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May 20
Counterfeit drugs on rise, pose global threat: WHO
Fake or substandard versions of medicines are often hidden in cargos taking circuitous routes to mask their country of origin as part of criminal activity worth billions, they add.

"They put people at risk of harm from medical products that may contain too much, too little, or the wrong active ingredient and/or contain toxic ingredients," said Margaret Hamburg, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"Counterfeiting is growing in complexity, scale and geographic scope," she said in a speech to the annual ministerial meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In wealthy countries, counterfeiting often involves "expensive hormones, steroids and anti-cancer medicines and pharmaceuticals related to lifestyle," a WHO report said.

But in developing countries, especially Africa, counterfeit medicines are commonly available to treat life-threatening conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, it said.

Nigeria, referring to a case involving tainted teething syrup in February 2009, said the consequences were often deadly.

"Only last year we lost 84 children in Nigeria due to fraudulent practices in some countries. It is lives we are talking about," Nigeria's delegate told the talks.

Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said that illicit products had also increased the problem of drug resistance, including to vital anti-malarials and HIV/AIDS drugs.

"For a patient, any medicine with compromised safety, efficacy or quality is dangerous," she said.

Major generic drug makers India and Brazil, backed by health activists, charge that concerns about counterfeit drugs are being hijacked by pharmaceutical companies keen to protect their patents against legitimate generic competitors.

"What we object to is a group of private companies, with the help of the (WHO) secretariat, waging war in this organization against generic medicines," Brazil's ambassador Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo said in a speech.

Chan said that her United Nations agency would not be drawn into policing intellectual property (IP). "The role of the WHO should be concentrating on public health, not on law enforcement nor intellectual property enforcement."

Research and development-based pharmaceutical companies say that counterfeit medicines pose a threat to patients and they are not driven by commercial interest in fighting the scourge.

There were 1,693 known incidents of counterfeit medicines last year, a rise of 7 percent, according to the Geneva-based group whose members include Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis.

May 20
Alcohol and Pancreatic Cancer Linked
Scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (SMC) say that people who drink heavily, and binge drinkers too, are at increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. In the medical world, this condition is viewed as one of the most ruthless forms of the disease. Chances of survival are very slim, and even the most advanced treatments cannot ensure a patient's survival. The correlation was found to be especially true for men, the SMC group reveals in a recent scientific paper. The work is published in the latest online issue of the esteemed scientific journal Cancer Causes and Control.

In the investigation, the researchers compared the pancreatic cancer risks between men who drank a lot, and another group, whose members only drank a little, or not at all. "If this relationship continues to be confirmed, reducing heavy and binge drinking may be more important than we already know," explains SMC assistant professor of internal medicine Dr. Samir Gupta. He is also the lead author of the new research, which took place at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF). For heavy drinkers, the researchers established 150 to 600 percent more chances of cancer developing at one point in their lives, e! Science News reports.

These individuals were compared with peers from a control group. The controls did not drink more than one serving of alcohol per week, and some did not consume the stuff at all. The correlation was found to keep true even when researchers accounted for how far in the past people drank heavily. In the case of big drinkers, the risks of developing pancreatic cancer were found to be some 350 percent higher than in members of the control group. "Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, so any risk factor that can be identified and addressed may save lives. Our research found that large and frequent amounts of alcohol consumption may be risk factors for pancreatic cancer," Gupta says.

He goes on to say that this form of cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate of any other type of specific cancer known to science. To make matters even worse, the disease is also very difficult to identify, given the fact that the pancreas is located in the upper abdominal cavity, hidden from view. In spite of advancements made in science over the past 30 years, the official statistics of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) show that pancreatic cancer mortality rates declined insignificantly over these decades. Therefore, prevention is key for now, scientists conclude.

May 18
Panel of 6 docs replaces tainted MCI
Tainted with charges of corruption, the 76-year-old Medical Council of India was on Saturday dissolved and replaced by a six-member panel of eminent doctors to carry out its duties.

An ordinance dissolving the all-powerful body, formed to regulate medical education in the country, was signed by President Pratibha Patil and notified by the law ministry.

The Union Cabinet had discussed the ordinance on Thursday following which it had gone to the law ministry for consultations.

The six-member panel is headed by eminent gastroenterologist from Delhi Dr S K Sarin. The other five members are: former director of National Institute of Immunology Prof Ranjit Roy Chowdhary, Dr Sita Naik from SGPGIMS, Dr Gautam Sen, cardiac surgeon, Dr Devi Shetty and former head of Safdarjung hospital Dr R L Salhan.

Union health secretary K Sujatha Rao told TOI, "This committee will not have an advisory role but will actively run the MCI including issuing licences and permissions, conducting inspections and regulating medical education, for a maximum of one year. It will also suggest ways to reform MCI which will help in preparing the bill which we plan to introduce in the monsoon session of Parliament."

MCI till now was the sole body that granted recognition to medical degrees, gave accreditation to medical colleges, registered medical practitioners and monitored medical practice in the country.

However, allegations of corruption against the MCI have been rife for years now. On April 22, MCI's president Dr Ketan Desai was arrested by the CBI for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 2 crore to recognize a medical college in Punjab though it did not meet MCI standards. The ministry said it plans to bring in a new law for the formation of an overarching body to regulate medical education in the country.

According to Rao, the draft law for the formation of such a body would be formulated within a month. Sources say MCI would be made a body to regulate medical professionals, which would be in line with the original mandate of the MCI.

An earlier effort by the ministry to amend the Indian Medical Council Act of 1956, giving more powers to the ministry, was turned down by the parliamentary standing committee on health, which argued that the move would destroy the council's autonomy. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the ordinance "was required as there is no law that empowers us to take action against MCI as it was created by an act of Parliament."

May 18
Working overtime is bad for your heart
Working overtime is bad for the heart, say results from a long-running study of more than 10,000 civil servants.

The research found that people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal seven-hour day had a 60 percent higher risk of heart-related problems such as death due to heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and angina.

Marianna Virtanen, epidemiologist at the University College London (UCL), said: "The association between long hours and coronary heart disease was independent of a range of risk factors that we measured at the start of the study, such as smoking, being overweight, or having high cholesterol."

The Whitehall II study started in 1985 and recruited 10,308 office staff aged 35-55 from 20 London-based civil service departments.

Data has been collected at regular intervals and in the third phase, between 1991-1994, a question on working hours was introduced.

This current analysis looks at the results from 6,014 people (4,262 men and 1,752 women), aged 39-61, who were followed until 2002-2004, which is the most recent phase for which clinical examination data are available.

During the average 11.2 years of follow-up, Virtanen and her colleagues in Finland, London and France, found that there had been 369 cases of fatal CHD, non-fatal heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) or angina.

After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, marital status and occupational grade, they found that working three to four hours overtime (but not one to two hours) was associated with a 60 percent higher rate of CHD compared with no overtime work.

Further adjustments for a total of 21 risk factors made little difference to these estimates.

The researchers say there could be a number of possible explanations for this association between overtime and heart disease, said an UCL release.

Their results showed that working overtime was related to type A behaviour pattern (type A behaviour tend to be aggressive, competitive, tense, time-conscious and generally hostile), psychological distress manifested by depression and anxiety, and possibly with not enough sleep, or not enough time to unwind before going to sleep.

May 15
Mums-to-be think mother knows best
Mothers-to-be think their own mothers know better than the medical profession when it comes to health advice, researchers say.

A University of London team talked to women who gave birth in the 1970s, 1980s and the 2000s.

Modern women were more likely to take a mixture of advice - but were still more likely to follow family wisdom.

One baby charity said family tips were useful, but medical advice should be sought if mothers-to-be had worries.

The researchers talked about pregnancy and childbirth advice to seven women who gave birth in the 1970s and 12 of their daughters who had babies in the 2000s.

They then also analysed interviews on the same topic which had been carried out with 24 women in the 1980s.

The 1970s women were most likely to take advice from family members.

But researchers found that women who had babies between 2000 and 2010 had to evaluate a wide range of information from doctors, midwives, books, magazines and, latterly, the internet - as well as that from their families.

In these women, it tended to be family advice that won out - particularly if a mother-to-be was dealing with a specific symptom.

One woman, Hetty, from the 2000s generation, said she had tried to stop drinking tea because she had read on the internet that caffeine could cause miscarriages in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

But she then added she had taken her grandmother's advice that tea could help relieve morning sickness.

"She just used to stay in bed and have a cup of tea. And that did help actually."

'Strike a balance'

Professor Paula Nicolson from Royal Holloway, University of London, who led the study, said: "When it comes to the crunch - if women feel sick for example - they will take their mother's or their grandmother's advice.

"They wouldn't necessarily recognise how important it was to them, but it would override the science."

She added: "Taking all the guidelines too seriously leads to anxieties. Lack of self-confidence also can lead to worry about 'doing the wrong thing' which is potentially more harmful than taking the odd glass of wine or eating soft cheese."

Jane Brewin, chief executive of baby charity Tommy's, said women had to "strike a balance" about what advice they took.

"It's only natural to want to talk about the significant changes that happen to a woman's body and how she feels; mums and close friends often have first-hand experience and tips that are helpful.

"However we always stress that if any mum-to-be is worried about anything during their pregnancy they should seek medical advice without delay."

May 15
AIDS candlelight memorial
Manipur Network of Positive People (MNP+) would join the world in the observance of International AIDS Candlelight Memorial day on May 15, said a release.

Conveying that the event would be marked by a vibrant display of community activism and solidarity by about 1200 organisations in 109 countries, an MNP+ release issued by its general secretary said the theme for the 27th observance is 'Many lights for human rights'.

it is said that the Candlelight Memorial started in 1983 in the United States under the initiative of Global Health Council and has become the oldest grassroots movement against the disease and one of the largest public health campaigns in the world.

A program of the Council led by volunteer community-based organisations, the Candlelight Memorial is meant to remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS, to support those living with HIV and affected by its impact, and to move communities to action, the MNP+ release explained.

May 14
Barc finds anti-cancer molecule
A cost-effective and natural alternative to chemotherapy may be in the offing after a team of scientists from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (Barc) found that a commonly-found amino acid acts like an anti-cancer molecule when administered in the right proportion and an appropriate environment.

The finding, published in an international journal last week, states that arginine, an essential amino acid, has proved to be extremely beneficial in killing tumor cells and disrupting the harmful cell membrane without causing any toxic effect on the normal cells.

Senior scientist TB Poduval from the Radiation Biology and Health Science Division of BARC confirmed the finding of the study, which was being conducted since the past three years. Arginine, when injected in proper doses and a suitable environment, leads to speedy disruption of tumor cells, thus resulting in disappearance of the tumor, the study states.

The scientists have hence proposed using arginine to reduce the size of the tumour before surgery, and also for intra-tumor chemotherapy. "Cancer therapy by conventional chemotherapy is hindered by toxic side effects and frequent development of multi-drug resistance by the cancer cells. Also, there are several inoperable tumours for which arginine would prove to be an effective molecule with no side effects," the research points out.

Besides, a single dose of arginine would cost merely Rs20-25, whereas chemotherapy can cost up to several lakhs of rupees. "Since arginine is very cheap, and a molecule known to human body, it should be considered for clinical trials," says the study.

The team, which comprised three scientists and a Phd student from the Mumbai University, carried out the study on animals and human cancer cells like lung cancer cells, mammary carcinoma or breast cancer cells, and intestinal cells. The scientists claim that the findings of this fundamental research should be used to carry out further comprehensive studies on arginine and its anti-cancer properties.

"This study has been carried out on mice, and then on human cancer cells. It should definitely be promoted further for clinical trials. So far, there is no clinical application of arginine in cancer therapy," said Dr Sandeep De, chief radiation oncologist, Holy Spirt Hospital.

May 13
Cadila's H1N1 vaccine approved for launch in India news
Zydus Cadila has received the Drug Controller General's approval to market its H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine.

Zydus Cadila, now becomes the first company to launch H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine in India under the brand name VaxiFlu-S. VaxiFlu-S will be marketed by Vaxxicure, a division of the group focusing on preventives.

The egg-based inactivated vaccine has been developed at the company's Vaccine Technology Centre in Ahmedabad.

VTC further plans to develop a wide spectrum of vaccines against bacterial, viral and protonoal infections.

The group also markets Vaccines for rabies and typhoid.

Zydus Cadila CMD Pankaj Patel, said, "By launching this vaccine, we would be better prepared with an affordable therapy and prevent further loss of lives to this infectious disease. The launch of Vaxi Flu-S gives thrust to our objective of emerging as a strong player in the area of preventives."

In India out of the 1,39,466 tested for flu-like symptoms, 23 per cent of them tested positive for Swine flu, Cadila said in a statement.

India has also recorded a 523-per cent fatality rate, which is higher than the global rate. There have been incidences of H1N1 with cases being reported from Pune, Coimbatore and Chennai.

Cadila said it now plans to invest Rs 500 crore inthree - four years to develop vaccines against bacterial, viral and protozoal infections.

It mow aims to sell around 2 million vaccines this year in the domestic market which has a potential of 4- 5 million doses per annum.

May 11
Researcher verifies brain's master switch
A researcher at Iowa State University has verified the protein that has long been suspected by scientists of being the master switch that allows brains to function.

-Kyun Shin, professor of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology at ISU, has shown that the protein called synaptotagmin1 (Syt1) is the sole trigger for the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Before the study, Syt1 was thought to be a part of the protein structure (not the sole protein) that triggered the release of neurotransmitters at 10 parts per million of calcium.

"Syt1 was a suspect previously, but people were not able to pinpoint that it's the real one, even though there were lots and lots of different trials," said Shin.

"In this case, we are trying to show in the laboratory that it's the real one. So we excluded everything else, and included SNARE proteins-that's the machinery of the release, and the Syt1 is a calcium-sensing timer," he added.

Syt1 senses, at 10 ppm of calcium, and tells the SNARE complex to open the pore to allow the movement of the neurotransmitters.

Brain activity occurs when neurotransmitters move into a fusion pore.

"We are showing that this Syt1 senses the calcium at 10 ppm, and sends the signal to the SNARE complex to open the fusion pore. That is the process that we are showing right now," said Shin.

The researchers could pinpoint the protein using a new technique called single vesicle fusion method, which enabled them to create and monitor a single fusion event.

Previous research didn't allow scientists to look at single events, and instead required detecting many events and then taking an average of those events, said Shin.

"We are quite excited that for the first time we are showing that Syt1 is really what triggers the signal in the brain. This is a really important thing in terms of neurosciences. This is the heart of the molecular part of the brain function," he said.

Shin believes his discovery may be useful in understanding brain malfunctions such as autism, epilepsy and others.

While researching brain function, Shin has previously shown that taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol may actually inhibit some brain function.

May 11
The 'Miracle Man' for 65 yrs surviving without food and water
The 'Miracle man', popularly known as Mataji, 82 yrs old is surviving without food and water for so long. He is a yogi practicing special types of yoga to survive.

A research team of 30 doctors participated to investigate this issue; they performed several tests on Mataji for 15 days.

Doctors found it's unbelievable that Prahald Jani is enjoying a healthy life at the age of 82 without food and water. Mataji revealed his secret in an interview with news channel that he practicing a special type of yoga which helps him to be kept alive without consuming food and water for so long.

He also promotes yoga and said that any normal man can do the same and survive for so long.

His appearance with white bearded, saffron dressing gown, his facial makeup like a women shock the people particularly doctors who engaged in performing several tests. Several doctors worldwide conducted various tests on him and linger with mind- boggling results. He does not show any signs of illness or malfunction at this age and all the tests are absolutely normal.

He was tracked by a team of doctors from April 22, 2010 for 15 days and established that his all organs including the heart are in normal condition. One of the members of the team quotes that one thing that was unbelievable during the tests, each time the team checks his urine bladder; the amount of liquid fluctuates even though he does not pass urine.

Another surprising event experienced by doctors is that Mataji's nervous system is functioning normally which is mostly unlikely to observe at this age. Other test includes hematology, hormone profile and bio-chemistry and ECG are also normal.

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