Materia Medica Malaysiana

March 30, 2007

Plans for Klang hospital scrapped

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:37 am

NST: KLANG: Datuk Seri Mohamad Khir Toyo has pulled the plug on plans by an international conglomerate to build a RM400 million hospital in Teluk Gadung here.
Klang Municipal Council (MPK) councillor Datuk Dr Teh Kim Poo said residents in the area had appealed to the menteri besar for help.
He said residents in the area did not want to live in the shadow of a huge hospital.
“It’s bad feng shui and they feel the value of their homes will drop,” he said after the MPK full board meeting yesterday.
The project to build the 14-storey hospital, inclusive of a four-storey car park, at a 2.5hectare site was initially given the green light by the MPK town planning committee earlier this month.
Dr Teh, who lives 500m from the site of the proposed 150-bed hospital, also said that Klang did not need an additional hospital.
“We already have the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital and several private hospitals and so there is no necessity to build a new one.”
However, not all MPK councillors at the meeting were pleased with the turn of events.
Mohd Raof Mokhtar, who is a member of the town planning committee which approved the project, said the case was setting a bad precedent.
“As long as the proposed hospital followed MPK building regulations and specifications, it should be allowed.”
He added that the project had its merits and councillors should have used their position to convince residents instead of the other way around.
Meanwhile, councillor Zainuri Zainal said the issue should have been settled in the council, instead of getting the menteri besar involved.
“It looks like a circus, with some parties instigating the public to hold a protest and sending a memorandum.”
Councillor Roslinda Abdul Jamil said MPK needed to be firm instead of back tracking on earlier decisions.
MPK president Abd Bakir Zin agreed the decision to scrap the project would be a loss of foreign direct investment for Klang, but said all was not lost for the American investors who have purchased the land for the project.
“They still have the option of revising their building plans by scaling down the size of the hospital and resubmitting their proposal or build the hospital elsewhere.”

Cuba wants its medical degrees recognised

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:36 am

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Cuba may boast of amazing medical achievements but there is one “breakthrough” still being pursued – getting Malaysia to recognise its medical courses.
The Cuban Government has been awaiting the outcome of a survey by a Public Services Department team that visited Havana last April to evaluate four medical universities.
Cuban Ambassador Pedro Monzon Barata said that with the bilateral co-operation in the field of medicine and biotechnology on the upswing, Cuba’s medical programmes should get credence here.
“Maybe our hostels and facilities are not as presentable as they are here but in terms of the courses and healthcare system, we are very solid.
“Cuba has the best doctor-patient ratio in the world and about 50,000 of our health professionals are helping out in 73 poor countries,” he said, adding that thousands of students from all over the world have graduated or are studying medicine in Cuba.
Monzon Barata said although the medical courses were taught in Spanish, students were given a six-month intensive language course and this was good enough for them to handle the course.
“Most of the medical course books used in Cuba are in English.”
The envoy said his Government had, on two occasions, offered 100 medical scholarships to Malaysia but none had been taken up so far.
“A student here approached me recently for a scholarship and she is likely to be the first Malaysian to enrol for our medical course in September,” he added.
He said a Cuban scientist would arrive here next week to begin clinical trials on an anti-cancer vaccine.
“Cuban hepatitis B vaccines have been on sale here for the past two years,” he added.

New Standards For Hospital Buildings

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:35 am

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 (Bernama) — The construction of hospitals will now have to adhere to new standards set by the Health Ministry to ensure, among others, the safety of the building.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad said Thursday the ministry would begin to introduce 64 “must comply” standards in the construction of new hospitals under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
The new standards were the result of studies carried out on the design and construction of health care facilities in Australia, the United States and Britain, he said, adding that it was time for Malaysia to have its own standard.
The government had invested RM20 million to prepare the 64 new standards which would place future local hospitals on par with those of developed countries, he told reporters after opening a seminar on medical gas piping entitled “There is No Short Cut Towards Safety” here.
Initially, the focus would be on the construction of the operation theatre, which is the heart of the hospital, to ensure that the guidelines and standards were adhered to, he said.
Dr Abdul Latiff, however, denied that the move to impose such standards was due to problems faced by several newly-built hospitals in the country like the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan, Johor Baharu, which had to be closed after three months in 2004 due to fungus growth and other building defects.
The one-day seminar was organised by Rasma Corporation Sdn Bhd, a leading bumiputera construction company which was involved in the piping of medical gases in several hospitals, including the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital, Selayang Hospital and University Hospital.

March 29, 2007

Medicines In Malaysia: High prices claim ‘misleading’

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:40 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry will look for ways to cut the price of medicines although it maintains that they are not as expensive as claimed in a study.
“At the moment there is no problem in the price of medicines. We are still cheaper than many of our neighbouring countries,” said the ministry’s pharmaceutical services division director Datuk Che Mohd Zin Che Awang.
He acknowledged that there was no control mechanism on the price of medicines but said the matter would require further study.
“We cannot say for sure whether we will control the price of essential drugs but we are trying to get the World Health Organisation to help us figure out ways to do it,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.
He said the ministry would consult the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry as price controls were under the latter’s purview.
News reports had quoted Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar as saying that Malaysians may be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines, a finding the ministry dismisses as “misleading”.
The 2005 study was conducted by University College Sedaya International and USM in collaboration with WHO and Health Action International.
Zaheer had said that doctors were marking up prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
Pharmacies, the study found, marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented ones.
The study was published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal.
“The findings of the study are not true,” Che Mohd Zin said. He explained that the researchers’ use of the international reference price (IRP) guide was inaccurate.
The IRP, he said, was used by international non-profit suppliers and as tender prices, not retail prices.
“It also does not include insurance and delivery charges.
The ministry has its own study on drug prices in the public and private sectors which was published earlier this year in the first Medicine Price Monitoring System newsletter.
“We compared our drug prices with those in Kuwait, Jordan, Australia and the Philippines and found that the cost of medicines, especially those for critical illnesses, was much cheaper here.
The division studied 238 brands for 30 commonly used medicines that were collected from 33 public and 35 private premises.
Understandably, drugs in the public sector were four times cheaper than in the private sector, and gross retail prices in the private sector were four times higher than the IRP.
Zaheer, when contacted yesterday, said he stood by his research.

Mass hysteria? Blame it on stress, anxiety and spirits

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:40 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Stress, anxiety, dissociation and the supernatural. These are cited as causes of mass hysteria.
Hospital Bahagia Tanjung Rambutan director and senior consultant psychiatrist Dr Suarn Singh said hysteria was caused by dissociation.
Dissociation is the detachment of a group of mental processes from the victim’s main body of consciousness, which results in hysteria.
Another psychiatrist, who declined to be named, said it was caused by anxiety and tension among a group of people living together, such as in boarding schools or factory hostels.
“It happens to people who share the same beliefs. It is a culture-bound syndrome,” he said.
The psychiatrist said young women were more prone to it as they were less capable of dealing with examinations or work-related stress.
He said victims of mass hysteria should be separated to “break the rhythm”.
“Give them time to calm down and talk to them to find out what is causing the stress.”
Ustaz Mohd Arief Mohd Batcha said stress was a cause of hysteria but was quick to point out that the presence of spirits could also produce the same result.
“Worshipping a deity or object for personal gain can attract spirits to the area and innocent people will suffer.”
The founder of the traditional medical centre Cakra Alam said mass hysteria could be “contagious”, especially for the faint-hearted.
“Those in charge of people hit by hysteria should give them space so that they can breathe and calm down. They can also rub coconut oil on the victims’ heads and give them cold drinks to lessen the symptoms.”
He advised people to avoid stress and “get closer to God” to prevent hysteria.
On Tuesday, several students of SMK Section 11 in Shah Alam were hit by mass hysteria.
Parents said the hysteria began at the boys’ dormitory last Friday and had continued over the weekend.
Other parents claimed that some of the students were possessed by spirits and the teachers there were overwhelmed.

Judge tells off health director over missing file

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:39 am

NST: KUANTAN: A state health department director was yesterday given a lecture by a judge on the importance of safeguarding the medical records of patients.
Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Ahmad Mahir, who heads the Perak Health Department, was a witness in a negligence suit brought by the parents of a dead child against a private doctor.
The hearing of the case was delayed for almost a decade mainly because the baby boy’s medical records at a government hospital could not be found.
The child had suffered medical complications at birth on Nov 5, 1992, causing the private doctor who delivered it at his clinic to immediately send it to the Tengku Ampuan Afzan Hospital here.
The child’s condition gradually deteriorated before it died of a respiratory ailment four years later. Dr Ahmad Razin, who was the director of the hospital when the case was filed in 1996, told the court that he could not produce the medical records because the hospital’s present administration could not find them.
Responding to this, Sessions Court judge Sarimah Hashim said it was regrettable that the medical records could be lost and the hearing was delayed for so long because of it.
“I have to agree with the lawyers of this case that you should seriously consider the importance of safekeeping patients’ medical records as an issue here,” she told Dr Ahmad Razin.
“It would be hard for the court to dispense justice to either party in this case without those records.”
Both parties in the case had first requested from Dr Ahmad Razin a copy of the medical record in 1998. He had declined the request after consulting the government’s legal adviser.
“It is not the normal practice of hospitals to provide copies of medical records to patients,” he told the court.
Dr Ahmad Razin had at that time replied in a letter to the lawyers that he would only produce the medical records if called to do so by the courts.
To this, M.S. Dhillon, who represents the medical practitioner, said he had sent another letter to Dr Ahmad Razin in March the next year requesting for the hospital authorities to at least ensure the safekeeping of the medical records and be ready to produce them in court when requested.
Both parties of the case were, however, later informed that the medical records could not be found.
They nonetheless decided to proceed with the case in court last year.
At the end of the cross-examination, Dhillon expressed his disappointment over what he described as the failure of the health authorities to assist the court in the case.
“As a senior medical official, you should notify the Health Ministry about this case so that the safekeeping of medical records could be improved,” he told Dr Ahmad Razin.
Harinder Singh, who represents the child’s parents, also expressed disappointment that the case had dragged on for so long due to the missing medical records.
He nonetheless told the court that his clients would pursue the case and instead rely on other witnesses.
The child’s parents had claimed that the private medical practitioner was negligent in causing it to suffer birth asphyxia which occurs when a baby does not receive enough oxygen before, during or just after birth.
They are suing for an unspecific amount in damages.
In his defence, the medical practitioner claimed that the child had suffered congenital pneumonia at birth.
The case will be heard again on May 9.

Cuban Anti-Cancer Vaccine To Be Clinically Tested In Malaysia

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:39 am

KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 (Bernama) — A therapeutic anti-cancer vaccine being developed by Cuban scientists is expected to give new hopes for patients in the advanced stage of lung cancer in terms of a longer survival rate and better quality of life.
Known as Epiderma Growth Factor (EGF), the vaccine, discovered by Dr Gisela Gonzalez Marinello of the Centre of Molecular Immunology in Cuba in 1992, will be clinically trial-tested in Malaysia for the first time.
Dr Gonzalez, who is also its project manager, said 230 advanced stage lung cancer patients had been identified in 12 hospitals to participate in the clinical tests in what could be a landmark trial for the drug.
She said based on previous clinical trials in Cuba, Canada and United Kingdom, the vaccine had demonstrated its ability to promote longer survival rates of up to six months, and up to two years in some cases, while helping to improve the quality of life among lung cancer patients who responded to the vaccine.
She told Bernama in an interview here that the EGF was safe, had no prolonged side effects and could be used in tandem with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Dr Gonzalez stressed that the vaccine was not a cure for cancer but helps to fight against the growth of cancerous cells, adding that it was administered through monthly injections on four different parts of a patient’s body.
Set to begin in May, the clinical trial in Malaysia is expected to take about two-and-a-half years and is being sponsored by Bioven Sdn Bhd, a local company specializing in advanced technology and life sciences.
Bioven chief executive officer Dr W. Shermal Perera, who was present at the interview, said the clinical trial would be monitored by the Cancer Research Centre of the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
“This clinical trial in Malaysia is important to us because the data collected will be used to penetrate Europe and other countries,” he said.
Bioven has the intellectual property rights for EGF here and in Southeast Asia.
Dr Perera said: “We have bought the licence and the patent has been assigned to us. We have the rights for Europe, Australia, Japan and New Zealand as well.” EGF, now in the process of getting registered in Cuba, is expected to be marketed in that country in the next few months.
“In Malaysia, we hope to get it approved and register within the next three years,” he added.
He said if the clinical trials went well, Malaysia would become the second country after Cuba to have the drug.
He also urged lung cancer patients keen on the clinical trial to contact the company.

March 28, 2007

Hospital facing RM1m suit over ambulance delay

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:15 am

NST: GEORGE TOWN: A factory engineer yesterday filed a RM1 million suit against the Kepala Batas Hospital, accusing it of gross negligence leading to his wife’s death.
Abdul Ghafur Mohd Ibrahim accused the hospital of being directly responsible for Yusnita Abas’ death by failing to give her prompt treatment.
The 37-year-old quality assurance engineer with a factory in Prai, named the Kepala Batas hospital director and the government as defendants.
He is seeking RM4,194 in special damages, RM1 million as general and exemplary damages, interest and other costs deemed fit by the court.
Ghafur, who filed the suit at the High Court here through his lawyer, Jagdeep Singh Deo, claimed the hospital’s failure to provide an efficient emergency service was outrageous and condemnable.
In his statement of claim, Ghafur said his wife had gone to the hospital about 1pm on Oct 11 last year complaining of severe headache.
He claimed Yusnita was made to wait more than five hours before blood test results showed she may have a clot in her brain.
Yusnita was then rushed to the Seberang Jaya Hospital about 7.30pm where a CT scan confirmed her condition.
She was then taken back to the Kepala Batas Hospital only to be rushed to the Penang Hospital in another ambulance.
However, she was pronounced brain dead by the time she arrived at 10.40pm.
Yusnita died about 3.30pm on Oct 13.
Ghafur claimed his wife’s death could have been avoided if she had been properly diagnosed and given prompt treatment at the nearest neurosurgical centre.
He also accused the defendants of failing to provide an efficient ambulance service.
Ghafur said the defendants had been negligent as they failed to ensure that ambulances at the Kepala Batas Hospital were in good working condition and filled with petrol at all times.
He claimed his wife was a healthy person who died when she was just 31 years old, leaving her husband and three children, aged between two and 12.
Ghafur claimed his wife’s death had caused severe psychological and emotional stress and trauma to his family.

Why Malaysians pay more for medicines

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:14 am

NST: GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians are paying through their noses for medicines that should cost a fraction of their market price.
While their pockets get lighter, pharmacists and medical practitioners are laughing all the way to the bank.
It appears that Malaysians may, in fact, be paying the highest prices in the world for medicines.
A study by a team of local researchers showed that pharmacies marked up prices by up to 140 per cent for generic drugs and 38 per cent for patented drugs.
The research was conducted by University College Sedaya International and Universiti Sains Malaysia in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and Health Action International.
The results of the 2005 study were published in the PLoS Medicine journal yesterday.
Doctors marked up medicine prices by up to 76 per cent for patented drugs and 316 per cent for generics.
(A generic drug is a drug that is bio-equivalent to a branded drug, but is usually sold at a lower price.)
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Dr Zaheer Ud Din Babar, one of four researchers involved in the study, said the absence of a price control mechanism for drugs was among the reasons for such high medicine prices.
He said add-on costs also had a substantial impact on medicine prices in Malaysia.
Dr Zaheer said, in Sri Lanka, the wholesale mark-up at pharmacies was just eight per cent while retailers’ mark-up was 16 per cent.
In Kenya, the private retail sector (for imported medicines) has a wholesale mark-up of 15 to 30 per cent and a maximum retailer mark-up of 20 to 33 per cent.
In Peru, the imported generic medicine mark-up by distributors was 36 per cent, while retailers’ mark-up was just 33 per cent.
“If you think it is unfair to compare Malaysia with only poor countries, then we have data to compare with prices in Belgium, Germany, France, Ireland and Italy.
“The wholesale margin for these countries is not more than 23 per cent. Only The Netherlands is 56 per cent.”
Dr Zaheer was speaking at the day-long seminar on “Equitable access to medicines for Malaysians: A way forward through a medicine pricing policy” at USM’s main campus, here, yesterday.
One of four speakers at the seminar, he presented a working paper titled “Evaluating medicine prices, availability, affordability and price components in Malaysia”.
Dr Zaheer said Malaysia had no history of price control on retail medicines.
“Recent research suggests that increasing the available choices of generics on the market does not, on its own, bring down prices.
“We seriously need to have a pricing policy, which takes into account the maximum wholesale and retail mark-ups as well as regulatory pricing for generics and patented drugs.”
He said it should be investigated why generics were expensive and generic availability of drugs was poor.
Dr Zaheer said most countries had pricing regulations and some, like France and Italy, even regulated drug prices directly through a price control mechanism.
In the United Kingdom, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority monitors prices through the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme, which controls the prices of branded prescription drugs.

Cervical cancer vaccine

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:14 am

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: A vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and vulvar and vaginal pre-cancers in women, called Gardasil, was launched in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
It is the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a disease caused almost exclusively by a highly common sexually transmitted virus called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that includes over 100 different strains.
Gardasil, first launched in 2006 and approved in over 40 countries, was approved by the Drug Control Authority of Malaysia last October.
Gardasil offers protection against four strains – Types 16 and 18 that account for some 70% of cervical cancer cases and Types 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts cases.
In Malaysia, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer after breast cancer.
“Gardasil is a major advancement in the prevention of cancer,” said Dr Suresh Kumarasamy, chairman of the Gynaecological Oncology Sub-committee of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia (OGSM), at the media launch.
“The vaccine has been shown to be effective in studies done on women between 16 and 26. The majority of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer are between the ages of 40 and 50.
“We hope that the vaccine will protect the generation of females now. It will not make a major impact on those in their 50s because many are already infected.”
National Cancer Society of Malaysia executive director Dr Saunthari Somasundaram told The Star that cervical cancer is more prevalent among Malaysian women than most people realise.
“It is just something that women don’t talk about because it is intrinsic to femininity,” she said.
“Some 1,500 Malaysian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.
“Pap smear tests, which start at the cost of RM5 or RM10 from government clinics to below RM100 in private hospitals, are readily available. Yet most women just don’t take it.”
NCSM is offering the vaccine at a subsidised price of RM999 at its Women’s Cancer Detection & Breast Clinic.
For more information call 03-2698 7351.

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