March 2009

NEWS REVIEW – INDIA

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Apollo’s white hope

The healthcare group Apollo Hospitals have set up a new hospital Apollo Speciality Cancer Hospital (ASCH) in Chennai. The hospital introduces the cyberknife robotic radio surgery system which is designed to treat tumours anywhere in the body.

Cyberknife treatment will cost patients double the amount they would spend otherwise, but the treatment claims to minimise or eliminate the complications associated with other conventional cancer therapies. The treatment takes a week’s time whereas the other procedures usually take about seven weeks.

Other features of the treatment is that it can be used to treat tumors previously considered inoperable. It is also possible to treat multiple tumours at different locations in the body during a single treatment session.

The advanced technology behind CyberKnife� uses real-time image guidance technology and computer-controlled robotics to deliver an extremely precise dose of radiation to targets, avoiding the surrounding healthy tissue and adjusting for patient and tumour movement during treatment. It is developed by Dr John R Adler MD, professor of neurosurgery and radiation oncology at Stanford University Medical Centre.

Apollo plans to expand this treatment option in other cities such as Hyderabad and Delhi.

51,000 Telemedicine centres for Orissa

The Orissa Trust of Technical Education and Training (OTTET) has announced plans to roll out 51000 telemedicine centres in villages across the state of Orissa in the next three years.

The project aims to take modern healthcare delivery to the doorsteps of the rural population and generate employment for educated youth in the state.

The project will be executed through a public-private partnership involving the Orissa state government and Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGI), Lucknow.

The project aims to impart training and skills in IT-based health delivery. Orissa hopes the facilities will generate jobs for 100,000 health workers, and the same model could later be expanded to urban areas where there is high unemployment.

Telemedicine activities first began in Orissa in 2001, and this marks the latest stage in their roll out.

Rural posting for medicos

From 2009 medical graduates have to undergo a compulsory rural posting. The decision has been recently announced by the Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. According to the health minister the proposal has been taken in an effort to augment health facilities in rural areas.

The proposal has been cleared by all the states and would be implemented from next year. The provision entails a mandatory rural posting of doctors who have completed their MBBS and want to pursue post-graduate studies in medicine.

Earlier the proposal had kicked up a row with medical students protesting over the lengthening of the course.

24×7 Jan Aushadi shops

To make drugs affordable to the poor sections of the society the central government has come up with an unique idea of setting-up 40 outlets of a medicine store chain Jan Aushadhi all over the country. Jan Aushadi will sell high quality unbranded generic medicines at much cheaper rates than branded medicines available in the market.

A few Jan Aushadhi outlets have already started functioning. The first such store was opened in Amritsar last year. Delhi got its Jan Aushadhi store in the first week of Feb. It is opened in Shastri Bhavan and will be run by Kendriya Bhandar. The shop will remain open round the clock.

Opening generic drug stores was decided at a meeting of the Pharma Advisory Forum chaired by Chemicals, Fertilisers and Steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan last year. Primarily, five PSUs – IDPL, HAL, BPCL, KAPL and RDPL – will supply medicines but several private sector drug manufacture rs too had promised to help in the mission. In fact the department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) has received 76 applications from domestic drug makers who are interested in supplying generic medicines at a lower price to the Jan Aushadhi Stores.

ESIC to set up medical colleges

The Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) plans to set up 11 medical colleges and 13 postgraduate medical institutions to provide better health care and superspeciality treatment to the insured.

The first such college is scheduled to open in 2010-11. Minister of State for Labour and Employment Oscar Fernandes announced that forty per cent of the seats in each of these colleges will be allotted on an all-India basis and to the respective State governments. And, out of the remaining 20 per cent, 10 per cent will go to children of the insured employees, and five per cent each to children of the employers and the wards of ESIC staff.

At present, there are 144 hospitals, 42 annexes and 1,427 dispensaries under the scheme covering 3.30 crore beneficiaries.

Clinical Trials of AIDS vaccine

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will start phase I clinical trials to test a combination of two AIDS vaccine candidates.
The trials will be conducted at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in Pune and the Tuberculosis Research Centre (TRC) in Chennai.

The combination drug will combine two AIDS vaccines ADVAX and TBC-M4 in a prime-boost regimen, which essentially means the two vaccine candidates will get better response from the body’s immune system than giving either vaccine candidate alone. The trials will be conducted under the aegis of a memorandum of understanding between ICMR and the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) and the not-for-profit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). There are about 50 lakh identified HIV patients in India, of which about 30 lakh are on treatment.

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