July 29, 2011

India, China to work together for improving health services

India and China have decided to work together in improving health care services and deepening of bilateral cooperation in the health sector. Health ministers of the two nations, who met in Dalian in China on the sidelines of the 18th executive committee meeting of Partners in Population Development(PPD) on June 23 and 24, also decided to take forward the agenda of population development and boost south-south cooperation.

PPD, an inter-governmental initiative for expanding and improving South-to-South collaboration in reproductive health, population and development, also adopted its new governance Charter and drafted its strategic business plan for 2012-14.

India, represented by Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad, has been in the PPD Chair for the last three years and China is its deputy.

The PPD executive committee also undertook the revision of its existing bye-laws to meet the changed requirements and reflect its growing role in population and development dynamics.

The committee also gave shape to a new Governance Charter and Administrative and Financial Manuals for streamlining the functioning of the organisation.

It was felt that the new governance charter and manuals would guide the PPD to take forward its agenda and boost south-south cooperation.

The executive committee also finalised the modalities and schedule for construction of its Secretariat building at Dhaka, Bangladesh, for which land was offered by Bangladesh.

Link: Original Article

July 28, 2011

IIM-A asks AYUSH to follow Chinese medicine example

In a set of recommendations that Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM-A) has given the ministry of health and family welfare's department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) recently, the latter has been suggested to learn from the Chinese examples. IIM-A recommended AYUSH introduce farming of medicinal herbs and commence mass scientific validation of medicines like the Chinese did.

After IIM-A was recently entrusted with the task of drawing the recommendations by AYUSH, the institute charted the recommendations by hosting a three-tier set of programmes which were attended by top level managers, professors, doctors, researchers and field workers. With suggestions from the participants, the recommendations were put together by the members of faculty of IIM-A including Anil Gupta, Mukul Dixit, Sanjay Verma, Vijaya Sherry Chand and Asha Kaul.

Gupta said, "At the moment 90% of medicinal herbs for manufacturing AYUSH medicines are procured form the forest. It is time the country introduced farming of these medicinal plants like China is doing. With the current practice of depending on the forest with no conservation policies, the future is bleak."

The recommendations also included formation of a 'Medical Plant Corporation of India' and introduce incentives for cultivators of the medicinal plants from the farmers and a buy back policy. Talking about the loopholes in the current scenario Gupta said, "The farmers who cultivate the herbal plants themselves are facing problems while transporting their harvest as they are confused with forest products. This problem should be corrected."

Other suggestions that pointed towards china also included the need of laying keen focus on scientific validation of AYUSH medicines. The recommendation indicated that the Chinese herbal medicines have gained international popularity because of scientific validation and AYUSH also take the process seriously. Gupta said, "At the rate at which the validation of these medicines is going on in this country, which is very slow, it will take more than a century to complete."

Link: Original Article

July 27, 2011

Domestic helps to get medical insurance benefits

About 47.5 lakh domestic helps would soon get medical insurance benefits under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) with the Union Cabinet approving the proposal today.

The scheme, which envisages smart card-based cashless health insurance cover of up to Rs 30,000 under any empanelled hospital anywhere in the country, was approved by the Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Earlier this month, the Cabinet had given its nod to extend the same scheme to 55 lakh beedi workers by 2013-14.

The RSBY would be extended to those domestic workers who are registered and are between 18-59 years of age, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said, adding that majority of them are women.

The beneficiaries would have to get identification certificates from any two of the four institutions -- the employer, residents welfare associations, registered trade unions or the police, Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said.

The annual estimated expenditure to be incurred by the Centre to extend the benefits of RSBY to domestic workers would be Rs 29.70 crore in 2011-12, Rs 74.25 crore in 2012-13, Rs 148.50 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 297 crore in 2014-15.

While the Centre would be bearing 75 per cent of the entire cost, the states would have to incur the remaining amount. For the Northeastern states, the ratio would be 90 per cent for the Centre and ten per cent for states, Kharge said, adding that ten per cent of domestic workers would be covered in the first year

Link: Original Article

July 26, 2011

Medical council wants Drugs Act repealed

The Tamil Nadu State Medical Council has asked the government to repeal the amendment to the rule under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, which enabled practitioners of traditional medicine to prescribe allopathic drugs. They have also urged the health department to withdraw the government order issued on June 29, 2010 permitting traditional practitioners to perform surgeries, practise obstetrics-gynaecology, anaesthesiology, ENT and ophthalmology.

Council president Dr K Prakasam met health secretary Girija Vaidhayanathan with a representation on Tuesday. "Will government hospitals allow traditional practitioners to administer anesthesia and do surgeries? If the government doesn't, why should a private hospital be allowed to follow it," said Dr Prakasam. For almost a year, the council and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have said that by allowing such practitioners to do allopathy the government was legalizing quackery.

On June 2, 2010, IMA submitted a list of 2,000 quacks to the state police, which included names of traditional medical practitioners prescribing allopathic drugs. This was followed by a series of arrests. Traditional medical practitioners argued with the state government that they spent considerable time learning modern pharmacology in colleges and hence should be permitted to prescribe them. Unani specialist Dr Shaikh Shahul Hameed said that since the state medical university prescribed it in the syllabus, they should be allowed to practice.

On June 29, the government issued orders allowing them to practice modern medicine.' The government cited section 17(3) B of the Indian Medicine Central Council Act 1970, which said institutionally qualified practitioners of siddha, ayurveda, unani and homoeopathy are eligible to practise the respective system with modern scientific medicine "including surgery and obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthesiology and ENT based on the training and teaching." The state government further stepped up its support for government doctors by amending the rules for the Drugs Act by redefining a 'registered medical practitioner'. Practitioners of alternative Indian systems were considered as those 'practising the modern scientific system of medicine' for the purposes of enforcing the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. "The decision was based on detailed investigation and debate. And it has been a landmark one. We ensure students are taught by experts," Dr Hameed said.

But allopathic doctors associations argued that a few hours of study would not match they four-and-a-half training in medicine. The doctors' associations managed to obtain a stay in the court. The medical university has also threatened to withdraw allopathic content from siddha, unani, ayurveda and homeopathy syllabus. "We don't want to endanger lives of human beings. But the order still stays. We want it to be withdrawn," he said.

Link: Original Article

July 25, 2011

Vasan Healthcare may sell 15% to GIC for $100 million

Specialist eye hospitals chain Vasan Healthcare is in advanced talks to sell up to 15% stake to Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC for around $75-100 million ( 337-450 crore), two people familiar with the negotiations said.

GIC is the frontrunner among 4-5 investors the Chennai-based company is negotiating with, the two persons said, although the Singapore fund declined to comment. Vasan, which runs the country's largest chain of eye hospitals, said it was talking to 4-5 investors. "We expected to close the deal in eight weeks," Chairman Dr C M Arun told ET. He did not name the parties the company was talking to.

The company, which was born as a pharmacy and now counts venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Westbridge Capital among its investors, hopes to use the funds from the latest round of fund raising to fund its expansion plans ahead of a proposed public flotation next year.

Vasan operates 80 eyecare centers across south India now and plans to add 55 more this year, which it expects will make it the world's largest eye care provider. Its expansion plans also include setting up 20 new dental clinics, adding to its network of such clinics, pharmacies and diagnostic centres.

The company had earlier raised about $50 million from Sequoia and Westbridge in three rounds of investments in the last two years. KP Balaraj, MD at WestBridge Capital Partners said the latest round of fund raising would involve the issue of fresh equity and existing investors did not have any immediate plans to exit.

"Vasan has received significant interest from PE investors, but nothing has been finalised," he said. If the deal goes through, this will be GIC's first investment in India's healthcare sector after a Rs 380 deal with Fortis Healthcare was aborted last year after the Indian hospital chain got into a takeover battle for Singapore's Parkway Health with Malaysian fund Khazanah.

In the last year or so, investors have shown significant investors interest in India's $2-3 billion a year eyecare market that is dominated by individual ophthalmologists, government hospitals and charitable trusts.

Analysts and corporate financiers say the eyecare business is booming due to changing lifestyles. "Consumers would be willing to pay premiums for quality service offerings," says Navroz Mahudawalan, founder of Mumbai-based investment banking boutique Candle Partners. He added that the sector also had huge potential for medical tourism because eye surgery procedures such as laser, glaucoma and cataract cost a fourth in India compared with developed countries.

Vasan's chairman Dr Arun said he expected his company to double sales this year and report EBITDA or core earnings of 200 crore. Last year, the company posted annual sales of 350 crore with an EBIDTA of 110 crore.

The huge business potential is attracting potential investors into picking up stakes in these companies. Two Delhi-based specialist eyecare providers - Eye Q and Centre for Sight - received funding from private equity firms last year and are in talks for more.

Link: Original Article

Apollo Hospitals to set up mega health park

Apollo Group of Hospitals will set up an 86-acre Mega Health Park at Morkambattur in Chittoor district. On Thursday, the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet okayed a proposal to allot 86 acres to the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (APIIC) for the development of the Apollo project.

“We will set up a 200-bed hospital there. It would also have training facilities for upgrading skills of doctors by offering specialised programmes,” Ms Sangita Reddy, Executive Director of Apollo group, told Business Line.

Incidentally, Dr Prathap C. Reddy, the Chairman of the group, hails from the district. The group runs a hospital in Aragonda in the district.

Training facilities

The park would have skill development and core skill training facilities for all layers in the hospital industry. “We will train doctors, paramedics and even support staff such as ward boys in their respective fields,” she said.

Besides its own hospital and training facilities, Apollo would also invite third party manufacturers to produce generic devices required for hospitals. “Facilities would come to manufacture beds, trolleys, stretches and specialised assembly units,” she said.

She, however, refused to dwell on project cost. “Now that we have got the land

Link: Original Article

July 24, 2011

Apollo identifies three locations to set up medical colleges

Healthcare chain Apollo Hospitals has identified Chennai, Hyderabad and Madurai as locations to set up three medical colleges as part of its plans to expand its medical education venture.

The Apollo Hospitals chain that already runs 11 nursing and hospital management colleges is expecting the first of its three medical colleges to start functioning within the next two years time.

"A master plan to set up three medical colleges at Chennai, Hyderabad and Madurai has been approved," Apollo Hospitals Enterprise executive director operations Sangita Reddy said.

According to the plan, the firm expects the first one of the three to be completed in two year's time.

"After getting various approvals, including that of Medical Council of India, we expect first of the three to get operational in two year's time," Reddy said.

Reddy, however, declined to comment on investments and other details for setting up the three medical institutions citing silent period due to the company's ongoing QIP issue to raise Rs 600 crore.

When asked if Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah would partner Apollo to set up the hospitals, Reddy said: "That is not confirmed."

Apollo Hospitals has been in talks with Khazanah for healthcare education in the country. Khazanah holds nearly 12 per cent stake in Apollo Hospitals.

The Chennai-headquartered healthcare chain is already running 11 nursing and hospital management colleges. It has 1,200 pharmacies and 54 hospitals with a capacity of over 8,500 beds.

She said the firm would like to train nearly 5,000 para medics per year.

The healthcare major also runs over 100 diagnostic clinics across the country.

Link: Original Article

Wipro eyes new segments, plans low-cost tablet, ‘health necklace’

Acheap tablet computer, a “health necklace” that will transmit key vital statistics of the wearer in real time, and imaging and diagnostic machines that are much less expensive than those currently available—these are some of the products Wipro Ltd hopes to launch.

In India, there has never been a shortage of aspirations as far as technology is concerned, but not much has come of many of these dreams.

Wipro, best known as India’s third largest information technology (IT) services business, is hoping to change that. The company has always been involved with hardware—it makes laptops, servers, and even supercomputers.

Thanks to Apple Inc., the tablet has not only become an object of desire, it has also disrupted the computer market, affecting sales of the personal computer.

But at a starting price of Rs.29,500 in India, it’s beyond the reach of a lot of people.

“Can you make a $600 iPad (he meant tablet) for, say, $35? That is the question. We are looking at bringing the total cost of ownership down,” Anurag Srivastava, the chief technology officer and senior vice-president for Wipro’s global IT business, said in an interview.

A proof of the concept is expected to be ready in about nine to 12 months time, developed jointly as part of Wipro’s partnership with the Leuven, Belgium-based applied research organization imec. Wipro and imec last month announced a research and development agreement to “co-innovate and build next-generation intelligent systems”.

As part of the exercise, the Applied Research in Intelligent Systems Engineering (ARISE) laboratory will be set up on Wipro’s Electronic City campus in September.

Cost will be a critical factor as affordability in emerging markets is one of the underlying themes of the partnership with imec.

The projects have a social aspect to them, Srivastava said.

The tablet, for instance, is aimed at the rural and mass education segment, which fits in with the main thrust of Wipro chairman Azim Premji’s philanthropy—learning.

The device is being developed with the main aim of creating a low-cost product with applications in education as well as the “government sector”, he said.

“We’re looking at two-three proofs-of-concept in a year’s time. It’s not just a deployable consumer product, right? It’s about establishing that you can solve the process problem at ‘x’ dollars, as a total cost,” he said.

The company declined to provide additional details or specifications of the tablet, as they were still being worked out. A hardware partner would be identified later for “production in volume”, he said.

Wipro’s “health necklace” is a string of sensors that will transmit data to relatives and doctors. Cost is again a critical element.

“The ‘health necklace’ has to be accessible to a 50-year-old guy in a village, maybe with a small insurance cover,” Srivastava said.

If affordability is one theme, miniaturization is another, especially in the context of the general expectation that more devices and sensors, including analogue ones, will get connected, thereby communicating with each other.

“This applies to the pen you are carrying and the watch you are wearing. The aggregation point may be your mobile phone. But still, everything is connected. Technology miniaturization is critical for reaching into this world,” he said.

This also means that emerging devices and sensors have to be resistant to weather and other conditions, and achieve high performance with low power consumption. “That will take a lot of engineering,” he added.

What helps is that there is an increasing realization in research circles of the importance of developing products specifically for emerging markets.

“In emerging markets, key issues of affordability, reliability and even usability have to be thought of differently,” said Ganesh Ramamoorthy, research director at Gartner.

“I would expect to see more and more of such partnerships, with one bringing in established hardware research capabilities, and others, like Wipro, bringing in their software and product engineering capabilities, besides local knowledge, which will be critical from a usability and user-interface perspective,” he added.

The “health necklace” is likely to be launched ahead of the tablet, Srivastava said.

“In these products, you see a sensor dimension, a mobility dimension and a software application dimension. Wipro will bring in the value of mobility and application integration and help in design so total cost of ownership is low,” Srivastava said.

He said the partnership with imec was an equal one, but declined to share financial details.

About 25-30 people with specialized knowledge were involved currently, and the number is expected to go up to 100-120 in two to three years.

The collection of information such as electrocardiogram data, heart rate, blood oxygen levels and body water content from a mobile subject is already possible.

The Wipro necklace will use imec’s proprietary ultra-low power, bio-sensing application-specific integrated circuit and low-power commercial wireless platforms to capture and communicate vital health parameters to patients as well as healthcare providers.

ARISE is also working on disruptive imaging and diagnostic solutions for the medical and manufacturing sectors based on nanotechnology that would make these services more affordable than they are now.

Imec is a semiconductor and nanoelectronics research institute with 1,900 people and revenue of €285 million in 2010, with offices in Europe, China, US and Japan.

Link: Original Article

July 23, 2011

Maharashtra govt medical colleges to get 881 more PG seats

The post-graduate (PG) medical seats in 13 government medical colleges in the state will more than double this year. The 13 colleges will add 881 PG seats for the 2011-2012 academic year. The medical colleges at present have only 750 post-graduate seats for which they receive more than 7,000 applications from doctors.

The increase in the number of PG seats is an outcome of the ministry of health and family welfare sanctioning Rs417 crore for the up-gradation of the 13 government medical colleges. “The central government has agreed to release the funds and the state government has decided to give its counterpart share of Rs104 crore which will be utilised for up-gradation of these medical colleges,” said Milind Mhaiskar, medical education secretary.

“The memorandum of understanding will be signed before the end of this month between the state and the central government, after which the Centre will release its share to the respective hospitals.” The central government has agreed to contribute Rs313 crore (75%) while the state will put in Rs104 crore (25%). In the last six months, teams sent by the ministry of health and family welfare visited the 13 medical colleges in the state including Grant Medical College and the JJ Group of hospitals in the city.

Mhaiskar said that the funding would be utilised for constructing new rooms, hostels, refurbishing operation theatres, laboratories and buying new equipments wherever necessary.

“Just increasing the post-graduate seats won’t help. The senior resident doctors who stay in the hospital premises also need all the other necessary facilities as well. This funding will help in filling the present infrastructure gaps,” said Mhaiskar.

“Increasing the number of post graduate seats will reflect in more number of specialist doctors getting trained in the state and being available for state service,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, joint director, Directorate of Medical Education and Research.

Link: Original Article

July 22, 2011

Govt snubs MCI, to start its PG course

The Gujarat government has resolved to bypass the Medical Council of India (MCI) and start its own specialised post-graduate medical course with a view to end the shortage of specialised medicos in the state.

Under the plan, the Gujarat government will take permission of the state unit of MCI to start the PG teaching and training in various courses rather than wait for the MCI permission. The courses are likely to start from the next academic year.

The decision has been taken in view of the fact that MCI took a long time in granting permission for PG medical courses and its conditions are also tough. Almost 50 per cent PG seats in most medical colleges remain vacant leading to a perpetual shortage of specialised medicos in Gujarat.

According to officials, most of the state’s medical colleges and hospitals have the latest equipment, but they remained unutilised or under-utilised owing to a shortage of specialists. The alternative plan is being adopted on the pattern existing in neighbouring Maharashtra.

But there is a drawback. PG candidates recognised only by the Gujarat unit of MCI will not be able to practice or get jobs in other states unless the latter recognise them.

“But they will be able to work as private practitioners and will be eligible to all government jobs in Gujarat, including teaching posts in the state’s government and private medical institutions,” said state Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas.

According to Vyas, two new PG courses will be launched under the new arrangement. They will be a two-year diploma and a three year PG fellowship programme in various branches.

“By this arrangement, we plan to bring an end to the perpetual shortage of specialised medicos in the state in the next three years,” Vyas said.

The candidates will get good stipends, but the government is yet to fix the number of seats and procedures for admission to the courses.

A senior faculty member in BJ Medical College said: “The decision will serve two purposes. Initially it will reduce the shortages of hands in government and private medical colleges as PG candidates can take care of outdoor and indoor patients. Secondly, after completion of their courses, these candidates can make up for the shortages in the market by working as private practitioners or they can even join as teachers in state’s medical institutions which are facing staff crunch.”

Link: Original Article

July 21, 2011

ETA group faces the heat from new govt in TN over health insurance scheme

The pet project of the previous DMK government in Tamil Nadu, the Kalaignar health insurance scheme, may be scrapped after Governor Surjit Singh Barnala, in his address the 14th Assembly session last week, said, “The new government's intention is to provide good healthcare for the people. The existing insurance scheme does not address the demand of the people fully. So it has been decided to replace it by a new scheme.”

Chief minister Jayalalithaa had been insisting since before she came to power that the connection between Karunanidhi and the ETA group, the promoter of the scheme's insurer Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, should be probed.

In February, the AIADMK supremo alleged that through the scheme, an estimated Rs 2,000 crore of state funds had been siphoned off over four years, ostensibly to provide health insurance cover to the people of the state. “With the same money, 20 medical colleges with state-of-the-art general hospitals could have been set up in 20 districts," she had said.
V Jagannathan, CMD, Star Health and Allied Insurance Company, maintains, “We are only an insurer. We will do what the insured wants us to do. The existing policy is addressing surgery-related issues and the new government wants to improve it further.”

Another project in which ETA group is involved has also came under radar -- the new Rs 1,100-crore Assembly-cum-secretariat complex. The ETA group got the contract to construct the new complex from the previous government. Other major projects bagged by the group include a library and various road and bridge projects.

“There were alleged reports that wasteful expenditure went into the construction of the new complex, poor construction which created quality issue and inordinate delay. To inquire these issues a retired High Court Judge will be appointed," said the Governor.

The group through ETA Power Generation Ltd was also planning to invest around Rs 5,200 crore for setting up 2x660 MW power plants in Tamil Nadu. The company earlier said it was in the process of acquiring 500 acre of land on the south of Nagapattinam district for the power plant.

Link: Original Article

Apollo Hospitals to render specialist health services in Tanzania

Apollo Hospitals, one of India's leading chain of super speciality and referral hospitals, will render specialist health services in Tanzania following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding ( MoU) between India and Tanzania.

Three agreements were signed between India and Tanzania on Friday, among which the first one was a joint venture to increase trade and small-scale industries between the two nations.

The second was to start a chain of Indian hospitals especially known for heart treatments in association with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania.

The third agreement was an agreement for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

Apollo Hospitals Chairman Dr. C Prathap Reddy said that the prime motive of the group's venture in the African nation would be to spread awareness and render preventive health care.

"I am glad that we are at Tanzania, but this is not the beginning or the end of it. There are a lot of expansions going on. We are into 360 degrees of health care. This is why I have said that we have excelled in clinical excellence. We have got the service excellence, technological excellence, but using technology we are trying to build 360 degree of health in bringing awareness, bringing prevention, we have done world's largest preventive check ups apart (from) treating 20 million people," Dr. Reddy said.

He further mentioned the concentration of their hospitals in Tanzania would be to provide world-class health facilities to the patients.

"This is going to be a brand new land, virgin land on which we are going to build a hospital which will suit our design to deliver tertiary and cardiac care hospital for people who do not have to go to other place majority of times," Dr. Reddy said.

Link: Original Article

July 20, 2011

Auto driver’s son tops state medical Maharashtra CET

From a rank of 799 in last year's common entrance test for medicine to becoming the topper in the state this year, Vivek Tiwari’s journey through the ranks has been a gamble. “I would have got into a medical college outside Maharashtra last year. But I didn’t opt for it because I could not afford the hostel fees,” said Tiwari, 19, the son of an autorickshaw driver.
From the family’s monthly income of Rs9,000, Rs5,000 would have been spent on hostel fees alone.

“It would have been difficult for my family,” said Tiwari, a student of RD National College, who now plans to join KEM and become a neurosurgeon. Tiwari’s coaching class tutored him for free.

Tiwari was among the lakhs of students who appeared for the entrance test to engineering and medicine courses (MH-CET), results for which were declared on Tuesday. While ranks were given to medical aspirants, engineering aspirants only got their scores.

But while Tiwari was rejoicing, several others who took the CET with him were not happy. This year, the percentages of students qualifying for both engineering and medicine have dropped.

An analysis of the past few years shows a decline in the performance of students in both streams despite more students taking the test.

In the medicine entrance test (physics, chemistry and biology), the percentage of students qualifying for admissions has halved from 24% in 2008 to 12.01% this year.

The engineering entrance (physics, chemistry, math) scores have also dropped. This year only 37 students scored above 190 out of 200 compared to 183 last year.

Link: Original Article

July 19, 2011

Bill Clinton: universal health coverage saves money

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said the United States could save more than $1 trillion a year by adopting any other advanced nation's healthcare system.

He also said there are important advances included in President Obama's healthcare reforms and urged that it be improved upon rather than repealed.

"Our healthcare system has gotten all out of whack," Clinton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Jefferies Global Healthcare Conference, stressing the need to bring inflation in healthcare costs back in line with economic inflation.

Clinton said Canada and the European countries that have universal health coverage for their citizens spend a smaller percentage of their gross domestic product on healthcare than the United States does.

"Germany and France, with what is considered the most effective systems in the world in terms of universal coverage and quality of treatment, they spend 10 percent. Canada spends 10.5 percent," Clinton said.

"The United States spends 17.2 percent without having universal coverage," Clinton said.

"That means if we just scrapped our system and adopted any other wealthy country's system, at a minimum we would have a trillion dollars more a year for pay raises, for investment in new technology, to create new jobs or whatever."

He said resistance to change, in addition to political maneuvering, is part of what is keeping the government Medicare program from any meaningful reforms.

"The beneficiaries in the present would rather hold onto the present than make sure they've done what's necessary to preserve it for the future, and that's part of the problem with Medicare," Clinton said.

He said Social Security, which many people fear could go bankrupt if changes are not adopted before the bulk of the giant baby generation retires, would eventually fix itself.

"Social Security is primarily just a demographics problem," Clinton said, noting that not enough people will be working to pay for all the members of his generation collecting Social Security payments.

"Although if the economy stays this anemic we'll all be working too and that's not all bad, you'll live longer if you do," he said.

"But when we all die off that will all be fixed," he quipped.

Link: Original Article

July 18, 2011

CBI unearths racket in medical exams

The CBI has unearthed a racket relating to manipulations in the recently held AIIMS PG Exam and an all India-level veterinary test with the arrest of seven persons, including a doctor.

In the All-India Pre-Veterinary Test held on May 14, 2011, the CBI registered a case against the main accused (a doctor) proprietor and an employee of a private firm and others regarding manipulations in Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) Sheets for admission of a large number of candidates.

It was alleged that the private firm was awarded contract by Veterinary Council of India(VCI) for result processing including manufacturing and scanning of OMR sheets of the said examination, a CBI spokesperson said.

The accused in connivance with the candidates printed duplicate OMR sheets of the said candidates bearing the same bar codes and replaced the original OMR sheets with the duplicate ones in VCI office in order to get favourable result in the said examination.

Link: Original Article

July 17, 2011

Drugs selling faster in hospitals than chemist shops

A newly-revamped audit of medicine sales in the country shows that drugs are selling faster in hospitals than in chemist shops suggesting that hospitals are gaining in importance as customers of pharmaceutical companies. According to independent research agency IMS Health's Total Sales Audit (TSA), for the 12 months to April 2011 the hospital segment grew at 25.9 per cent while the retail and doctor segment grew at 14.7 per cent and 10.1 per cent respectively. The total market grew at 15.3 per cent.

The TSA captures drugs sold by stockists to retail chemists, hospitals, and doctors and replaces the agency's Stockist Sales Audit (SSA) which until April this year was the default audit used by the drug industry and those interested in it to track medicine sales in the country. The SSA only reported sales of stockists to retail chemists but not the other two segments. A separate hospital audit was published by the agency but not as frequently as the SSA. The TSA also opened a new channel - stockist sales to doctors that earlier went unreported.

The revamped audit brings to light the fact that "these days people go straight to specialists in hospitals," said Sameer Savkur, MD, IMS Health explaining the growth in numbers. He also pointed out that while the conventional belief is that demand in hospitals is predominantly for critical care medicine administered in injectible form, 60 per cent of the medicines sold to hospitals are actually to be taken orally.

For the 12 months to April this year, stockist sales to hospitals accounted for 9 per cent of the Rs 57,466 crore market, still small compared to retail sales that account for 85 per cent. With more patients going to hospitals, and more hospitals coming up all over the country Savkur expects the segment to grow at between 24 and 26 per cent for the next three years while the overall market grows at 14 to 16 per cent.

Link: Original Article

Finance ministry approves launch of National Health portal

The ambitious National Health Portal, a database proposed by the Union health ministry for storing the medical records of all citizens, has got an approval from the finance ministry.

The proposal will now go to the Union Cabinet for its nod, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Dinesh Trivedi said here today, while inaugurating 'International Conference on Medical Electronics: Partnering for Access and Affordability' organised by FICCI.

He said the health ministry adopted a three-pronged initiative two years ago to put in place a National Health Portal, a 24-hour, 3-digit National Emergency Media Service Number and an Indian Health Information Network.

The National Health Portal, recommended by the National Knowledge Commission, would make optimum use of technology for establishing a database for the medical records of all citizens and other health related issues.

The portal would put information on standardisation and protocols in the public domain. The effort would also be to ensure that the medical records of all citizens are electronically stored for easy access by pathologists and doctors for diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The Minister lamented that the Health Ministry's proposal for acquiring railway land for setting up diagnostic centres at the 8000-odd railway stations has been hanging fire for the last year and a half. His suggestion that a beginning could be made by taking up 20 pilot projects has also not seen the light of day, he remarked.

Link: Original Article

July 16, 2011

Three top medical institutes to mentor 6 AIIMS clones

India's best medical institutes will mentor the six new AIIMS-like institutions that are under construction.

Union health ministry has put three of the best known existing medical institutes — AIIMS Delhi, JIPMER Puducherry and PGI Chandigarh — in charge of helping the six new institutes find their feet.

"It will be like a hand-holding exercise to show them the way," a ministry official said.

AIIMS Delhi, will mentor the two new institutions at Patna and Bhubaneswar, PGI will hand hold the ones in Rishikesh and Jodhpur, while JIPMER will provide able guidance to AIIMS prototypes in Bhopal and Raipur.

"The existing institutes will help the new institutes select their faculty, establish their laboratory network, conduct entrance exams and plan their curriculum," an official added.

Come 2012 academic session, and the medical colleges of the six AIIMS-like institutions are expected to open to undergraduate medical education (MBBS).

The construction of the six medical colleges — each with 100 MBBS seats — is expected to be completed by end-2011. The hospital complexes are expected to be completed by October, 2012.

The interview to select the six directors was conducted on May 12, and the background check is going on. Around 94 eminent scientists, doctors and academicians had applied for the directors' posts.

A proposal for the creation of 4,047 posts — both faculty and other staff — has been sent to the finance ministry.

In February, 2011, the finance ministry gave its nod for the creation of 1,145 posts for each institution to be filled during the first phase of the recruitment process. Altogether, each AIIMS-like institution has been built at Rs 847 crore — up from Rs 332 crore that was originally estimated.

Union health secretary K Chandramouli said, "We plan to admit MBBS students from 2012. The hospitals will be ready a year later."

Link: Original Article

July 15, 2011

Private practice by government doctors no criminal offence: court

Private practice by a government doctor cannot be construed as a criminal offence, and at the most, departmental action can be taken against him or her, the Supreme Court has held.

In a big relief to government doctors, a Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra said: “The demand for/receipt of fee while doing private practice by itself cannot be held to be illegal gratification as the same obviously is the amount charged towards professional remuneration. It would be preposterous, in our view, to hold that if a doctor charges fee for extending medical help and is doing that by way of his professional duty, the same would amount to illegal gratification as that would be against even plain common sense.”

A government doctor doing private practice could not be booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act or the Indian Penal Code.

Writing the judgment, Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said: “If a particular professional discharges the duty of a doctor, that by itself is not an offence but becomes an offence by virtue of the fact that it contravenes a bar imposed by a circular or instruction of the government. In that event, the act would clearly fall within the ambit of misconduct to be dealt with under service rules, but would not constitute [a] criminal offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act.”

The Bench said the doctor's duty to treat patients was in the discharge of his/her professional duty and it could not be held a ‘trade' constituting an offence under Section 168 of the IPC. If the medical professional acted contrary only to government instructions dehors any criminal activity or criminal negligence, his/her conduct would not constitute either an offence under the IPC or a case of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

However, “if it was alleged that the government doctor, while doing private practice, indulged in malpractice in any manner as for instance, took money by way of illegal gratification for admitting patients to the government hospital, or any other offence of a criminal nature like prescribing unnecessary surgery for the purpose of extracting money by way of professional fee and a host of other circumstances, the same would obviously be a clear case to be registered under the IPC as also under the PC Act.”

In the instant appeals, Kanwarjit Singh Kakkar and Rajinder Singh Chawla challenged a Punjab High Court order refusing to quash a first information report which alleged that they were indulging in private practice while holding the post of government doctor.

APPEALS ALLOWED

Allowing the appeals, the Bench said that even as per the FIR, the doctors could be held to have violated only government instructions which themselves had not termed private practice ‘corruption' under the Prevention of Corruption Act merely on account of charging of fee. In any event, it was a professional fee which, however, could not have been charged since doing so was contrary to government instructions.

The Bench quashed the impugned order and the FIRs against the two doctors.

Link: Original Article

July 14, 2011

Health min rejects MCI proposal on UG medical degrees

All doctors, who have an undergraduate medical degree from abroad, will have to appear for a screening test before they can practise in India.

This rule will also apply for Indian doctors with post-graduate (PG) medical degrees from the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.

Doctors with an UG degree from India and a PG degree from these six countries have been allowed by the Union health ministry to practise in any public or private hospital in India. They can also be a faculty member in any medical college without appearing for a screening test.

On Monday, the Medical Council of India ( MCI) proposed that those who have an UG medical degree from these six English-speaking countries should also be allowed to work in India without appearing for a screening test.

However, Union health secretary K Chandramouli rejected the proposal.

Dr Ranjit Roychoudhury, MCI's governing body (GB) member, said, "We had asked the government to relax the rules of appearing for a screening test for senior doctors with a lot of medical experience from these countries since their PG degrees are already recognized. But the suggestion was not accepted. The screening test will remain universal."

GB member Dr Sita Naik added, "With so many hospitals coming up in India, which already faces an acute shortage of trained medical manpower, we suggested relaxing the rules of the screening test for these countries. We felt it wasn't appropriate for senior, established doctors from these countries to be asked to appear for a screening examination if they wanted to work in India."

However, another GB member Dr Devi Shetty said, "We'll submit a proposal on Tuesday on how the government can allow selective screening. The proposal has not been shelved yet."

Union health ministry had recognized PG medical degrees from these six countries in 2007, which allowed a lot of Indian doctors settled abroad to return home. Prior to 2007, India didn't recognize the PG degree from these countries as recognizing it was a reciprocal gesture.

India had only recognized PG degrees of countries that acknowledged India's PG qualifications, like Ireland, Bangladesh and Nepal. Then health secretary Naresh Dayal had said, "This move will see a large number of Indian doctors return home to work. Many will come on sabbaticals for a short stint in teaching or even practise in public or private hospitals."

Experts were also optimistic about the initiative. 'India is increasing its number of PG seats and medical institutes are offering PG degrees. Six new AIIMS-like institutions are coming up. All these will require specialized faculty, which won't be available from the present pool. That's why we are trying to remove all barriers for Indian doctors to return to India."

India faces a severe shortage of doctors. There is one doctor per 1,634 people in the country.

Link: Original Article

July 13, 2011

Indian Medical Association prescribes IT skills for doctors

The national unit of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has decided to make its two lakh members across the country, especially senior medical practitioners, more tech savvy.

“We have noticed that, unlike young medical professionals, senior doctors by and large lack computer proficiency. They still use paper and pen for their daily records. The project will help such doctors cope with the competitive world and become tech savvy,” said national vice-president of IMA, Dr Devendra Shirole.

He told DNA, “Short contact programmes of four days will be organised at all local branches of the IMA. Doctors will be trained on how to use information technology for the betterment of medical profession and patents’ data collection.”

He said the doctors will be also trained on using e-books in their daily practice. “The IMA will launch this project initially in Maharashtra and the inauguration will take place in Mumbai. Groups, formed for research purposes, will use information technology to study diseases and viruses. With such a huge network, many doctors will be able to contribute from various parts of the country. This will help us in building a database and study new diseases,” he said.

Talks are on with software companies for providing technical support and training for doctors. “These companies will be also host power point presentations and build web pages for us,” he added.

Link: Original Article

July 12, 2011

Health Ministry ropes in IIM-A to promote AYUSH

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) is drawing up recommendations for the Union Health Ministry on how can AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) medicines be promoted better in the country. IIM-A has been entrusted with the task by the Department of AYUSH.

IIM-A professor Anil K Gupta said that currently AYUSH makes up barely 0.4 per cent of the total healthcare system in India, so the aim is to integrate AYUSH systems among themselves and also with allopathic medicine.

“AYUSH has not been able to reach people in rural and urban areas. It is an affordable medical system for the rural and urban poor. Even for the affluent it is a preventive system that is greatly useful because it targets lifestyle, food, mental health and overall well-being,” he said.

The recommendations will be finalised after a three-tier set of programmes concludes. At present, the third set of dignitaries, including doctors, researchers and field workers, is attending a five-day programme at the institute.

The first and second set made up of officials, policy-makers and institution heads have been concluded.

Dr C H Raveendar, assistant director-in-charge of the Regional Research Institute (Homoeo) at Gudivada, Andhra Pradesh, said the participants and IIM-A faculty are sharing experiences to find a way to boost the AYUSH systems.

Several research findings have been presented in the course of the programmes and IIM-A faculty have also looked at the management aspects.

Link: Original Article

July 11, 2011

AFMC says no to common entrance test

The Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), from where 130 doctors graduate each year, is not keen on the government’s common entrance test idea for admission to medical courses in the country giving the reason that the armed forces needed specific skills.

“We need to conduct our own exam and the selection criteria evaluate whether the candidates are eligible for a medical profession in the armed forces. Apart from being physically fit, they need to be mentally robust,¿ says Air Marshal G S Joneja, AFMC Commandant.

AFMC authorities who made their representation at the first national conclave of Vice-Chancellors of Medical Universities in Pune on Friday told Dr S K Sarin, Chairman of the Board of Governors, Medical Council of India, that they could not be part of the common entrance test.

The MCI and Union Health Ministry had decided to introduce the common entrance test for admission to government and private medical colleges in the country. The test will be held from the next academic session and a slew of medical reforms have been proposed in the Vision Document 2015 to upgrade quality of medical education.

Link: Original Article

July 10, 2011

Insurers forcing rates on doctors, hospitals

Insurance companies have come up with irrational cost cutting of medical insurance amounts in order to reduce incurred business losses.

The companies are offering a list of fixed costs in MOU for Preferred Provider Network (PPN) thus giving an excuse of streamlining the service for common policy holders, said Ahmedabad Medical Association (AMA) officials who briefed the media on the logjam between public sector insurance companies and medical fraternity-the issue on which DNA first broke a story in April. The new mediclaim insurance norms reportedly come into effect from May 16.

Irrational cuts and non-transparent grading of PPN hospitals are the two vital issues which are not acceptable, says the medical fraternity.

"After detailed study, AMA members have found that the entire process of new clashes and mediclaim arrangements are not transparent," said Dr Jashwantsinh Darbar, president, AMA.

AMA has publicly appealed to the state's doctors and hospitals to not sign the recent PPN-TPA MOU due to its lack of transparency and dictatorial norms, which violate rights of patients and medical practitioners, Dr Darbar added.

Listing the vital points- differences between AMA and TPA-governed public insurance companies —Dr Darbar said empanelment of the hospitals should not be restricted to a few favoured hospitals by the TPAs and insurance companies.

It should be open to all qualified medical professionals who are registered with the Medical Council of India and with the local health authorities. The patients must have the right to choose any doctor or hospital.

Secondly, categorisation of hospitals which sign for PPN network must be done in a transparent manner and the clear guidelines drawn by the medical expert panel must be considered for categorisation, say AMA officials.

"Cashless approval protocol must be made transparent and there should be no deductions and delays in payment. The approval process has to be supervised by company doctors who are appropriately qualified by MCI," said Dr Pragnesh Vachchrajani, vice-president of AMA, while listing the major points of mediclaim disagreements.

The hospitals which sign the MOU are categorised by the insurance companies under A, B C and D grades. Hospitals under A grade are offered Rs 45,500 for coronary angiogram; hospitals under B grade are offered Rs24,000; C grade hospitals are offered Rs21,000 while D grade hospitals are offered Rs16,000 for the same procedure.

"The criteria applied to grade the hospitals are not disclosed. To discuss the parameters and point of differences with the TPAs and insurance companies, AMA called their representatives thrice for meetings during April 1 to May 15 however, none of the invitees turned up for the meetings," added Dr Vachhrajani.

Link: Original Article

Corporates can start medical colleges

The public private partnership (PPP), which has hitherto made impressive strides in building infrastructure, is all set to enter medical education in India. Considering the urgent need for skilled man power in health sector, Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has given green signal to corporates for setting up medical colleges.

Addressing the 13th edition of national seminar on hospital, healthcare management and medico-legal systems at the Symbiosis Internal University (SIU), Lavale, on Saturday, Azad said, "Following the Union government's initiatives to allow corporates in medical education scenario, we are willing to promote PPP in areas where there is an urgent need for more medical institutions." The government, till now, had refrained from allowing corporates to start medical colleges, he added.

"More medical colleges will create more medical seats. This will churn out more medical personnel. This will enable us to offset the acute shortage of manpower, which we are facing now," Azad said at the seminar organized by Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences (SIHS). Even though there are 730,000 doctors and 930,000 nursing personnel on the rolls, a significant number of healthcare professionals are concentrated in urban and semi urban areas, leaving a huge shortage of health manpower at the grassroots level.

Drawing attention to this, Azad said, "With specific focus on increasing the availability of medical resources in India, we have relaxed the requirement of land for opening of more medical colleges. For example, special provision has been made for hilly and other geographically disadvantaged areas."

"I envisage an availability of 50,000 MBBS seats as against the present 35,250 seats and 25,000 postgraduate seats as against 20,000 at present, within the next two to three years," Azad said, adding, "Operationally, these wide-ranging initiatives would definitely bridge the identified crucial gaps in the domain of the requirement of trained health manpower as against prescribed ratio for healthcare delivery system. The challenge now is to ensure that the desired quality of teaching and training is not compromised with, in any manner," said Azad.

Apart from this, the Union government has also relaxed norms describing the teacher-student ratio in medical colleges and other institutions in India, he said.

Link: Original Article

July 09, 2011

CBI arrests eight MBBS students for impersonation in AIPMT

The CBI has arrested eight MBBS students for impersonating as medical aspirants during the All India Pre-Medical Test held in Kolkata on Sunday. According to CBI officials, these eight medical students, who were trying to pull off a trick from the flick Munnabhai MBBS in real life, were charging between Rs 5-8 lakh per candidate for sitting in the exam on behalf of the original candidates.

"The CBI has registered a case against some of the medical aspirants for trying to secure admission in medical colleges through All India Pre Medical Test 2011 with the help of dummy candidates," an agency official said.

"In this regard, raids were conducted at AIPMT Centre exam centre in Kolkata on Sunday to apprehend those candidates who had appeared as dummy candidates on behalf of such aspiring candidates. Eight dummy candidates including facilitators have been arrested," he said.

All arrested persons are residents of different districts in Bihar.

"It has also been found that the arrested dummy candidates are students of different medical colleges and had appeared for the candidates for huge amount of money already paid to them," the official said.

"Arun Kumar, Ajay Kumar Singh, Abhay Kumar Singh, hailing from Vaishali district, Dhananjay Kumar Gupta (Patna), Harinder Kumar (Siwan), Umesh Kumar ( Samastipur), Sanjay Kumar (resident of West Champaran) and Kumar Gautam have been arrested," the CBI said.

Link: Original Article

July 08, 2011

Top U.K. award for Indian doctors

Two teams of medical professionals from India were awarded top honours at the British Medical Journal Group Awards distributed on Wednesday.

The award for ‘Medical Team in a Crisis Zone' went to ‘Doctors for You' for their flood relief work in Bihar in 2008; and the award for ‘Innovation in Health Care' went to Professor Subhashchandra Daga and his team at the Maharashtra Institute of Medical Education and Research Medical College for their work in neo-natal health.

The ‘Doctors for You' team, about 110-strong, worked over six months, complemented by social workers and other support staff, to mitigate the effects of the disaster caused by the rising flood waters of the Kosi river in Bihar in 2008. Beginning with delivering emergency and resuscitation care, they stayed on to treat 1,30,000 patients in 300 mobile health clinics, district hospitals and relief camps.

Award a boost

Vivek Chhabra, International Coordinator, ‘Doctors for You,' said: “The award will boost membership, community support, and motivation for the team's work and help in raising a Medical Humanitarian Disaster Team for South East Asia.”

Professor Daga and his team had to work around the reality of frequent power cuts and figure out how to keep newborn babies warm. They adapted polystyrene foam boxes that were used to transport vaccines to do the job.

They went on to use the boxes to transport sick babies to hospital. The team found that not only were the boxes easy to use for families, and traditional birth attendants, but also that they were safe and effective.

Low-cost device

“The BMJ Group Award will raise awareness of a simple and a low-cost device, the styrofoam box that keeps babies warm without using electricity. This device holds hope of survival for thousands of low birth weight babies born at home, in harsh weather conditions, and in poor and remote areas of the world,” Professor Daga said.

The BMJ Group Awards, held in association with the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland recognise and celebrate excellence in healthcare across the globe. This year, over 650 entries were received from across the globe for the 13 award categories, according to information posted on the website.

Link: Original Article

July 07, 2011

MCI to keep tab on doctors' count

India's "invisible doctors" are giving the Medical Council of India (MCI) a major headache.

According to MCI's Indian Medical Register that was last updated in April 2011, the nation supposedly boasts of 840,678 registered medical practitioners.

The data includes names of doctors who were registered way back in 1933. Chances of these doctors being alive is dim, admits MCI.

Till date, neither the Union health ministry nor MCI has strictly pushed for re-registration of doctors, thanks to which, India isn't sure about how many doctors it actually has.

MCI will ask the ministry to make it mandatory for all doctors to re-register with the country's 24 state medical boards, and MCI every five years.

This will help keep a tab on how many doctors registered with MCI are still alive, how many have retired or how many have left for abroad.

MCI governing body chairman Dr S K Sarin said, "We will be asking the Union health ministry to bring in several new regulations. One of which will be to make re-registration for doctors mandatory. Re-certification and revalidation of doctors is essential. It will help us understand exactly how many and who still are in active practise in India. The available data includes many doctors who would have migrated abroad or may not be living anymore."

According to officials associated with Indian Medical Register, some state medical boards like Maharashtra, Kerala and Delhi have started taking re-registration of doctors rather seriously.

MCI governing body member Dr Sita Naik said, "we have been discussing ways of making re-registration of doctors mandatory. Now, it is not an updated system and we have no way to know if somebody already registered with MCI still exists. Once we know actual figures, it will also help us with planning programmes. It will soon be made mandatory for doctors to register every five years."

An MCI's note on "curricular reform in undergraduate medical education" available with TOI says the current doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1700 when compared to a world average of 1.5:1000. The committee came to a consensus that targeted doctor population ratio should be 1:1000 by 2031. There are 330 medical colleges with an intake of approximately 35,000. And with the current intake of doctors, their shortfall is estimated at 9.54 lakhs by 2031.

Link: Original Article

July 06, 2011

CBSE mulling over online route to medical, engineering institutions

Taking lessons from the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) 2011 paper leak, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is seriously mulling over an online route to admissions in medical and engineering institutions.

Verifying this here on Monday, CBSE chairman, Vinit Joshi, said, "Online tests and admissions are a way of life in the developed world. In fact this year, we conducted the AIEEE exam online as well though on a pilot basis. The experience has been satisfying and appears to be promising."

Joshi was in the city to inaugurate RBN Global school, which is a residential cum day boarding school based on the principle that every child is talented. Talking to the media, he added that a committee has already been constituted to examine the possibilities of conducting online medical and engineering entrance exams. The committee comprises Prof Phalguni Gupta of IIT Kanpur, Prof BR Garg from University of Delhi and a senior officer at CBSE, Delhi MC Sharma. The committee has also been asked to find out the source of the leak and suggest ways to plug in the gap. It has also been asked to expedite related issues highlighted during the course of police investigations.

Asked to comment on how practical the online solution was keeping in mind the magnanimity of the exam, Joshi said, "we can hold the exam in a phased manner. Spreading it across 10-15 days the way CAT was done is what I can see." He quickly added that there may be some teething troubles but the system would be a more reliable version.

Joshi also took interacted with principals of various CBSE schools in the region in a workshop on quality of education in the 21st century.
Link: Original Article

EU bans Ayurvedic drugs

Says Dr. Ajay Kumar , Past National President, Indian Medical Association & Member of Council of World Medical Association ( WMA) "Countries that are producing such indigenous medicines and they have got indigenous cures if we properly standardize them, we can argue in favour of them. We can produce a strong lobby and go into the global market.

This ban will cause a ripple of unease in parts of the consumer and practitioner community.

It is not just going to affect the trading and international business but it will be a shock to the westerners who are getting relieved from this treatment modality.

Adding further, Kumar says "Companies like Dabur, Himalaya and Divya Yoga are producing many good products and should be promoted through qualified people, they should stand together and we will support them."

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and commerce are acting together to challenge EU herb directive in a legal way. Documentation is under process and a legal agency has been hired to prove that this directive is "Unnecessary Trade Barrier".

European consumers will not be able to use most of the ayurvedic products when a European law will be implemented at its fullest on May 01, 2011. A European directive "The European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products (THMPD)" was introduced as a response to growing concern over adverse effects of such alternative medicines.

This new legislation claims to put consumer's safety first by banning the ayurvedic and other herbal products in Europe. European directive denigrates the practice of ayurveda which has been practiced by Indians for hundreds of years and it is not just confined to India as it is being practiced by other parts of the world also.

Choice of treatment modality should be left upto the individual's will as such ban is a direct attack on their right to health. Ayurvedic treatment is well known for its action against chronic and intractable medical conditions without side effects.

Says Dr. Partap Chauhan, Director, JIVA Ayurveda "By implementing THMPD, the European Union (EU) is denying its citizens access to most ancient healing science (Ayurveda), which has helped millions of EU over past few decades, even in the most chronic disorders where modern medicine fails to show results".

Ayurvedic products have been used in India for hundreds of years, and are both safe and efficacious, and have also been accepted around the globe. Considering any treatment modality alternative is just a perception. Before the emergence of standard treatment modality, Ayurveda employed as a full fledged treatment modality with optimum healing outcomes.

Chauhan says: "To us Western medicine is the alternative medicine. Modern diagnostic methods and emergency treatment procedures are supplement to Ayurveda, which has better treatments for eradicating the root cause of disease It is time the EU recognizes the benefits of Ayurveda and other traditional herbal medicines and use it for the benefit of its citizens."

After implementation of this directive, consumer will only have access to the treatments based on pharmaceutical drugs. This directive infringes ability of consumers to prevent and treat illness in ways that they find pertinence-in. This directive has been cleverly cloaked as issues of "public safety".

Consumers of such medicines have called the EU directive, called as The Traditional herbal Medicinal Products Directive, 2004/24/EC, "discriminatory and disproportionate." This is the right time when India should knock the door of WTO against EU herbal drug order.

Link: Original Article

July 05, 2011

CET, UG curriculum test for new MCI panel

The new five-member governing body (GB) of Medical Council of India (MCI) will meet for the first time on Wednesday.

The earlier board's tenure ended on May 15. The biggest challenge for the new board, headed by noted cardiologist Dr K K Talwar — a well-known figure in AIIMS' corridors and former director of PGI Chandigarh — is to implement the Common Entrance Test (CET) for undergraduate students and the new medical curriculum.

Some members of the former GB fear that the move could get thwarted.

"We have submitted all the documents to the ministry, including the revised undergraduate curriculum, CET, post-graduate regulations, codes on medical ethics, accreditation and the concept of Indian Medical Graduate. At least some of them should see the light of day," an ex-member of GB said.

The member added, "A lot of work went into developing India's new medical curriculum and syllabi. About 250 people worked on it, and we had as many as seven working groups."

TOI was the first to report in April that the ministry would change all the members of MCI. Last Friday, the ministry named Dr Talwar as the new chairman of the all-powerful board of governors.

Other members include Prof K S Sharma from Tata Memorial Hospital, Prof Harbhajan Singh Rassam from Max Hospital, Dr Rajiv Chintaman Yeravdekar from Symbiosis International University and Dr Purushotham Lal, chairman of Metro Hospital.

Dr Talwar told TOI, "I need some time to decide about our main issues."

Sources said the ministry was upset with the Sarin-led GB's pace of work. It had supposedly failed to increase the number of post-graduate medical seats to the "desired level" in this academic session.

"We were surprised that not a single member from the previous board was retained," said an MCI official.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was also upset with the earlier board for its unilateral announcement of introduction of the controversial CET. MCI and the ministry were at odds over the notification, which was later deemed invalid.

The notification had sought a single entrance test for MBBS and MD courses offered by all 271 medical colleges — 138 run by governments and 133 are under private management. The move had put the ministry under pressure from several state governments, including Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

The 77-year-old MCI was dissolved after the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested then MCI president Dr Ketan Desai on April 22, 2010, for accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore. Desai allegedly accepted the cash in lieu of recognizing a medical college in Punjab, which did not meet MCI's norms.

An ordinance was signed by President Pratibha Patil and notified by the law ministry that replaced MCI with a six-member board of governors, headed by Sarin. The six-member panel included Dr Ranjit Roy Chowdhary, Dr Sita Naik, Dr Gautam Sen, Dr Devi Shetty and Dr R L Salhan.

MCI was established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933, which was later repealed in 1956. The Act aims to establish uniform standards of higher qualifications in medicine and recognize medical institutions at home and abroad. Over the years, the Act has gone modifications in 1964, 1993 and 2001.

Link: Original Article

July 04, 2011

Bill Gates praises Nitish Kumar at World Health Assembly

Bill Gates today showered praise on Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar at the World Health Assembly for his impressive performance of rapid vaccination for the children in the state, saying "people are hungry for visionary leaders" who deliver upon their promises."Inter-state jealousies" over social performance are contributing to increased focus on health, Gates told reporters here."I was struck by the chief minister's popularity," he said in his address to the 64th World Health Assembly (WHA), which is the governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO)."Nitish Kumar and Muhammad Pate (head of Nigeria's polio eradication programme) have demonstrated that the best leaders can overcome the worst circumstances," said Gates, adding "People are hungry for visionary leaders who not only promise a better future, but deliver upon that promise." He urged health ministers to embark on rapid vaccination programme to reduce child mortality."Let us rededicate ourselves to the idea that no district will be below 80 per cent coverage," Gates emphasised at the annual meeting of WHA to set the priorities for the coming year.India has one of the highest child and infant mortality rates in the world.Despite a robust pharmaceutical industry and growing economic prosperity, India is yet to make a significant dent on its disease-burden, said health analysts.Gates said nations must strive to "make this the decade of vaccines," underscoring the need for donor countries not to turn a deaf ear for making generous contributions towards "vaccines and immunization." The founder of Microsoft said pharmaceutical companies must manufacture affordable vaccines for poor countries, while WHO's 193 members must "make vaccines a central focus of your health systems, to ensure that all your children have access to existing vaccines now - and to new ones as they become available. He asked vaccine companies in the world to emulate "the Serum Institute of India, led by Dr Cyrus Poonawalla," for manufacturing the low-cost meningitis vaccine.He said the Serum institute has become world's largest producer of the measles vaccines, and the pentavalent vaccine, suggesting that the Indian company is now manufacturing inexpensive "diarrhea and pneumonia vaccines." The Gates foundation has become the second largest donor to the WHO after the US.The WHO, which is facing unprecedented financial deficit to the tune of USD 300 million, is now seeking funds from private and philanthropic outfits committed to improving global health, Dr Margaret Chan, WHO's director general, told reporters.She told PTI that there is no conflict of interests or lack of accountability for the funds received from private sources."WHO is a multilateral organization and we have clear rules," she said, suggesting that it doesn't allow the companies to have any influence in its day-to-day decisions.

Link: Original Article

July 03, 2011

Doctors for You - Desire to serve still drives some doctors in India

In these days of crass commercialisation of healthcare, it may be hard to believe that a band of dedicated young doctors is giving up lucrative assignments and even risking their lives to serve in rural areas on a voluntary basis.

You may have never heard of a group called 'Doctors for You' (DFY), but this group created ripples in international medical circles this past week by winning the best 'Medical team in a crisis zone' award leaving behind strong contenders such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Save the Children. The group got the award for medical relief it offered during the 2008 Kosi floods in Bihar. The award, instituted by publishers of the British Medical Journal celebrates an individual or team that has had an exceptional impact on a crisis situation.

The group deployed 110 of its members who treated 130,000 patients over six months through 300 mobile clinics, district hospitals and camps.

Interestingly, this group of mostly young doctors and medical students from government hospitals and medical colleges was born out of a necessity in August 2007.

It is not a typical NGO looking for opportunities for social work. During the monsoon season, government hospitals face shortage of blood and platelets when they are flooded with cases of malaria and dengue. In order to deal with such shortages, some medicos in Mumbai formed a group to promote voluntary donation of blood and platelets.

When Bihar faced the flood situation, Dr Ravikant Singh - who hails from the state and had founded the voluntary blood donation group - decided to take a small medical team there in August 2008. This slowly grew into a larger engagement over the next six months with several teams providing medical relief in flood- affected villages in rotation.

One young member of the team, Chandrakant Patil, lost his life when he was struck by lightning while sleeping in the open in a medical camp. Because of his pre-occupation in Bihar, Singh had to lose one full term of his post graduate training and an attractive offer to work for the WHO. DFY continues to prepare itself for future emergencies through constant training and by forging alliances with organisations all over the globe.

'A snakebite and a heart attack are both medical emergencies but you need different skill sets to handle them', pointed out Dr Vivek Chhabra, an active member. The group has set up maternal and child health centres - one in Biratpur in Saharsa district and another one in a Mumbai slum. Since March 2009, the Biratpur centre has treated over 50,000 patients and conducted over 100 hospital deliveries without charging any fee. The centre, manned by two doctors and nurses each, has six beds and provides round- theclock emergency services to pregnant women. The plan is to replicate this model in other districts of Bihar and other states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand.

It is the dream and determination of groups like DFY which offers some hope for the health system in India.

If this isn't world class then what is?

For the likes of Jairam Ramesh who think that IIT faculty does not do any ' world class' research, here is a piece of information - a scientist at IIT Kanpur has solved the mystery behind dynamic processes in the earth's inner core. This is a fundamental discovery which was announced in Nature last week. Researchers from the University of Leeds collaborated with the IIT scientist for this research.

It is a different matter that instead of celebrating such successes, our policy makers take pleasure in running our researchers down.

It was so far believed that the inner core is freezing everywhere and is growing out gradually. But Binod Sreenivasan has found that it is melting and freezing simultaneously due to circulation of heat in the overlaying mantle being transferred to it. Over billions of years, the earth has cooled from the inside out causing the molten iron core to partly freeze and solidify. The inner core has been growing as iron crystals freeze and solidify. The heat generated is transferred to the mantle and the crust through convection.

The computer model developed by researchers simulates the outer core, using data from seismic measurements. This showed that variations in heat flow at the coremantle boundary can be transferred to the inner core boundary.

Sreenivasan, a mechanical engineering graduate from NIT Calicut and MS from IIT Madras, initially joined ISRO. But he decided to pursue research and went on to do a PhD at Cambridge. He then moved on to Exeter and Leeds for postdoctoral work on magneto hydro dynamics. In between, he had one year stint at CNRS in France. Finally he joined IIT Kanpur. If faculty like Sreenivasan are not world class, then what is, Mr Ramesh?


Box to save newborns

India has one of the highest rates of neonatal deaths in the world. Many babies die because rural hospitals do not have incubators ( or electricity supply to use them, if they have one) to keep new born babies sufficiently warm soon after birth. Since a large number of deliveries still take place in homes, the incubator is not a solution for rural India. There are instances of babies getting burnt due to faulty incubators or when crude heaters are used to keep them warm.

To overcome such problems, a Mumbai doctor, Subhash Chandra Daga, has developed a simple low cost device - a styrofoam box with four breathing holes - which can be used as a home incubator and a transporting device to keep babies warm. The box is inexpensive, reusable and washable.

It prevents bacterial growth, being a non- vegetative material. Oxygen can also be administered to a baby in the box at a predictable concentration. Over the years, a number of studies have proved that the box performs well in home and hospital settings as well as a transportation device for high risk newborns who require continuing special care while being shifted from one hospital or another. Dr Daga's innovation has been recognised in the category of ' innovation in healthcare' in the BMJ awards. The device, he says, holds hope of survival for thousands of low birth weight babies that are born at home, in harsh weather conditions, and in poor and remote areas of the world. Hopefully the award will lead to greater use of this innovative technology.

Link: Original Article

Barely 1.5% make it to medical colleges via CET

Last summer, over 1.15 lakh candidates appeared for the Common Entrance Test __ Karnataka's largest exam for professional courses __ nursing traditional dreams of becoming a doctor or an engineer. At the end of the rigorous, but fair selection process, barely 2,000 of them managed to bag the coveted MBBS seat under the government quota. Simply put, just 1.5% of the aspirants make it to the medical colleges via the state CET.

While it is a problem of plenty in engineering courses, it is virtually a slugfest for medical courses in the state. Although Karnataka boasts of the second highest number of medical colleges in the country, after Maharashtra, just about a quarter of them are state-run. Despite the soaring demand, the government hasn't started any new medical college in the last four years.

A marginal increase in the number of CET aspirants and an overwhelmingly good performance from ISC students could send the cut-offs soaring this time. "I am aware of the aspirations of the youth to become doctors. Although we are not starting new government medical colleges, we have made arrangements for increasing the intake of the existing colleges. Seats in some of the colleges will be doubled," said S A Ramadass, medical education minister. The 10 government colleges have a meagre intake of 1,100 seats.

The situation is no different in private medical colleges in the state. Consortium of Medical Engineering and Dental Colleges of Karnataka (Comed-K) which has around 11 medical and 25 dental colleges, too, has recorded an increase in the number of aspirants. From around 24,000 candidates, the MBBS/BDS aspirants have risen close to 30,000 this year. The consortium has 1,415 medial seats and 1,580 dental seats on offer.

The deadlock over the engineering fees continuing, talks of retaining last year's fee structure and seat-sharing ratio for medical/dental courses have been put on the back burner. "If the engineering fees is going to be increased, there is no point in withholding the hike for medical courses. How can BE fees be more than MBBS fees? Unless the engineering fees is fixed, we will not sign consensual agreement for medical courses," a Comed-K member said. Last year, 42% of the seats in private non-minority colleges were filled through CET. Ramadass has also promised to bite into 25% increased seats in the the nine deemed universities. "Some of the deemed universities do not want to share sreeats with the government and have gone to court. Wherever there will be an increased intake, we will ensure 25% of additional seats will be surrendered to the government," he said.

Link: Original Article

Stronger pictorial warnings on tobacco products from Dec

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today notified more stringent pictorial warnings for smokable/chewable tobacco packets. The new warnings will come into effect from December, according to a ministry statement. The health ministry's decision follows long-winding protests by the tobacco industry.

ITC, India's top cigarette maker, refused to comment on the development. When Business Standard contacted an ITC spokesperson, he said, “We have not yet received any official notice. We would be ready to comment when we go through the notification and the mandatory pictures. It’s too early to comment on the impact on our cigarette sales.”

However, analysts pointed out a strong pictorial depiction of lung and oral cancer on tobacco packets may curb smoking in the long run. An analyst said the industry was ready for such a notice and that this law was already being exercised in some other countries. Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader, retail and consumer product practice, Ernst and Young, said, “The companies were already expecting this. This development will not bring major protest or impact on sales immediately. The tobacco consumers would continue smoking even after this." He added, "display of stronger pictures will not change their habits overnight. However, such a practice may have an effect on the long run and the next generation may quit smoking.”
India is the second-largest producer of tabacco in the world. Estimates suggest the government collects Rs 35,000 crore from the tobacco industry as revenue annually.

The health ministry notification has cleared a set of four pictures depicting lung and oral cancer for all tobacco product packages — smoking and smokeless (chewing) forms. The pictures will be accompanied by the ‘smoking kills’ sign. The warnings will be rotated every two years from December, in sync with the industry view. Earlier, the government had sought to rotate these pictorial warnings every year, but the industry lobby protested against it, saying unsold stock may go waste.

While currently, branded cigarette packets carry a milder pictorial warning with a ‘smoking kills’ sign, the non-smoking or the chewing products do not have any such clear warnings. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had earlier said Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), India, carried out in 2009-2010, found out 35 per cent of adults use tobacco in some form or the other. “Among them, 26 per cent adults use smokeless tobacco and 9 per cent are smokers. Smokeless tobacco is responsible for 80 per cent of mouth cancer while 20 per cent of mouth cancers are due to smoking,” he said.

The new norms will be called ‘Cigarrettes & Other Tobacco Products (packaging and labelling) amendment Rules, 2011’. The notification has been issued after the government received feedback from different sections of the society that the existing health warnings are not strong and effective enough to influence users to quit the habit of tobacco consumption.

The government had enacted a legislation to curb smoking in the country through Cigarettes and other tobacco products Regulation Act (COTPA) in 2003. After a long legal battle, the rules relating to Section 7 of COTPA, 2003 which mandated pictorial health warnings on tobacco products came into implementation on May 31, 2009. But the pictorial warnings notified at that point were found to be not too effective.

Link: Original Article

July 02, 2011

Prescribing generic drugs may become must

The government may make it mandatory for all doctors to write the generic or chemical name of drugs they prescribe, a move that can cut medicine costs by more than half.

Last year, the health ministry had asked doctors in over 300 central government hospitals, clinics and autonomous institutions under it to write the name of the generic equivalent along with the brand.

Minister of state for chemical and fertiliser Srikant Jena now plans to approach the health ministry and the Union cabinet to make it a national-level initiative that will also cover doctors in private hospitals and clinics.

This means that instead of prescribing, say, Crocin, doctors will have to specify the generic name, paracetamol, an unbranded version of which retails for a fourth of the branded medicine cost and has the same therapeutic efficacy.

Jena told ET that the government is examining legal implications of a proposed intervention either through an advisory or a directive since health is a state subject. "Generic drugs can reduce cost of medicines by 50% and is the best way to reduce the cost of drugs," he said.

Delhi and Rajasthan have already asked doctors in all state government-run hospitals to prescribe only the generic names of medicines. Drugs worth 48,000 crore are sold every year by over five lakh chemists and about 10,000 crore in hospitals and clinics.

The government also plans to launch an awareness campaign to educate the public about the benefits of buying generic drugs and force doctors to give the option to buy a cheaper version of the medicine.

Jena said: "Doctors prescribe branded drugs because they are not properly told about generics. A campaign needs to be carried out both at the state and the central level. The impression among public is that cheap drugs have low efficacyĆ¢€¦Even in the US and other developed markets, doctors write generic equivalents."

Unlike other commodities, consumers cannot choose from different brands and drugmakers spend crores of rupees to convince doctors to promote their particular brand over others. Pharma companies also often give expensive gifts and pay for travel of doctors, practices considered unethical that eventually drive up the cost of treatment.

Link: Original Article

July 01, 2011

Medical negligence victims can now post complaints online

The Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) has decided to introduce an online complaint platform to help medical negligence victims ensure quick resolution of their issues.

This will be a major relief for patients who were awaiting justice in medical negligence cases. In the past few years, about 598 cases of alleged medical negligence have piled up at the council, waiting to be cleared.

On Saturday, an executive committee was formed with Dr Kishor Taori as president and Dr Avinash Yelikar as vice-president.

Other members of this committee are Dr Shivkumar Utture, Dr Bipin Pandit, Dr Santosh Kadam, Dr Manoj Dehsmukh, Dr Ravi Wankhedkar and Dr SD Nandkar.

“To deliver immediate justice, we are going to introduce a system where medical negligence victim can file his complaint online on our website which will start within a month. After receiving a complaint, we will not delay any procedure. The concerned doctors and complainants will be called to resolve the issue as early as possible,” said Dr Taori.

The committee has the right to suspend a doctors’ license depending on the nature of negligence. Dr Utture said, “Earlier, the MMC working committee used to sit for meetings once in two months. Now, we will call meetings depending on the gravity of the pending cases.”

As a state governing body, the MMC was formed in 1965 to investigate medical negligence cases. Elections were held every five years to form an executive committee. But in 1999, following a court verdict, the elections were declared null after objections about its process and an administrator was appointed.

The MMC plays a major role in cases of medical negligence since the police do not take immediate cognizance of such cases, resulting which negligence victims have to wait for committee reports by doctors at government hospitals which can take over a year. Patients and relatives often choose to give up because of the long waiting period.

The body also maintains a roster of registered medical practitioners and prescribes a code of ethics to regulate their professional conduct.

Link: Original Article

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