Global Health Ideas

Finding global health solutions through innovation and technology

Archive for January 2007

The Power of an Idea: Using ICT to Help Iraqi Healthcare – Donations Needed!

There have been two recent interesting stories about helping Iraqi medical professionals. Before I begin, please see the request for donated medical textbooks at the end of this post. The first story is about an ICT non-profit in San Francisco that is helping equip (with computers) and wire up 19 teaching hospitals in Iraq. The organization, Wired International, was founded in 1997 with a mission to provide “medical and healthcare information, education and communications resources to communities in developing and post-conflict regions”. They seem to have achieved both scale and scope, since that time they have 76 information centers in 11 countries that serve 1 million year. Now they are getting involved in Iraq:

News Release, Jan 27, 2007 –
“Thanks to communication Professor Gary Selnow and his dedicated band of volunteers, Iraq’s medical schools are no longer without critical telecommunications and access to global databases. After equipping medical information centers at 19 Iraqi teaching hospitals, Selnow and WiRED, the nonprofit he founded to do this work, finalized arrangements to equip an additional 20 centers throughout the war-torn country. For the first time since Saddam Hussein cut off communications between Iraqi doctors and the rest of the world, faculty and students have the technology to consult with colleagues in other countries and tap such critical information sources as those at the World Health Organization.” (State Department press release can be found here)

The second story has to do with an almost accidental wide scale mission to supply Iraqi clinicians with up to date medical textbooks and journals. The doctor who started this never expected so much support. It is a neat story that is worth reading. DONATIONS are still needed, please pass the word (info on donations is at the end):

The Power of an Idea: Help for Iraqi Medical Professionals, Excerpts from Medscape:
Nearly 3 years ago I learned from my son, then in Iraq with the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, that the medical college in Tikrit had virtually no teaching or research library. I also learned that, for historical reasons, Iraqi medicine has been taught in English since Iraq was a British protectorate following World War I. My initial reaction was to seek a few donated copies of textbooks from distributors and publishers for them…

After publishing this first Medscape article, donations from Medscape readers began to be sent…Thus began a totally volunteer project that has no formal name, no budget, and no staff, but that has met with astounding success… The influence of the Internet is such that the AMA’s American Medical News, the Associated Press, the newsletter of the American Medical Library Association, and others have subsequently publicized the program, bringing in new interest and offers to donate.

The true heroes of this story are the American military personnel who have volunteered to receive and distribute donated publications…What has also become apparent is that there is at least equivalent heroism among the Iraqi medical professionals who struggle with limited resources to provide the best possible care to their patients. Donations now far exceed 200,000 textbooks and nearly a half million professional journals.

***Donations Still Needed: Please Help***
The need for medical publications remains largely unmet. Our contacts in the region describe the situation clearly: “This area has very competent physicians and healthcare providers who simply lack the necessary supplies and resources to perform at their true potential. They do a fantastic job with extremely limited resources and anything that can be done to help them is a true blessing. Clinics and hospital are very short on modern books and recent journals.”

Iraqi medical training and practice is modern although severely strapped for resources. Their needs are for contemporary publications, both texts and journals. The Iraqi Ministry of Health has requested that donated text editions have publication dates no earlier than 2000 or, for journals, nothing published prior to 2002. Primary care materials are very useful in community clinics. Specialty materials are extremely scarce in the hospitals and teaching institutions and will also be well received. Pharmacy, physical therapy/rehabilitation materials, dental, and veterinary publications are useful with no language barrier to understanding.

Please contact David B. Gifford, MD at dgifford at hot.rr.com for up-to-date information about how and where to send donated medical publications and medically related materials.

Other sources: Michael Yon

Written by Aman

January 31, 2007 at 6:18 am

Negotiating two noble goals – ‘access to essential medicines’ vs. ‘pharma innovation’

Novartis has asked for clarification on a set of patents related to Gleevac, a leukemia drug. Today’s New York Times describes the battle between Novartis and Indian generic drug manufacturers in an article entitled, Battle Pits Patent Rights Against Low-Cost Generic Drugs.

Most of you are probably very familiar with the ongoing debate pitting further pharmaceutical innovation against access to essential medicines. This article does not resolve this issue, but it does provide further evidence that international agreements on IP rights have emboldened ‘big pharma’. At issue here is breakthrough vs. incremental innovations of pharmaceuticals. According to the article,

It would also effectively tighten patent legislation passed by India in 2005 to limit the manufacture of generic drugs. The law was intended to bring India in line with the World Trade Organization’s agreement on intellectual property rights.

The 2005 law allows patents to be granted on new versions of older, off-patent medicines if the new version can be shown to represent a significant improvement on the original, but not in the case of “incremental innovations.”

According to Novartis the new version allows for better absorbtion into the body over previous and off patent versions of the leukemia drug. John Gilardi states “If there is no patent protection, we will not see billions of dollars being invested in the research of medicines,”. But, monetary investment aside, at what point does expanding the protections on intellectual property decrease incentives to innovate. Without in depth familiarity of the case, it seems the Indian court ruled that the new version did not represent a significant incremental innovation. The issue of patent violation was never seriously on the table.

Novartis already gave free supplies of Gleevac to 6,800 patients in India suffering from the rare form of leukemia that it was developed to combat. He [John Gilardi] said that number represented more than 90 percent of all the cases in the country.

Donations as a model does not represent a sustainable solution to the “access to essential medicine” problem. Yet, it has been and continues be trumped as a possible model for mitigating the problem. See Making Sight Affordable (Part I): Aurolab Pioneers Production of Low-Cost Technology for Cataract Surgery for a discussion of this issue for intraocular lenses.

Written by Mahad Ibrahim

January 30, 2007 at 12:51 am

Thailand approves production of patented HIV, cardiovascular drugs

The titles of these two articles – Thailand to break AIDS, heart drugs patents from ETNA (Thailand) and Thailand backs patent drug copies from the BBC – suggest different actions on behalf of the Thai government, but they both report on the same: Thailand has approved production of patented HIV and cardiovascular pharmaceuticals.  The drugs in question are Kaletra, an antiretroviral protease inhibitor produced by Abbott Laboratories, and Plavix, an anti-clotting agent from Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

From the ETNA article:

BANGKOK, Jan 30 (TNA) – The Thai Public Health Ministry confirmed Monday that it has issued compulsory licenses for the production of two drugs, one for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and another for a cardiovascular drug, paving the way for immediate production and imports of lower-cost generic versions.

… 

[Thai Public Health Minister Dr Mongkol na Songkhla] said the decision to break the patents was not taken lightly but the move was necessary to ensure that the affected Thai patients have access to cheaper generic versions of the life-saving drugs.

He added that generic production of Plavix, for instance, would reduce the cost from about 70 baht (US$2.06) a pill to less than six baht (18 cents).

This is the second time Thailand’s military-backed government has broken an international drug patent in the interest of the health needs of the country’s poor.

In November it introduced Thailand’s first compulsory licencing for Merck’s Efavirenz anti-retroviral AIDS treatment.

Davos 2007 Technology Pioneer: Aresa – Landmine Biosensor

There were 47 “Technology Pioneers” (Full Report, PDF) named for the Davos World Economic Forum meeting last week. Selections was based on innovative organizations that were developing life-changing technologies. There are several known names on the list and one that we heard about last year is Aresa, a start-up company that is trying to commercial a biosenor technology for landmine detection. There are an estimated 100 million unexploded landmines globally. The remarkable thing about this is they are using a genetically modified version of a naturally occurring weed. More details below:

39791983_11redgreen203.jpg

Saving Lives And Limbs With a Weed, Time December 2006
“Aresa, a Copenhagen-based biotech start-up, has genetically modified a common weed called thale-cress so that its leaves turn red when the plant comes in contact with nitrogen dioxide–a compound that naturally leaches into the soil from unexploded land mines made from plastic and held together by leaky rubber seals.”

Previous BBC story (which points out potential limitations of this technology).

Written by Aman

January 29, 2007 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Innovation

LA Times: A vaccine development ‘renaissance’

This Sunday’s LA Times has a story about a so-called A vaccine development ‘renaissance’. This resurgence in vaccine development is being led by improved scientific knowledge, increased government research funding and interest among global drug companies, innovative financing schemes and purchase guarantees and finally better delivery mechanisms. Vaccines have done much to improve global health in the modern era, but it is clear the dynamics of vaccines have changed significantly. As described by Rachel Glennerster, Michael Kremer, Heidi Williams in their article Creating a Market for Vaccines (MIT Press journal -Innovations Case Discussion, PDF):

Vaccines are perhaps the paradigmatic example of a cheap, easy-to-use technology that can have tremendous health impacts even in very poor countries with weak health care infrastructures. Vaccines (relative to drug treatments) require little training or expensive equipment to implement, do not require diagnosis for use, can be taken in a few doses instead of in a longerterm regimen, and rarely have major side effects. They can be prescribed and delivered by health care workers with very limited training, and resistance rarely develops against vaccines.

However, it is clear to many that the market for vaccines has a large role to play in the dearth of progress developing vaccines for the prickly and prevasive diseases, such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. Glennerster, Kremer and Williams further state,

Poor countries have benefited enormously from such vaccines, but these benefits have for the most part been a fortunate byproduct. Little public- or private-sector R&D is targeted toward developing new health technologies for diseases concentrated in poor countries.

Of the 1,233 drugs licensed worldwide between 1975 and 1997, only 13 were for tropical diseases; of these 13, five came from veterinary research, two were modifications of existing medicines, and two were produced for the U.S. military—only four were developed by commercial pharmaceutical firms specifically for tropical diseases of humans.

According the to LA Times article:

Prevnar, a vaccine introduced in 2000 to treat pneumococcal pneumonia — the cause of up to a quarter of all community-acquired pneumonia cases each year — runs about $250 for a four-shot series. It became the first vaccine to clock $1 billion in annual sales, giving it so-called blockbuster status.

This potential for blockbuster sales has facilitated the return of drug giants to the market, but does this change the story for diseases centered in the Global South. The answer is unequivocally NO! but not to be disheatened, this rennaissance has ushered in mechanisms to create markets for vaccines targeting diseases found mostly in the Global South. Perhaps most famous of these initiatives is the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Read the recent case study on the IAVI by Seth Berkley – Ending an Epidemic: The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative Pioneers a Public-Private Partnership.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI alliance) has also played a seminal role in distributing and administering vaccinations in those regions of the world with barely functioning health care systems.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, GAVI announced it would commit an additional $500 million over three years to strengthen healthcare systems in poor countries, a key problem in implementing vaccine programs in many locales. The organization says it has prevented 2.3 million deaths from disease since its inception, including 600,000 last year.

Finally, another major piece of the puzzle is reducing uncertainty regarding effective demand for vaccines. The most often discussed mechanism for ensuring effective demand of vaccines has been advance purchase commitments. see the article cited above for detail on this mechanism. Another issue addressed in the following recent post – Vaccine Demand Forecasting: Creating Markets and Incentives – is the issue of demand forecasting. Though the benefits of vaccines are clear, we must refrain from reductionist thought about the nature of human behavior. Much work needs to be done educating and advocating for the immunization of children and adults. Under the current circumstances it can be quite challenging to forecast demand for vaccines. As the recent issue in Northern Nigeria illustrated, sometimes cultural, religious and other factors often trump sound health practices. The history of development in the Global South has created much acrimony and distrust. As professionals, academics, and practitioners of technology, health and development must always realize the complexity of technological interventions – the case of vaccines is especially illustrative of this fact.

Written by Mahad Ibrahim

January 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm

Top Bollywood Stars too Cool for HIV/AIDS

It appears that some movie celebrities in India are woefully behind the times. Another attempt is being made in Bollywood to bring HIV/AIDS education to the public, however getting the top actors involved has been difficult. This is unfortunate given the tremendous impact of Bollywood, the influence of which cannot be emphasized enough with an estimated 15 million viewers daily. There have been two full length films on HIV/AIDS in Bollywood, but those were unsuccessful commercial ventures. Considering the stigma surrounding the full length features it will be interesting to see what happens with this new effort:

Bollywood Plots AIDS Message Despite Stars’ Apathy. Scientific American Jan 2007.
Four top Bollywood directors are to make short films dealing with HIV/AIDS that will be shown before blockbuster releases, hoping to use their stars’ pulling power to spread awareness of the deadly virus in India…The low-budget, 12-minute movies will be shown at theatres ahead of full-length commercial Bollywood films that star well-known actors, said Mira Nair, the India-born director of “Mississippi Masala” and the sensuous hit “Kama Sutra”.

“The idea is to piggyback on blockbusters to spread AIDS awareness” Nair Said. Nair, who is making one of the 12-minute films which will be titled “Migration”, said she had been unable to get A-list Bollywood actors to feature in the films on AIDS…”Lots of stars don’t want to be associated with the virus”.

Other sources: Reuters

Written by Aman

January 28, 2007 at 9:42 am

Posted in Global Health

Watch what you’re grabbing…

A fun and clever public health message with a strategically placed door nob to prompt hand washing among men. The stickers that decry poor practice link to viral videos at http://www.washyourhands.tv/

Life sized stickers of Indian child beggars were used to bring awareness of their needs to wealthy shoppers. It’s not quite clear if this was only a concept or an actual campaign.

An enjoyable blog that highlights other smart and compelling non-profit advertising and social campaigns is Houtlust

Written by Justin

January 24, 2007 at 7:55 pm

Tidbits: Cheap Vaccines From Tobacco, Bush on Malaria & PEPFAR, Gates Foundation Ethics, Davos

  • Breakthrough in Vaccine Manufacturing via Tobacco & Other Plants-
    “A breakthrough in research will help make certain vaccines much cheaper and ideal for people in poor countries…Henry Daniell (his website had video as well) has found a way to genetically engineer plants to make large amounts of certain vaccines…Scientists first inject plants, like tobacco, lettuce or carrots, with vaccine genes. These are then planted in a greenhouse before being crushed and put into capsules to be taken by patients…ust one acre of tobacco plants, for example, could produce enough anthrax vaccine to inoculate everyone in the United States…Professor Daniell says he decided to work on cheap vaccines after witnessing the impact of disease in his native India.” LINK. As a side note, for more innnovate work on vaccines, check out the work by the CGDEV (Center for Global Development.
  • Bush on Malaria and AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) –
    From last nights State of the Union 2007 – “I ask you to provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries…We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa”. LINK.
  • Davos (World Economic Forum) Conversation –
    There are many people blogging about Davos, NextBillion has some more references. One more for you to check out is DavosConversation.org (LINK).
  • Gates Foundation and Ethics of Philanthropy –
    The decision by the Gates Foundation continues to be debated. Check out this carnival of opinions sounding off from the blogosphere in one spot. LINK to TactilePhilanthropy.
  • Infrastructure in India –
    Vinod Khosla’s Marshall Plan for rural India, “One out of 10 people on this planet is a rural Indian…” LINK to Salon article.

Written by Aman

January 24, 2007 at 7:53 am

Posted in Global Health

Call for Private Sector Involvement in Malaria Efforts

Public-private partnerships have been all the rage, here are two recent articles on that front. The first is an opinion piece calling for more private sector involvement and the second is a demonstration of using private businesses to distribute insecticide resistant mosquito nets.

Increased innovation needed in the fight against epidemics , Jan 11, 2007

In a Jan. 1 editorial, the P-I rightly pointed to the need for partnerships to address global health challenges and meet goals to reduce disease and death. However, the editorial overlooked the integral role of the private sector in developing new solutions to fight epidemics… “The only way to win the war against malaria is to find new and even more effective ways to prevent infection and treat those who are sick. That includes the development of new drugs and diagnostics, as well as a malaria vaccine that has the potential to offer widespread protection against the disease… While the research that will fuel new tools is often found in academia and in the government sector, we need the involvement of industry — namely pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies — to turn research into life-saving products.”

Public-Private Cooperation Helps Fight Malaria, Jan 18, 2007

Dr. David McGuire is the director of USAID’s NetMark Project, which promotes the use of bed nets and helps African businesses distribute them.  He says NetMark is partnered with nearly 40 companies in eight countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Zambia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe), which in turn sell more than 15 brands of ITNs…Health experts say there are many advantages to such private-public partnerships; donors are able to stretch their dollars by taking advantage of the private sector’s efficient distribution network, stimulate the local business community in high unemployment areas, and create competition among venders to keep prices low…The involvement of the private sector has also led to the creation of Africa-based factories, including several in Tanzania, that can manufacture the nets, rather than relying on imports.

Written by Aman

January 23, 2007 at 8:16 am

Celebrities, HIV Babies & Chronic Diseases in Low Income Regions

You might be wondering what celebrities and babies have to do with chronic diseases in devleoping countries. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) last week implied that sympathy for HIV+ poor babies has an impact on funding for chronic diseases in developing countries (see excerpt 1 below) and that this should be pointed out. This linkage is weak at best, more likely not linked at all, and in either case posits a false dichotomony of supporting a single response to either chronic or infectious diseases.

We may be starting to turn the corner with respect to attention paid to chronic diseases in the “Global South” and let me state up front that I think this is overdue. Health Affairs last week published an excellent piece [“Reducing the Burden of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) in the Developing World”] and the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has two articles on chronic diseases [“Expanding Priorities – Confronting Chronic Disease in Countries with Low Income” and “Obesity and Diabetes in the Developing World”]. I would like to bring your attention to the first NEJM piece [“Expanding Priorities”] by Dr. Anderson, professor at Johns Hopkins.

Jan 18, 2007 NEJM Excerpt 1 (from Expanding Priorities -Confronting Chronic Diseases) – “Sympathy is also a powerful driver of public opinion and funding. When a celebrity holds a baby with AIDS, the heartrending photographs generate attention, compassion, and donations. A photograph of a 40-year-old man with hypertension would be far less compelling, even if we knew he was a father, husband, and primary breadwinner.” [emphasis added].

While my current research focuses largely on chronic diseases and I do understand the frustration of the authors (infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS get all the attention) there is something critical missing from their overall point. Anderson discusses reasons why more attention is paid to infectious diseases and in my opinion makes a mistake in trying to make comparisons to chronic diseases. In the article he seems to imply that because many more people die from chronic diseases and because the associated treatment is more cost-effective and lower cost compared to HIV/AIDS, we should shift funding and attention to things like hypertension in developing countries. To Anderson’s credit, this message may have not been his intention, after all the article is entitled “Expanding Priorities”, not “Changing Priorities”. I also have to give him credit for his willingness to enter such a potentially contentious debate (if framed as such) . However, the tone, approach, comparisons made, and failure to mention critical aspects about the implications of infectious diseases leaves the article lacking.

It is one thing to call for increased attention to the burden of chronic diseases in the global health arena; however it is entirely another thing to insinuate that there are misaligned priorities (which would be a fine if backed up by a well thought out argument). The critical piece Anderson fails to mention is the tremendous impact on the basic social, cultural, and economic fabric that HIV/AIDS is having in some regions of the world. If people are dying before they get chronic diseases, what would be more prudent – a focus on chronic diseases or a focus on acute infectious diseases (even if chronic disease treatment is lower cost)?

The article on CVD in Health Affairs lays out a much more cogent argument with a different tone that appeals to the cause the authors are trying to make, it is definitely worth reading. I am surprised this article was even published in NEJM. Perhaps I am being too harsh and mis-read the article, if someone has another perspective, I would love to hear it.

Excerpt 2 – NEJM (Expanding Priorities -Confronting Chronic Diseases) “…cardiovascular disease alone accounts for nearly 30% of all deaths worldwide and 10% of all years of healthy life lost to disease…Three infectious diseases — tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and malaria — have attracted the greatest attention from international donors, but together they are responsible for only 10% of the deaths in the world (12% in low-income countries) and 11% of the disability-adjusted life-years (13% in low-income countries). Despite the fact that a substantial burden of disease in the world’s poorer countries is caused by noncommunicable chronic diseases, most international aid agencies have focused primarily on preventing and treating infectious diseases.”

Number of Deaths in Low and Lower Middle Income Regions – NEJM Jan 18th, 2007

ldc_deaths.jpg

Written by Aman

January 22, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Johns Hopkins Health Sciences Informatics Fellowships

Not many educational institutions are dealing with the critical need for people trained in designing, administering, and maintaining information and information technologies in health care settings. The Division of Health Science Informatics (DHSI) at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has created a training fellowship aimed at filling this gap. The program aims to,

  • To achieve a baseline level of competency in health sciences informatics
  • To assimilate the fundamentals of health sciences informatics research
  • To develop proficiency in one or more defined areas of health sciences informatics
  • To increase knowledge of fields related to health sciences informatics, such as computer science, biostatistics, and evaluation methodology
  • To observe and participate in collaborative research and development activities in health sciences informatics
  • To complete a health sciences informatics research experience that includes proposal development, project execution, data evaluation, and reporting of results
  • Applications are due soon. Feb 15, 2007. Check out their website, DHSI Training Fellowship

    Written by Mahad Ibrahim

    January 22, 2007 at 1:34 am

    Posted in Education, ICT

    Winner of BMJ “‘Medical’ Milestones”

    Although sanitation is far from synonymous with medical practice, the British Medical Journal announced that sanitation received the highest number of votes (out of 11,000) for most significant advancement in health since 1840 [Jan 5th THDblog post lists top 15 innovations]. See video announcement at the BMJ website. Be sure to fast forward through 3 minutes 20 seconds of silent conference room set-up.

    Via the Genetics and Health blog here is the breakdown of the voting behind sanitation. You can read the full story in the Guardian.

    • Antibiotics – 14.5%
    • Anaesthesia – 13.9%
    • Vaccines – 11.8%
    • Discovery of DNA structure 8.8%

    Written by Ben

    January 21, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Neglected Diseases Update

    Sleeping sickness is estimated to cause 48,000 to 100,000 deaths a year in Sub-Saharan Africa. Effective disease control has been hampered by lack of safe oral drug treatments. Friday, Essential.org’s IPhealth listserv emailed a revised news article from SciDev.Net about a breakthrough cure. The email, prefaced by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), stated that, although DNDi did not agree with the original SciDev.net article, the new drug combination (eflornithine and nifurtimox) appears to be efficacious against the Trypanosoma brucei parasite [Jan 10, “Calls for fast access to sleeping sickness drug“].

    According to Girardo Priotto of Doctors Without Borders, “The situation is so desperate in the field that we are not happy with two more years of waiting for the final results of the current trial, so we are looking for ways of extending access to this treatment through additional studies.”…

    Thousands of people each year are diagnosed with advanced-stage sleeping sickness, which is fatal if not treated. Current treatment, with the drug melarsoprol, itself causes the death of around six per cent of patients. In addition, some patients are also resistant.

    No data were released in this report and it remains unclear how efficacious the new treatment regime may be. ClinicTrials.gov details the study design and collaborators.

    More broadly in the neglected diseases field, there is resurgent interest in drug development: from discovery to trials to regulatory approval. OneWorldHealth is a well publicized example [see Oct 8th post “Non Profit Rx Venture“] and several others including Essential.org, DNDi, and the Tropical Disease Initiative [check out the 50 min video on Shannon’s Blog], each of which specialize in some link on the drug development chain. The World Health Organization and many high profile partners are also putting more muscle into the neglected diseases fight. Check out the October Preventive Chemotherapy in Human Helminthiasis news release, quoted here:

    “Preventive chemotherapy does not necessarily stop infection taking place but it can help to reduce transmission,” the Director of the UN World Health Organization, Department for the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, Lorenzo Savioli, said. “The benefit of preventive chemotherapy is that it immediately improves health and prevents irreversible disease in adults.”The approach contained in a newly published manual, Preventive Chemotherapy in Human Helminthiasis, focuses on using a set of low-cost or free drugs to simultaneously treat the four most common diseases caused by worms and afflicting over 1 billion people: river blindness (onchocerciasis), elephantiasis (lymphatic filariasis), chistosomiasis, and soil-transmitted helminthiasis. The cost: as low as 40 cents per person per year.

    “In the same way as we protect people against a number of vaccine-preventable diseases throughout their lives, the regular and coordinated use of a few drugs can protect people against worm-induced disease, improving children’s performance at school and the economic productivity of adults,” Mr. Savioli said.

    The new approach provides a critical first step in combining treatment for diseases which, although different, require common resources and delivery strategies for control or elimination. The second key component brings together for the first time dozens of agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), pharmaceutical companies and others into a coordinated assault on neglected diseases.

    The diseases’ impact can be measured in the impaired growth and development of children, complications during pregnancies, underweight babies, significant and sometimes disabling disfigurements, blindness, social stigma, and reduced economic productivity and household incomes.

    These effects can be dramatically reduced by using highly effective drugs of proven quality and excellent safety record – the majority donated free by companies or costing less than $0.40 per person per year, including the cost of the drugs and their delivery.

    Another recent development in neglected diseases drug discovery by British researchers [Guardian story, hat tip to Innovation blog] has huge potential cost-savings but, at least according to the Innovation blog, the technique “effectively amounts to a sophisticated form of reverse engineering that skirts patent laws and this is not the same as conducting original drug development.” Definitely a story to watch…

    Desk Clearing: Social Capitalist Awards, Gates Foundation, Mobile Phones as a Human Right and more…

    It’s time to do some housekeeping, there are several interesting stories this week that you will find below. Also do not forget to vote for the 59smartestorgs online.

    Other

    • Fast Company has another issue devoted to the Social Capitalist Awards with several articles. Link
    • More on the Gates Foundation story, it looks like they have decided to stick to their guns. WorldChanging haswritten extensively on this, check it out (Transforming Philanthropy) and Philanthropy 2173 is asking you to vote on this issue. For the LA Times article see the link below:
    • Gates Foundation to keep its investment approach. Link
    • Are mobile phones a human right? Link
    • RH Reality Check has a posting about the US lack of support for UNFPA, an issue taken up by an impressive grass roots campaign, known as 34 Million Friends. You can view a video here.

    Pharmaceutical & Device Developments/Breakthroughs

    • A Real-World AIDS Vaccine? Link
    • Researchers Discover Drug That Blocks Malaria Parasites. Link
    • Nigeria to enact law to back malaria, HIV drugs. Link
    • Roche Diagnostics Submits West Nile Virus Blood Screening Test to FDA. Link
    • This is a very cool story about the discovery of forgotten “cures”.
      Ancient Book of Herbs Used in the War on Bacteria. NY Times link, via MedGadget.
    • For another take on the “Ethical Pharmaceuticals” Model, check out this lengthy piece.

    Written by Aman

    January 19, 2007 at 7:10 am

    Best Online Practies: 59 Smartest Non-profit Orgs

    More from the best of 2006 world, check out this list of best online practices and be sure to vote. There are several health focused organizations. Based on a cursory overview the list seems to be fairly diversified in terms of cause, however most of the organizations seem to be based in the US. It is nice to see what others are doing that is successful. Too bad AIDG is not on the list, I guess we will have to push for them next year:

    59smartestorgs.gif

    “These charities were chosen for their excellence in online storytelling and collaboration with their donors. We didn’t play favorites to one cause over another, nor did we look at their fundraising goals or number of members. Instead, these organizations are winners because of their web 2.0 smarts and a willingness to engage their constituents far beyond asking them to dig into their pockets.”

    Written by Aman

    January 18, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Posted in Global Health

    Success Stories from Africa, Part 2


    Following up Aman’s November 21st post [“Success Stories from Africa“] with my less than imaginative “Part 2”, I bring you a photo essay that accompanies the World Health Organization’s African Regional Health Report. True to purpose, the photos have an everyday feel to them – photos taken in hospitals and patients’ homes and farmers’ fields, with subjects going about the day-to-day of saving lives by keeping electronic medical records, educating patients, and planting Artemisia annua.

    The upbeat tone of the report and the focus on success is reminiscent of other development success stories: ICT, Youth, Poverty and Gender published last May and the Center for Global Development’s book Millions Saved published in 2004.

    Written by Ben

    January 17, 2007 at 2:44 am

    Reality Check: Focus on Rx Prices a “Red Herring” and Invisible Children

    This blog is largely about documenting various solutions, how technology can/is being used, and innovation in global health. However, it is good to be reminded of the realities on the ground and in some cases the extreme circumstances that some people are facing. This came to mind when I ran into the two different examples below. First, there was a news story earlier this month about scientists who had figured out a way to slash drug development costs by re-designing drugs, which they have dubbed the “ethical pharmaceutical” model. I encourage you to read further details at BBC (Medicines patent loophoole found) and the two articles published by the Guardian (article 1, article 2). Hat tip goes to emednews for this find and the article below. Following up on the ethical pharmaceutical model, there is a scathing rebuttal of this idea published over at AllAfrica.com, that presents another perspective. The tone is over the top, but it is good to see debate and discussion of the elephant in the room – health system infrastructure:

    ‘Ethical’ Drugs’ Miss Heart of Matter
    January 8, 2007
    “Last week, scientists at Imperial College, London, gave us “ethical pharmaceuticals”, claiming they will slash drug prices and save poor countries from disease. But this is more about salving western consciences than helping the poor…the philanthropic pharmacists are chasing a red herring. The price of medicines is only of marginal relevance to health care in poor countries.”

    “Access to even basic medicines in India remains unacceptably low. Children go without routine vaccinations. Simple off-patent anti-infectives are unavailable to the majority of the rural poor. Despite pumping out cheap generic AIDS drugs for years, a paltry 12000 of India’s 5-million AIDS sufferers were getting the drugs at the end of last year.”

    “For the Indian poor, the price of drugs is not the issue. The real issue is the state of their health-care infrastructure. The government-run system is a shambles, riddled with inefficiency and corruption and lacking resources. The transport network is so bad that rural people struggle to get to a clinic, if there is one. Meanwhile, dirty water and cooking fuels exact a terrible toll of disease on the poor. What people need are hospitals, clinics, doctors and nurses. Without them, you can give drugs away for free and they still won’t get to the most needy.

    Full Article. One might argue that drug prices are significant because if the prices of various medical supplies can be reduced, it may create an economy that will indeed bit by bit generate pieces of infrastructure that is needed (clinics, storefronts, etc.). This is somewhat of a stretch and I would like to see a good example of where this might be happening and I will have to investigate the Health Store Foundation to see what their impact has been. There is an additional issue of giving away free drugs, which has certainly been debated before as being detrimental because of long term sustainability issues and also because it can cannabilize any sort of market that might have been. Hopefully I will have time to discuss a few more examples regarding this issue…

    ——

    I spotted the other reminder of on the ground realities over at 500 hats regarding a recent documentary about children caught in the war in Northern Uganda. More on the movie, Invisible Children can be found here, with a short clip below. There is a 1 hour version on google video and here is the trailer. A description is as follows:

    “In the spring of 2003, three young Americans traveled to Africa in search of such as story. What they found was a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them. A story where children are weapons and children are the victims. The “Invisible Children: rough cut” film exposes the effects of a 20 year-long war on the children of Northern Uganda. These children live in fear of abduction by rebel soldiers, and are being forced to fight as a part of violent army. This wonderfully reckless documentary is fast paced, with an MTV beat, and is something truly unique. To see Africa through young eyes is humorous and heart breaking, quick and informative – all in the very same breath. See this film, you will be forever changed.”


    Based on the above two pieces, it would be nice to finish this post on a more inspirational note, check out another documentary, Lusaka Sunrise, on using sports to educate youth about HIV/AIDS:

    A couple of organizations that are using sports include Grass Roots Soccer and the well known, Carolina for Kibera, which I believe orginally started with soccer/futbol to also educate youth about HIV/AIDS.

    Written by Aman

    January 16, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    The 4 Cent Inhaler

    lg_conix_inhand.jpgLast month MIT Tech Review profiled a potentially cool new product for drug administration that is not only cheaper than existing technologies (syringes, etc.) but also appears to be more effective in drug delivery (at least 40% more effective) and can be used by community health workers with little training. Due to the clinical trial process, this inhaler maybe 3-4 years away from widespread use and is dependent on powdered drug formulations. However, the device maker, Cambridge Consultants, seems to be initially targeting the bird flu market, so this may be on the market sooner. Excerpts from the article below:

    MIT Technology Review, December 2006
    “When the World Health Organization (WHO) tallied up the total price tag for immunization programs over the next decade in the world’s 72 poorest countries, the surprise wasn’t the total–$35 billion–but that fully two-thirds of this sum would be spent not on the drugs but on the delivery systems and the staff overhead to administer them. Syringes are cheap, costing pennies apiece, but they require trained staff. Inhalers are easier and safer to administer–but far more expensive to buy…

    Now comes a simple new piece of technology: a four-cent inhaler that administers drugs without the moving parts or aerosols used in traditional inhalers, which have as many as 20 moving parts and cost up to 40 cents apiece…

    To make their inhaler cheaper, engineers at Cambridge Consultants, of Cambridge, England, and Boston, focused on its internal shape. When a user inhales, a kind of miniature tornado forms inside the device, lifting a powdered drug into the air. A user must simply unfold the inhaler, which pierces a foil pouch that holds dry powder, and breathe in. That means patients don’t need much staff help, and health-care workers can oversee more patients while avoiding the hazards of needle sticks.” Full Story.

    Written by Aman

    January 13, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Update: Gates Foundation to reassess investments

    LA Times, January 11, 2007

    In a significant change, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday that it would review its investments to determine whether its holdings were socially responsible. The David & Lucille Packard Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, both among the nation’s 10 largest, said Wednesday that they too were reevaluating their investments to assess social and environmental effects.

    Using the most recent data available, The Times found that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments — totalingP at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

    “When the No. 1 foundation is rethinking something, others are going to look at it more carefully,” “This will cause a seismic shift in the field.”

    Written by Aman

    January 11, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Posted in Philanthropy

    Upcoming Conferences: Global Philanthropy, Improving Access to Health Tech, and more…

    We did a previous post on conferences that I have re-listed below. There are also some additions that look very interesting. The conference in Feb on access to essential health technologies has quite a line up of guests and topics, I encourage you to look at their agenda. Also the short meeting with Technology Managers for Global Health is coming up and their CEO, Usha Balakrishnan, is doing some great work. She founded this group of university technology transfer officers to mobilize them to use their skills and networks to benefit global health. And of course there is the Global Philanthropy Forum at the Googleplex, which will have a heavy focus on private sector impact.

    conf2007_head_2.jpg
    (APRIL 11th) Global Philanthropy Forum. Bringing together philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, and other experts from around the world, the 6th Annual Global Philanthropy Forum Conference will explore philanthropic efforts to combat poverty, promote global health, and halt climate change by leveraging the power of markets and private enterprise.

    (FEB 1st) Improving Access to Essential Health Technologies: Focusing on Neglected Diseases, Reaching Neglected Populations, Bangkok, Thailand.

    (MAR 9th) Technology Transfer for Global Health.

    From our previous post:

    (FEB 18th) Puget Sound Partners for Global Health

    (MAR 3rd) UC Berkeley 9th Annual International Health Conference: War, Poverty, and Population

    (APRIL 14th) Unite for Sight: innovation, advancement and best practices in international health

    (MAY 29th) Global Health Council Meeting

    (JUNE 12th) The Pacific Health Summit is being held June 12-14, 2007 in Seattle.

    Written by Aman

    January 10, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Posted in Conferences

    Dark cloud over global health work of Gates Foundation

    There is an article in the LA Times today discussing the tension between ethical stock investment choices and the mission of philanthrophy at the Gates Foundation. The article tone is decidely one-sided against investments the Gates Foundation has made and seems to equate their investments in, for example, pharmaceutical and industrial companies in “the South”, with the deeds of particular projects of those companies (pollution, extremely high priced drugs and extended patent protection in developing countries, etc.). I find this insinuation a bit ridiculous and while I do not disagree with the overall point and ideals on which this article is based, the issue is much more complicated than discussed. Nevertheless, it is an interesting article with some good points:

    January 7, 2007 – Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation
    By Charles Piller, Edmund Sanders and Robyn Dixon

    “Ebocha, Nigeria — Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb. An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it “the cough.” People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

    “The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing this [Nigerian] delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe. Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

    “The foundation has gotten much more in financial gains from its investments in the polluters than it has given to the Durban microbicide study to fight AIDS…Just as the Gates Foundation investments in Mondi, BP and Royal Dutch Shell have been very profitable, so too have its holdings in the top 100 polluters in the United States…”

    “Microsoft monopolies in computer operating systems and business software depend upon the same intellectual-property and trade-law approaches favored by drug companies…’The Gates Foundation is in a position to change the dynamic, to make sure that drugs get first to the places they are most needed,’ said Daniel Berman, of Doctors Without Borders. “But it conflicts with the interests of Microsoft.”

    Full Article

    UPDATE: It was just brought to my attention that Busby over at the HIV politics blog felt similarly to myself and the first comment by Jose below. He states in part: “So, the LA Times has a semi-hatchet job on the Gates Foundation today, basically lambasting the Foundation for investing in companies that are socially irresponsible… something in the piece strikes me as an effort by the journalists to go after the Gates Foundation because they can and because the Foundation has gotten far too much good press. I guess I’m bothered by the effort to cherry-pick a handful of examples just to make the Gates Foundation look bad.” Read the full post here: “Semi-Hatchet Job on Gates Foundation in LA Times“.

    Written by Aman

    January 7, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Innovations in health since 1840


    The British Medical Journal (BMJ) just published the top 15 innovations in health since 1840 [“Medical Milestones“]. For those of you wondering, 1840 was the first year the BMJ was published (I didn’t know it until I read the article). Bonus: until Jan 18 you can vote to determine the most important innovation.

    In a similar vein, the Dec 23rd issue of the BMJ has an editorial on the significance of recent Web innovation, medicine and health information [“How Web 2.0 is changing medicine“]. Note: The author, Dean Giustini, is also a blogger at UBC Academic Search – Google Scholar Blog and the BMJ is the same journal that had the Google diagnostics article in November (see the November 11th THDblog post “‘Google Health’? Diagnosis is a keyword away“).

    Scanning Giustini’s blog, I ran across this list of 5 intriguing medical podcasts from March 2006 [“Top Five (5) Podcast Websites in Medicine“].

    Anaesthesia: Symbol of humanitarianism
    Stephanie J Snow

    By the end of the 19th century anaesthesia was proclaimed as one of the civilising factors of the Western world, and it remains today the most vivid example of medicine’s capacity to diminish human suffering. Anaesthesia continues to develop: muscle relaxants and techniques such as spinal anaesthesia have brought new benefits; anaesthetists have extended their practice to intensive care and management of chronic pain; and new inhaled and intravenous anaesthetic agents have facilitated the development of day case surgery. The detail of anaesthesia will surely continue to evolve. But nothing is likely to be as significant as the demonstrations by 19th century pioneers such as John Snow and James Young Simpson of the potential of anaesthesia to alleviate the pain of surgery.

    Read the full article

    Antibiotics: The epitome of a wonder drug
    Robert Bud

    The discovery of antibiotics heralded a dramatically new approach to infection control and health care, enabling nations to prosper and overturning the concept of health as a moral duty. Penicillin is the iconic antibiotic­its introduction into clinical practice was widely celebrated, and its benefits (protection against wound infection and a potential syphilis epidemic) were critical in Europe during and after the second world war. Antibiotics also dramatically changed health services in the postwar years. Fast throughput in general practice was possible because antibiotics could be swiftly administered or prescribed after a short consultation. Surgeons undertook more complex operations on patients now protected from infection. Now, the emergence of genomics has given rise to the prospect of selecting many completely new antibiotics.

    Read the full article

    Chlorpromazine: Unlocking psychosis
    Trevor Turner

    From the 1950s, when chlorpromazine came into use, the numbers of inmates in asylums began to fall dramatically, and over the next few years antidepressants and antipsychotics arrived en masse. A new world of a truly biological as well as psychosocial psychiatry had begun. Without the discovery of drugs such as chlorpromazine, our modern, multiskilled mental health workforce might never have emerged. The modern emphasis on users of mental health services and their carers would have been impossible. The progress initiated by the discovery of chlorpromazine means that we can replace baggy terms such as paranoid schizophrenia with “temporal lobe hyperdopaminergia,” and we may yet eradicate the monsters of stigma and neglect that still beset mentally ill people.

    Read the full article

    Computers: Transcending our limits
    Alejandro R Jadad, Murray W Enkin

    Since the Stone Age we have evaluated, interpreted, calculated, and computed. With the human brain’s insatiable urge for self improvement, it began building tools to enhance itself. Thus, over the second half of the 20th century, we developed powerful resources to communicate unlimited amounts of knowledge and to change the way we learn, live, and heal. Computer technology can help us achieve optimal levels of health and wellbeing regardless of who or where we are. It can help us transcend our cognitive, physical, institutional, geographical, cultural, linguistic, and historical boundaries.

    Read the full article

    Discovery of DNA structure: The best is yet to come
    John Burn

    Watson and Crick’s 1953 report of DNA structure as a double helix and their recognition, at a stroke, of the digital basis of genetic information opened the floodgates to further discoveries. The most dramatic evidence of that flood is the human genome project, humanity’s biggest research endeavour, permitting rapid progress in linking gene sequence variants to thousands of genetic disorders. Identifying gene mutations in common diseases such as eczema exposes relevant pathogenic pathways and enables new interventions for these conditions. From human insulin to hepatitis B vaccine to trastuzumab (Herceptin), an understanding of DNA permeates myriad developments in treatment. The evidence already before us is dramatic but is nothing compared with the tsunami to come.

    Read the full article

    Evidence based medicine: Increasing, not dictating, choice
    Kay Dickersin, Sharon E Straus, Lisa A Bero

    In a world without evidence based medicine, a boy with asthma might have his treatment changed every six weeks as new drug samples are dropped off at his doctor’s surgery. Most women with early breast cancer would still be undergoing mastectomy instead of lumpectomy and radiation. Now they can choose. Evidence based medicine is about making decisions that are based on the best available evidence, not dictating what clinicians do. The systematic synthesis of evidence is the foundation of all medical discoveries and of good clinical practice. The question has moved beyond “Why is evidence based medicine important?” to “Why is it not already a reality?” and “How can we all work together to make it a reality, quickly?”

    Read the full article

    Germ theory: Invisible killers revealed
    Harry Burns

    Semmelweis’s work on hand washing and Lister’s antisepsis techniques helped to turn the germ theory of disease into clinical reality. The theory was eventually universally accepted after further work by Koch and Pasteur. These insights into the prevention and treatment of infectious disease moved us from a society at the end of the 19th century in which infection typically caused 30% of all deaths to one at the end of the 20th in which less than 4% of deaths were due to infection. The fall in childhood mortality profoundly affected family size and fertility. Our understanding of hygiene, sanitation, and pathology from the development of germ theory has done more to extend life expectancy and change the nature of society than any other medical innovation.

    Read the full article

    Imaging: Revealing the world within
    Adrian M K Thomas, John Pickstone

    At the root of sophisticated 21st century medical imaging we find the chance discovery of x rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in a physics laboratory in the 19th century. The discovery led to an array of visualisation and interventional techniques that permeate modern practice. Imaging came into its own as an aid to surgery and evolved to modern digital radiology, such as computed tomography, which has transformed investigative medicine. X rays became a mainstay of cancer treatment, and modern imaging is now used to guide interventions such as angioplasty and stent insertion. Without x rays, doctors­like Röntgen­would be working in the dark.

    Read the full article

    Immunology: Making magic bullets
    D Michael Kemeny, Paul A MacAry

    Understanding how the immune system distinguishes host cells from “foreign” cells has made organ transplantation feasible, saving thousands of lives. Understanding the biological weapons in our immune system has resulted in antisera and monoclonal antibody technology. Monoclonal antibodies are used to diagnose and monitor disease, to ensure the quality of food and other biological materials, and to test for trace amounts of drugs and toxins. They have also been used to treat otherwise intractable diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and to target anticancer agents precisely to the tumour­the “magic bullet” approach. More than a third of all drugs currently being developed by drug companies are monoclonal antibodies, and this technology will enable many more medical milestones to be reached.

    Read the full article

    Oral rehydration therapy: The simple solution for saving lives
    Olivier Fontaine, Paul Garner, M K Bhan

    Oral rehydration solution to replace the water and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhoea was initially used only by paediatric specialists in tertiary referral hospitals. When it was tested in refugee camps in the 1970s, mortality fell dramatically. Since then this simple and cheap oral solution, given at home or in healthcare centres, has been integral to the World Health Organization’s diarrhoeal disease control programme. In the 1980s nearly five million children under 5 years old died each year from diarrhoea. In 2000 this figure had dropped to 1.8 million. Because oral rehydration has saved more than 50 million children’s lives over the last 25 years, a large chunk of the adult population in developing countries is alive today.

    Read the full article

    The pill: Emblem of liberation
    Carl Djerassi

    The pill offers women the ability to decide on their own whether or when to become pregnant, thus undermining the historical dominance of men in sex and reproduction. The repercussions of this have been cultural, economic, professional, and educational and have affected millions of people. No drug has had such an enormous effect on religion. The discipline of epidemiology has probably been improved more through the thousands of studies on the pill than through those on virtually any other drug. Moreover, the pill is the preferred method of reversible contraception in more than half the countries in the world. It is one of the few drugs to have remained essentially unchanged decades after its synthesis­testament to its enduring value.

    Read the full article

    Risks of smoking: All done and dusted
    Simon Chapman

    Two landmark studies in 1950 led to a growing body of evidence for the harmful effects of tobacco. Since then, the prevalence of smoking has fallen in countries where tobacco control is taken seriously. For all the money poured into cancer research in recent decades, most of the progress in reducing cancer mortality has been due to deaths avoided through successful tobacco control. Despite the efforts of the tobacco industry to fight back, smoking has been transformed from a pleasant, mannered pastime to a badge of low education, social disadvantage, and ostracism. The end game for smoking may well be just 20 years away in nations where smoking is currently in free fall.

    Read the full article

    Sanitation: Pragmatism works
    Johan P Mackenbach

    In the 1800s acute infectious diseases that killed male breadwinners were a major cause of poverty. Believing that diseases were caused by air contaminated by poor urban drainage, governments built new sewage disposal and water supply systems. This revolutionised public health in Europe, and mortality from infectious diseases fell dramatically. Nowadays we know that better water supply and sanitation can cut diarrhoea among children in developing countries by about a fifth. The 19th century “sanitary revolution” shows that effective intervention does not always need accurate knowledge, that environmental measures may be more effective than changing individual behaviour, and that universal measures may be better than targeted measures in reducing health inequalities.

    Read the full article

    Tissue culture: Solving the mysteries of viruses and cancer
    Yvonne Cossart

    Tissue culture allows cells to be grown on an industrial scale, yielding vaccines and other biological products such as recombinant factor VIII for haemophilia. Tissue culture techniques have been crucial in the work of more than a third of the Nobel prize winners for medicine since 1953. Without cell culture we would lack vaccines against measles, mumps, and rubella and would still depend on much more expensive and reactogenic vaccines for polio, rabies, and yellow fever. We would be unable to karyotype patients with suspected genetic disorders or perform in vitro fertilisation. Monoclonal antibodies now used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes would not be available. Gene therapy and the use of stem cells to repopulate damaged organs would be beyond imagination.

    Read the full article

    Vaccines: Conquering untreatable diseases
    Michael Worboys

    Vaccines have saved millions of lives and spared generations the suffering and long term consequences of infections. The vaccines we have today are grounded in the knowledge and techniques that Louis Pasteur introduced with his rabies vaccine. Pasteur’s breakthrough in 1885 represented the medical conquest of an untreatable disease. In the 21st century, smallpox has been eradicated, and in countries such as the United Kingdom once common childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, rubella, polio, mumps, and rubella are rare memories. As new vaccines and vaccine delivery systems continue to be introduced, there is no reason to suppose that the future of vaccines will be any less remarkable than their past.

    Read the full article

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    Written by Ben

    January 5, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    International Health News Roundup

    I have been away for a while and distracted by the holidays and bowl season. However, global health is being discussed everywhere and while watching the Georgia Tech v. West Virginia Gator bowl game, a star wide receiver (and soon to be NFL star) was profiled for his efforts in developing countries. This was my call back to the blogosphere. Below are several recent global health stories from around the web including the one about the wide receiver for GT:

    Hospital Caters to China’s Wealthy and Poor (Wall St. Journal 1/4/2007):
    TIANJIN, China — At the Teda International Cardiovascular Hospital just outside Beijing, patients can choose from six levels of service. At the lowest end, for about $6.60 a night, patients must share their small room with others. The biggest suite at the hospital, on the other hand, costs about $3,160 a night…Dr. Liu’s hospital is trying to steer a course between those public and private extremes, striking a balance between the universal access the communist system once promised and higher efficiency a market mechanism can bring. He appeases Communist officialdom with cheap medical care for impoverished orphans, while simultaneously courting China’s wealthiest patients with the $3,000-a-night suite.

    Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson Tackles Global Sanitation Problems:
    “When given a choice this summer between helping out with designs for environmentally friendly luxury condos less than a mile away from campus and designing and building solar latrines to improve sanitation in Bolivia, Georgia Tech All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson chose the latrine project without hesitation…Johnson immediately began work on designs for an inexpensive dry latrine system that uses the sun’s rays to safely transform bacteria-laden waste into fertilizer…Four billion people globally suffer from chronic waterborne disease…”

    ABC News: Africa has high-tech tools to beat meningitis:
    “Africa’s “meningitis belt,” stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia through some of the world’s poorest and most war-scarred places including Sudan’s Darfur, accounts for more than half the cases of the disease worldwide each year… Now health workers using high-tech methods to diagnose, control and even predict the disease hope to reduce its grim toll.”

    In Pursuit of the Cure – Victoria Hale profile in the NY Times:
    “…we used money we had earned from our consulting firm to start the Institute for OneWorld Health, the nonprofit I had dreamed of earlier. After wrestling with the Internal Revenue Service, which did not believe that there was such a thing as a pharmaceutical company that was not going to make profits (although they eventually saw that was possible)…”

    India poised for pharmaceutical boom from the CS Monitor:
    “By some estimates, India’s generic medicines treat half the AIDS patients in the developing world…Yet this picture has begun to change since India decided to comply with global patent standards last year. Now as never before, Indian pharmaceutical companies are looking to expand business in rich countries, which, critics say, will come at the expense of the world’s poor.”

    Written by Aman

    January 3, 2007 at 7:09 pm