January 2008

NEWS REVIEW – INDIA

ICICI Venture plans to float healthcare holding firm

ICICI Venture is planning to float a company that will buy medium-sized hospitals and pharmacy chains and act as a holding company for the fund’s investments in the booming healthcare sector. Temporarily called I-Ven Medicare, the company will be the lead vehicle for all ICICI Venture’s investments and buyouts in the healthcare space.

ICICI Venture is in talks with four hospitals in different parts of the country for a complete buyout. They are also examining proposals from other small and medium-sized hospitals across the country who need funds.

A CII-McKinsey study estimated that India will spend USD 45.6 billion on health in the next five years. ICICI Venture wants to build a healthcare platform that will control a variety of healthcare players. The company hopes to use its large balance sheet and size to buy equipment, help the hospitals raise money and hire doctors. The new company proposes to list itself on the stock exchanges in a few years.

AIIMS to provide air ambulance service

India’s premier medical institute, AIIMS, is set to become the first government hospital in the country to get a helipad and start an air ambulance service to deliver urgent medical attention to critically ill patients. An application by AIIMS is being processed by the ministry of civil aviation and permission has been sought to construct a helipad.

Senior doctors say close to 50% of critical patients in India die on their way to hospital. Though the expense involved in airlifting patients will have to be underwritten and the service won’t come cheap. Transferring a patient, say from Chandigarh to Delhi, could cost close to INR 1.5 lakh.

The helicopter ambulance will have paramedic staff and a doctor trained to handle critical patients. The staff on board and on the ground will be given special training on transporting patients in these choppers.

The service will be available at the AIIMS trauma centre which has been operational for the past 10 months though it is yet to be formally inaugurated. While some private hospitals across the country and in Delhi already have air ambulance service, AIIMS is the first government hospital in the country to provide the services.

Bangalore’s Vitage Tech signs deal with TTK Healthcare

Bangalore based Vitage Technologies, a business service management company, has signed an agreement with TTK Healthcare Services Pvt Ltd, part of the TTK Group, to handle their IT operations as the managed services partner.

Vitage will be managing TTK’s data centre, applications, network and the service desk on a 24×7 basis. Vitage will also provide direct support in Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi and 15 more locations across the country. Upgrading the IT infrastructure is expected to help TTK Healthcare improve its customer service through service efficiency. TTK Healthcare along with the Vitage team has already implemented some of the base processess and a centralized service desk as well as completed the knowledge transfer activities. The tie up is expected to upgrade TTKs IT process maturity and bring closer alignment of IT with business.

Nimhans, Mysore hospital connect for telemedicine

NIMHANS, Bangalore and Mysore based KR Hospital has established connectivity for their telemedcine project in collaboration with Larsen & Toubro Ltd in Bangalore. L&T has gifted telemedicine solutions and equipment worth INR 6 lakh to both the medical centres, as part of a private-public participation programme.

Initially, neurology and neuro-radiology departments of the KR Hospital will be linked with NIMHANS and later on neuro-psychiatry, cardiology and surgery depart-ments will also be linked. The telemedicine project will also upgrade teaching programmes and interaction between doctors, besides treating patients.

Thermo Fisher Scientific expands with new facility in India

Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc, has set up a new USD 17 million facility in Ahmadabad, India, to support growing demand for biopharma services in that country. The facility will focus on packaging, global distribution and logistics management of tightly regulated pharmaceutical samples to patients participating in clinical trials across the globe. It will complement existing clinical services operations in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The company expects to open the new 100,000-square-foot facility by spring of 2008, and add approximately 100 employees in the first year of operation.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has taken significant steps over the past few years to increase its overall presence in India, adding sales and manufacturing facilities to support growing markets, including biopharma services and biospecimen storage, life sciences research and industrial processing.

The company recently acquired Qualigens Fine Chemicals, a former division of GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (GSK India) based in Mumbai. Qualigens is India’s largest laboratory chemical manufacturer and supplier, serving customers in a variety of industries, including pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and food and beverage. Thermo Fisher also has a state-of-the-art demonstration laboratory in Mumbai that offers customers hands-on experience with its range of laboratory solutions.

Bangalore telemedicine co chosen ‘technology pioneer’ by WEF

Bangalore-based Neurosynaptics Communications Pvt. Ltd, has received recognition with the World Economic Forum (WEF) for its ReMeDi (Remote Medical Diagnostics) range of products.

Neurosynaptic’s product, a portable medical diagnostic kit the size of a boom box is priced at an estimated USD 300. The kit performs five key tests, including blood pressure, temperature, and even an electrocardiogram, and relays the information from rural settings to top city hospitals via computer. The cost per exam: anywhere from 38� to 63�, compared with USD 5 for an electrocardiogram alone from a doctor in town.

The patients visit local multimedia kiosks- which are proliferating across Indian villages- where the tests are performed and the results transmitted to an affiliated doctor or a city hospital via a computer connected to the Internet. The doctor then diagnoses the problems and recommends medication via video conferencing, all at the kiosk.

So far, 70 kits have been distributed globally, in India, seven of the kits are already in use in villages in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Developing markets like the Philippines, Tanzania and Latin America are natural customers for these “virtual clinic” kits.

The company will now involve pharmaceutical companies and health-care service providers. It is also looking for venture capital and private equity funding. It has set itself an aggressive target of installing its products and services in 10,000 centres by 2010.

Union minister promises more funds for healthcare;health smart card in schools
The government will allocate INR 1,360 billion (USD 34.50 billion) for healthcare in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12), up from INR 450 billion in the previous plan, said Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss. He also said that the government will introduce a ‘health smart card’ under the National School Health Programme for every school-going child. The child will be screened annually for health problems relating to vision, hearing, heart, diabetes and anaemia and other parameters. The information will be fed into the smart card database. This programme he said will be a public-private partnership.

Ramadoss announced that INR 15 billion will be earmarked for the National Blindness Control Programme under the 11th Plan.

LIC’s health product gets IRDA nod
Life Insurance Corporation of India has got the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority’s (IRDA) nod for its health insurance product- LIC Health Plus. The corporation now plans to launch the product in the market in the first week of January.

The product would be on the lines of floater plan, which would give the policyholders the option to take health insurance cover for their immediate family. The product will not be based on the cashless transaction model, as many hospitals do not accept such a facility, and it was found that in many cases the hospitals charge more if a patient has an insurance cover that offers cashless treatment.

LIC is targeting to provide health cover to close to one crore families in the first year of the launch of the product and expects over INR 5,000 crore of revenues. It is also learnt that the company has tied up with eight third-party administrators (TPAs) to manage claims under the policy and has tied up with Syndicate Bank, Axis Bank and Bank of America for the settlements.

The TPA would first advise the company on the permissibility of the claim who would in turn instruct the bankers to issue the claim cheque to its health insurance policyholders. This will help settle the claims in a much faster way than what is happening in the market at the moment. The target is to issue the claims cheques within 24 hours of the approval.

Hospitals may need to comply to quality standards soon

The Quality Council of India is planning to ask corporate houses to make quality certification mandatory before empanelling hospitals for providing medical benefits to their respective employees. This move is aimed at spreading awareness about the importance of hospital accreditation and for getting more hospitals certified by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers (NABH), a constituent board of QCI.

At present, about 95% hospitals in India, including the bigger ones such as Breach Candy, Jaslok Hospital, P D Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai and S L Gangaram in New Delhi, do not have NABH accreditation. Not having a certification may hamper the inflow of patients from big companies and affect the reputation of the hospital.

As of now, there are only 10 NABH certified hospitals in the country and QCI expects to add another 15 by 2009-end. Accreditation is slowly becoming mandatory for hospitals, who are targeting more clients, both Indian and foreign, and if QCI’s proposed model becomes a government policy, hospitals will definitely have to take heed.

QCI also plans to reach out to the tier 2 and tier 3 cities. It has already roped in associations like CII, FICCI and Assocham to conduct awareness programmes. QCI will then in the last phase approach the consumer bodies to reach out to the last segment of the chain-the patient.

Govt brings out Indian Pharmacopoeia, 2007

In an effort to control the quality of medicinal products, the government has brought out the Indian Pharmacopoeia, 2007, which lays down the standards for drugs produced or marketed in India.

The standards of this pharmacopoeia are authoritative, legally enforceable and intended to help in the inspection and licensing of manufacturing and distribution of drugs and pharmaceuticals. It has been prepared in accordance with the principles and designed plan decided by the scientific body of the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission.

In addition to the past practices of requesting for comments, the contents of revised appendices and monographs have been publicised on the website of the commission for collecting comments from various institutions and organisations. All the feedback and inputs have been reviewed by the relevant expert committee to ensure the feasibility and practicability of the standards and methods revised in this edition of the Pharmacopoeia, as well as the principle of openness, justice and fairness. It is said that it would also play a vital role in initiating new prospective for improving the quality of medicines and accelerate development of pharma sector in India.

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