxdoc.com

A cancer specialist has launched a MySpace-styled Web site where doctors can commiserate, swap treatment ideas or buy and sell medical equipment.

Think of it as Dr Myo Thant's physician-only prescription for burnout and exhaustion.

"The computer has been almost like a stress reliever for me," said Thant, 59.

He launched RelaxDoc.com early last month to give busy doctors an online home where they can decompress while socializing with peers, reading news, blogging or planning vacations.

"We help doctors find that elusive balance between work and life after work," said the Baltimore oncologist.

With the site, Thant is giving his peers a dose of his own medicine.

Early in his nearly three-decade career, Thant got a computer programming degree to help blow off steam. That led to designing the "Life and Death" and "Virtual Surgeon" video games, which are among the first titles to put players in doctors' shoes.

"RelaxDoc.com is like MySpace meets Craigslist," Thant said, referring to the popular teen hang-out site and the Web site Craigslist.org, where people buy and sell and find jobs and relationships.

RelaxDoc.com is exclusively for doctors, who pay no fees to use the site. It also provides free online access to medical databases DynaMed and MedLinePlus.

Thant is funding the project out of pocket and said he plans to eventually add advertising to cover the cost. His main goal is to keep doctors from leaving much-needed specialties like oncology, which are facing dire shortages in the coming years.

Ophthalmologist Amy Zimmerman is a fan of Web auction site eBay Inc., where dealers are selling most of the work-related items she needs, and was initially intrigued by RelaxDoc's classified ads.

"It would be great to eliminate the middle man," she said.

She unexpectedly got hooked by the site's blogs -- and for the first time added her voice to an online discussion.

"You feel like you're not going to get lambasted by a bunch of patients," said Zimmerman.

Dr. Delia Chiaramonte left the stress and hectic pace of a medical practice to found Insight Medical Consultants, where she now spends time reviewing the histories of very ill patients and helps them get treatment.

"I love the idea of a community of physicians," she said. "Physicians are very isolated. Someone is acknowledging that physicians have needs."

She also sees a potential public health benefit to getting thousands of doctors from around the country talking: "I think it's a great alert system."

Beyond that, though, Chiaramonte is just impressed that Thant actually launched the site, which targets an obvious need.

"They're not early adopters, doctors," she said. "He actually did something."

June 12, 2007

Kolkata homoeopaths offer medicines for US lunar mission

A father-son homoeopath duo from Kolkata impressed Western scientists with their paper on homoeopathic medicines for health problems during lunar missions by the US.

Prasanta and Pratip Banerji were the only medical practitioners from India invited to present their paper at a symposium on lunar settlements organised by Rutgers University, New Jersey, earlier this week.

Their paper was on "Possible Use of Ultra-diluted Medicines for Health Problems during Lunar Missions".

"The presentation got tremendous response," Prasanta Banerji told IANS from New Jersey.

The other speakers at the seminar were Harrison H. Schmitt, a lunar model pilot on Apollo 17, and astronomer David H. Levy.

The Rutgers Symposium on Lunar Settlements was organised as a preparatory effort for provision of life support systems for the proposed Malapert Base (on the moon). The base is expected to become habitable by 2025 under the lunar colonisation programme of the US space agency NASA.

The paper presented by Prasanta and Pratip Banerji was based on the fact that the moon has no magnetic field and hence problems of dispersion, solubility, absorption, availability at tissue level, metabolism and excretion of drugs, including recycling problems and disposal, do exist.

"Thus, in such a state, the use of conventional medicines has its limitations. An alternative to conventional medicines will be ultra-diluted medicines that may help solve the problems," said Prasanta Banerji.

Ultra-diluted medicines have the capability to act through nerve terminals when placed on our tongue to execute beneficial roles in our body.

"Ultra-diluted medicines are also non-toxic, with extended shelf-life, non-addictive, with negligible weight and volume, low-cost, and easily administrable," he added.

Malapert Base on the moon is being designed to house a revolving population of 300 people or more and to last for a minimum of 250 years. One third of the population will expectedly be made up of lunar tourists and long-term Malapert residents.

Chikungunya outbreak in Kerala, Defence medical teams step in

Efforts to contain the outbreak of viral fever in Kerala intensified with Defence medical teams stepping in to help the state health authorities and medicines and preventive kits being flown in to the state from the Army Depot in Mumbai.

Medical teams of the Army and Navy, comprising doctors and paramedical staff, plunged into action in the worst-hit districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam and Idukki helping the state medical personnel in launching vector-control and sanitation measures.

According to a Defence spokesman, one team each from the Pangode Military Station here were already doing service in Pathanamthitta and Amburi in Thiruvananthapuram and two Naval teams from Kochi had reached Kottayam and Idukki districts.

A special IAF flight carrying medicines and vector-control kits from the Army Depot in Mumbai has reached here and the supplies would be moved to the affected areas immediately.

Army teams from Secundrabad and Chennai would arrive at the affected areas by today. Also a central team led by Director General of Health Services is expected to arrive here this evening to assess the situation and decide on the support to the state to tackle the situation.

While the number of deaths in the state due to different types of fever including Chikungunya was officially put at 40, media reports from across the state said the actual figure could have crossed 50.

June 08, 2007

Manipal Group to license out its medical e-learning programme

The Manipal Education Group, a private firm which manages 53 institutions, including the Manipal Academy of Higher Education and the Sikkim Manipal University of Health, Medical and Technological Sciences, is planning to license out its e-learning programme to other medical institutes for a fee.
The group has invested $2 million (Rs8.2 crore) in creating an e-learning programme to supplement classroom training for its Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) students over the last two years in order to keep up with global standards of medical education, according to B.N. Manohar, chief executive, education services, Manipal Education Group.
“We are in talks with several medical institutes in India, as well as with Peradeniya University in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and University of China, Hong Kong,” said Manohar.
Overall, Manipal expects to rope in about eight medical colleges in India and three universities abroad over the next 12 months. One college would have about 200 students on an average, he added. The overseas universities could not be reached for comment.
Also, there would be an additional fee charged for institutions outside of India, since the content would have to be modified to suit their curriculum, although much of it would remain the same.
Edutech, an e-learning company, which has devised the software that helps convert medical content online for Manipal, would implement the system. The “Blackboard Learning System” allows the lecturer to apply his own content, as well as give assignments and students can in turn submit assignments through it.
“We haven’t decided anything yet, but we are thinking along the lines of charging $200 per student per year,” said Venkatesh L.S., general manager of Edutech, that holds the licence for the Blackboard Learning System.
“The system also helps counter the difficulties of retaining quality instructors in the field of medicine, by providing quality content to its students,” added Venkatesh.
Currently, the first two years of the MBBS course material—which includes eight modules such as anatomy and physiology—at Manipal has been made available online to students, and the next two years is being converted. “We expect the conversion of the third year content to be completed by January 2008,” said Manohar.
The institution worked with several vendors, including Edutech, for content management and currently there are about 800 hours of content for the first year alone.
Then Edutech worked exclusively on the deployment of the content, using the Blackboard Learning System.
The system allows schools to not just put the content up on a central server, but also track and assign courses based on each individual student’s requirements, said Venkatesh. It also helps to restrict and regulate accesses to the content, and allows instructors to monitor the students’ usage.
“It’s a good commercial model, and we are looking at significant profit—but the one issue we have to watch out for, is to ensure that faculty members of the institutions do not feel threatened that e-learning will ever replace them,” said Manohar. “Nothing can beat classroom training, after all!”

June 05, 2007

Delhi, Hyderabad to get public health schools

With the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) expecting its two public health schools to be up and running by the middle of 2008, India can look forward to a partial solution to a problem that prevents it from improving the quality and reach of public health-care. The country has around 700,000 doctors and 800,000 nurses, but it has few public health experts who can draft and implement large-scale health-care strategies.
The foundation, a public-private initiative in whose conceptualization consulting firm McKinsey & Co. played a part, was created last year. PHFI is now ready to set up two schools of public health at Hyderabad and in the national capital region (NCR) of Delhi, according to K. Srinath Reddy, president of the foundation. Each of the schools, he added, would require an investment of Rs120-140 crore.
PHFI currently has a corpus of Rs220 crore, with donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Deshpande Foundation, Rohini Nilekani’s Akshara Foundation, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, a few other companies and the ministry of health and family welfare.
“These schools will have an India focus, but draw on the expertise of world-class public health institutions such as the Harvard School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,” said Harpal Singh, member of the governing board of PHFI and chairman of Fortis Healthcare Ltd.
In an earlier report on the Indian health-care sector, McKinsey had said that the country’s existing health-care institutions produce only about 375 public health professionals a year. In contrast, two schools, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School, produce nearly 200 public-health specialists each annually.
The Andhra Pradesh government has already allocated 43 acres of land for the school and provided Rs30 crore for the initiative, with private firms from the state contributing another Rs30 crore.
The foundation will invest Rs60 crore for the Andhra Pradesh school. The investment plan includes a Rs40 crore fund to run the school till it becomes self-sustaining.
Land has also been allocated for the school in NCR, but the proposal has to be cleared by the Delhi government, said Reddy.
While Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi will be the first states to have such schools, other states have evinced interest in setting them up with the help of PHFI, added Reddy. “State governments of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have approached us to set up schools in these states.”
India’s population faces health risks associated with three major lifestyle diseases —heart disease, stroke and diabetes—which could erode the country’s national income by up to $200 billion (Rs8.2 trillion) by 2015, according to a recent study by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
According to Reddy, in 2000, India lost 9.2 million potentially productive years due to premature cardiovascular disease. By 2030, the country will lose 18 million productive years, he added. “The country cannot afford such large-scale haemorrhaging of its productive manpower,” he added.
PHFI has tied up with the US-based Association of School of Public Health, a consortium of European public health schools and public health schools in Australia. In addition, it has also entered into partnerships with schools in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China and Bangladesh.
“The schools will have a curriculum developed by experts in India, relevant to India, but will also draw on the expertise of the best schools in this sphere across the world,” said Reddy.
The schools will offer two-year post-graduate programmes and one-year diplomas in public health.

June 03, 2007

Mental Health :: WHO for community mental health services

"Not only are community health services more accessible to people living with severe mental disabilities, these are also more effective in taking care of their needs compared to mental hospitals," said Benedetto Saraceno, World Health Organisation's Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

"Community mental health services are also likely to have less possibilities for neglect and violations of human rights, which are too often encountered in mental hospitals," he said.

The call for community mental health services came during WHO's Global Forum for Community Mental Health, which concluded in Geneva yesterday and which, for the first time, included participation of people with mental disorders.

In addition to the nearly 54 million people suffering from severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar affective disorder, WHO estimates that 154 million suffer from depression.

"This topic should matter to everyone, because far too many people with mental disorders do not receive any care," said Catherine Le Galhs-Camus, Assistant Director-General of WHO's cluster on Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

According to WHO, mental disorders are increasingly prevalent in developing countries, the consequence of persistent poverty-driven conditions, the demographic transition, conflicts in fragile States and natural disasters. At the same time, more than 50 per cent of developing countries do not provide any care for persons with mental disorders in the community.

June 01, 2007

India main source of counterfeit medicines seized in Europe

India is the number one source of counterfeit medicines seized in the European Union in 2006, according to EU statistics released in Brussels Thursday.

About 31 percent of all fake medicines seized in the EU last year came from India, UAE (31 percent) and China (8). The three countries are responsible for more than 70 percent of all counterfeit medicines, noted the report.

The seized fake medicines included Viagra, Cialis and Levitra but also other serious medicines such as anti-cholesterol, anti-osteoporosis or medicines to control hypertension and even painkiller Anacin tablets.

Presenting the statistics to the press in Brussels, John Taylor, head of the European Commission's counterfeit unit, said it has become very difficult to identify the country where fake goods are manufactured, as the goods will not be shipped directly to the intended market.

But since India is a significant producer of medicine, the seized counterfeit medicines are thought to be manufactured in India.

The UAE is not a producer of medicines, but the Emirate is used to hide the origin of the fake medicines and shipped from there.

Health and safety is a big issue, as witnessed by the sizeable figures relating to seizures of pharmaceutical products, 2.5 million items compared to 500,000 items in 2005.

"The emergence of India in this sector, reflect the developing industrial capacity of this nation and highlights the reality that counterfeiting is carried out at an industrial scale where a potential profit is perceived,'' noted the EU report.

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