Materia Medica Malaysiana

December 29, 2007

Suicide becoming a big killer

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 12:35 pm

Star: PENANG: In 10 to 15 years time, suicide will take second spot as the highest cause of death in the country after cardiovascular disease.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Prof See Ching Mey said in 2005, there were nine to 12 suicides for every 100,000 people compared to 13 suicides per 100,000 last year.
She said three million Malaysians have mental health problems and 130,000 of them were children.
“This shows that despite the technology and medical advancements that improve our living standards, many are actually feeling worse,” she said in her inaugural professorial lecture yesterday.
Prof See was appointed as a professor in June 2006 and her lecture was in conjunction with the USM School of Education Studies’ Teachers Day Celebration.
“Currently, there are only about 900 counsellors registered under the Board of Counsellors.
“We need more qualified counsellors and physiologists to come forward and contribute their service,” she told a press conference later.
Prof See said each organisation should have at least a counsellor or psychologists.
She suggested all companies to provide counselling services for their employees under the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or Health Service.
When asked about mental health services in Malaysia, she said there was a slight shift from total medication dependence towards psycho-medical treatment recently.
She said while medication is still a must for some of the mental health patients, it is a better approach to help them cope by giving proper counselling.

December 28, 2007

New drug for breast cancer

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:37 pm

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: A new chemotherapy-based treatment for breast cancer capable of increasing survival rates by over 30 per cent, has been developed.
A compound called docetaxel recently proved to be superior to the existing anthracycline-based standard of care, president of the Malaysian Oncological Society Dr Gurcharan Singh Khera said.
Two studies were conducted and proved that docetaxel was superior. The first, a seven-year study on 1,016 patients called US Oncology 9735, showed that it increased survival rates by 31 per cent. The second, known as BCIRG 001, found that survival rates were as high as 30 per cent after four-and-a-half years.
The BCIRG 001 study also showed that the disease-free survival also improved significantly irrespective of other factors that measure the severity of the cancer, such as the number of lymph nodes affected and the status of hormone receptors.
“With these advances, this much-feared disease affecting one in 19 Malaysian women is curable,” Dr Gurcharan said.
He added that the main objective of treatment for early breast cancer is to rid the body of cancer cells and prevent a recurrence.
“The clinical definition of a ‘cure’ for cancer is if there are no signs of the disease five years after treatment.
“Since docetaxel passed the five-year test, breast cancer patients now have a more effective weapon in their battle against the disease.”

No disease outbreak, says Chua

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 4:37 pm

Star: JOHOR BARU: There was no outbreak of infectious disease among flood victims, and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek described this as an achievement because the floods affected a large number of people.
“Until today, there has been no incident of infection through water or food,” he told reporters after a visit to the Sultan Ismail Hospital in Pandan yesterday.
Dr Chua said that as of Dec 26, most of the 4,582 flood victims who received medical care were there for follow-up treatment.
“Thirty-seven people were also hospitalised, but they comprised pregnant mothers, those with high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney or heart problems,” he said.
Although the flood situation has shown overall improvement, Dr Chua said the ministry still had 453 health and medical teams to provide assistance as Pahang, Johor, Kedah and Kelantan were still under high alert for floods.
“We still have about 20 small health clinics closed but operations at the Pekan Hospital have resumed and all repairs will be done immediately,” he said.
Dr Chua also said the ministry did not just provide medical attention, but also monitored food cleanliness at evacuation centres.
On a separate matter, Dr Chua said although Sultan Ismail Hospital had been open for the last one year, only 60% of the beds were used due to manpower shortage.
“We hope to fill up the vacancies in stages,” he said, adding that the hospital would also begin offering traditional medicine, including herbal and acupuncture treatment, early next year in cooperation with Nanjing University in China.

December 16, 2007

Keeping an eye on ‘unhealthy’ advertisements

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

NST: PETALING JAYA: Advertising the “benefits” of their products is not necessarily a wise thing for some manufacturers of pharmaceutical, traditional and cosmetic products.
Especially not when you have hawk-eyed officials of the Health Ministry’s Pharmaceutical Services Division scrutinising every claim their advertisements make.
And it is these claims which have landed at least 36 drug manufacturers in hot soup with the Drug Control Authority (DCA) over the last seven years.
These manufacturers, caught for “enhancing” their products with scheduled poisons and other adulterants, had their licences revoked.
This year, the licences of at least six drug manufacturers were withdrawn while the registration of 19 products was cancelled, said Pharmaceutical Services Division senior deputy director Eisah Abdul Rahman.
“We look at all their advertisements, including those on brochures and flyers, with a fine tooth comb and any suspicious claims are investigated.
“Sometimes we even investigate based on the name of the product.”
The bulk of the pharmaceuticals found to have been adulterated with scheduled poisons are lifestyle drugs for slimming, drugs for increasing the libido and cosmetics such as skin whitening creams.
The scheduled poisons in these drugs include Sibutramine (used in slimming pills) which can lead to adverse cardiovascular effects such as palpitation and high blood pressure.
Eisah said in most cases, the manufacturers knowingly adulterate the products after submitting “clean” samples to get the ministry’s approval.
In some cases though, the manufacturers are quite “innocent” in that they were unaware that the raw ingredient they imported to manufacture their product was already adulterated at source.
There are also those who only send in certain “coded” batches for sampling, knowing that these were free of adulterants.
“But we are able to trace the culprits either through our routine sampling from the market, through their advertisements and through complaints from consumers.”
Eisah said some of these drugs, especially health supplements, were sold through exclusive membership.
There were also cases where some manufacturers tried to outwit the authorities by selling their products in a package.
For example, they would combine a registered health supplement with a beverage where a scheduled poison was an active ingredient.
Examples include beverages to control body weight or 3-in-1 beverages which claim to have traditional herbs such as Tongkat Ali and Ginseng when they actually contain scheduled poisons such as sildenafil.
“They do this knowing that we can only act on the health supplement and not a food product such as a beverage which comes under the purview of the Food Safety Division of the ministry.
“But we are working around this problem,” she said.
Until August, the division had seized RM28 million in unregistered and adulterated drugs.
The largest consignment was the seizure of some 1.5 million fake Viagra pills from India with a street value of RM15,446,293.
Eisah said the bulk of the drugs, estimated at some RM25.8 million, were seized during raids on manufacturing outlets while almost RM2 million worth were seized at entry points before they could be smuggled into the country.
The public can verify the authenticity of pharmaceutical products through the DCA’s website at

Don’t toy with safety

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:07 am

NST: While a large number of China-made toys are being recalled worldwide for toxin contamination, Malaysians shopping for their children’s Christmas presents are largely unconcerned, telling TAN CHOE CHOE and AUDREY VIJAINDREN that they believe the authorities are ensuring that toys sold in the country are safe. Are they?
CONSUMERS in America, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom are reportedly jittery about buying toys for their children this Christmas after recalls of China-made toys worldwide due to lead contamination.

But Malaysian parents are unfazed, assuming that the authorities have checked every item on the shelves.
If there were any unsafe ones, “they would have already been recalled”, says Theresa Fung, a mother of two.
“Especially big toy manufacturers like Mattel. I don’t think they would want to make the same mistake twice. So I’m not really worried about buying their toys even if they are made in China.”
Nearly seven out of 10 toys you pick up in a toyshop anywhere in the world today are made in China.
In Malaysia, depending on where you shop, you may find almost all the toys on sale come from China.
Does it mean all toys being retailed now are safe for our children?
Not necessarily so, as Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry secretary-general Datuk Mohd Zain Mohd Dom said: “It’s impossible to perform tests on millions of toys.”
He said there were “too many legal implications” that the ministry would have to deal with if its officers were to storm into a retail shop and confiscate products for testing.
To compound the problem, Malaysia does not have any mandatory toy safety standards that manufacturers have to comply with.
“The only other option would be to purchase suspected toys. But, who is going to bear the cost?”
Hence, he urged consumers to come forward with products that they suspected were hazardous.
“We will take it to Sirim (Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia) for testing. If there is a warranted reason, we will use the Consumer Protection Act to take the product off the shelves.”
But this is not a satisfactory answer to consumer protection groups like the Malaysian Association of Standards Users (Masu), an affiliate of the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca).
“We are very worried. Toy importers and distributors are not obligated or compelled to conduct testing or recall (problematic) toys.
“There’s no guarantee that the items being sold to our most vulnerable group of consumers are safe!” said Masu director Ratna Devi Nadarajan.
Her concerns are especially valid, coming as they are after Fomca conducted a random testing of 24 toys from supermarkets and hypermarkets and found 23 of them containing lead on their surface.
Ratna said there was a set of voluntary standards established covering various aspects of toy safety by the Department of Standards Malaysia which has been available since 2002.
But these have never been made mandatory, although the Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has the power to do so.
The standards include the mechanical and physical properties of toys, flammability, safety of chemistry experimental sets, and graphical symbols for age-warning labelling.
“They were adopted from international standards and are free for use by any manufacturer, importer or distributor located in any part of the world,” said standards director of the Department of Standards, Rajinder Raj.
The Department of Standards provides advice to regulatory agencies in the incorporation of standards into technical regulations.
Mohd Zain, who only took office in February, admitted that his ministry had been slow in dealing with the issue of toy safety.
“But we are working with Sirim and other relevant parties to ensure the process is fast tracked. Hopefully the standards will be made mandatory by next year.”
The Consumers Association of Penang says not only toys but also all children’s products should be of concern.
“There is a need for mandatory safety and labelling standards, to ensure children’s products have been checked and comply with the set standards,” said CAP president S. M. Mohamed Idris.
He said now would be a good time to examine the trend of depending too much on commercially manufactured toys.
“Children should be encouraged to create their own toys and games from regular items — like using wooden spoons as playthings.”
Unsafe and toxic packaging, he said, was another issue that should be looked into.
Meanwhile, sales of toys are booming.
“Other than a few enquiries we’ve received from customers buying toys for those under the ‘age 1 and below’ category, business is brisk as usual at this time of the year,” said a supervisor of a top toy chain in Kuala Lumpur who declined to be named.
Mattel’s sales, which mainly constitutes China-made products here, also continue to be strong.
Even the news of six children in Australia slipping into a coma after swallowing China-made toy beads coated with a substance similar to the liquid psychotropic drug Ecstasy, has not affected the shopping frenzy here.
“I would say that consumers are not shying away from our products,” said Mattel Southeast Asia marketing manager, Cheok Ching Won.
Some parents, like housewife Stephanie Ng, 35, feel the issue of the safety of China-made toys has been blown out of proportion.
“I think everyone’s just making a big fuss. China has been making so many products for so many years, why did such safety issues surface only recently?
“I think it’s a big conspiracy to discredit China-made products.”

40 MMA members to call for crisis meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:06 am

Star: PETALING JAYA: About 40 medical practitioners, led by Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) past president Datuk Dr P. Krishnan, will petition for an emergency general meeting (EGM) tomorrow to discuss issues raised by the Registrar of Societies (ROS).
“This meeting is to justify the issues raised by the ROS and to take necessary action against the office-bearers for wilfully contravening the constitution which is against the Societies Act, and for putting the association into public disrepute,” Dr Krishnan said yesterday.
He added that the MMA Council had not acted at all on the issues.
“The current office-bearers intend to hold a council meeting only in January and that is simply too late.
“I feel they are not at all bothered by the seriousness of the accusations that the ROS has made against them,” Dr Krishnan said.
The association could be deregistered if it did not explain the violations to the Societies Act 1966 by Dec 28, said Dr Krishnan.
“This is a serious matter and we will press for the EGM to resolve this matter before the deadline,” he added.

December 14, 2007

Duped by agents for medical seats

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 11:28 am

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Forty Malaysian students were cheated of RM40 million by unscrupulous agents, who promised them a place to study medicine at the Kasturba Medical College in India.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed said parents and students went all the way to India before realising that they had been duped of their hard- earned money.
“They have made a police report on the matter. We consider this a serious problem and we are looking at publishing the names of those who have done this, so that others will not fall prey to their antics,” he said after meeting 42 out of the 63 agents responsible for getting Malaysian students seats in medical colleges abroad.
He said Kasturba Medical College was recognised by the government and its intake was done directly and not by an agent.
“There are no agents involved when it comes to recruiting students for the Kasturba Medical College in India. I am sad to say that their money is burnt.”
Mustapa said parents must always check on several matters before enrolling their children in medical colleges abroad, like whether the college was recognised and whether it had been issued with the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from his ministry.
Malaysian Medical Association (committee on medical education) chairman Datuk Dr N. Athimulam, who was also present, said parents and students could check on the names of the 334 medical colleges recognised by the government through the Malaysian Qualification Agency’s website.
He added that parents and students could also learn the proper way to enrol for medical studies through a book published by the MMA.
“The book is available in stores for RM15, but secondary school students can get a copy from the library for free.
“As for the cheating, we view this matter seriously. We urge parents to check with the colleges or universities before enrolling their children abroad. Don’t believe everything the agents say.”
Dr Athimulam also said that parents should not “persuade” agents if their children were not eligible for medical seats in international colleges.
“We have received complaints from several agents saying that many parents say they don’t mind paying extra if the agents obtained medical seats for their children in colleges abroad, despite their cumulative grade point average being less than 3.0.”
He said there were 12,000 medical students in countries like India, Ukraine, Russia and Indonesia, while 8,000 were studying medicine locally.

December 13, 2007

WHO decides on Malaysia

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:35 am

Star: PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia has been selected as the host country for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Services Centre.
Located in Cyberjaya, the centre will handle all of WHO’s back room operations. The estimated 200 staff required at the centre by the end of 2008 will be mostly Malaysians.
WHO assistant director Namita Pradhan said that although all 192 member countries had been potential host sites, the Philippines, India and Malaysia were short-listed.
“An independent committee evaluated what was on offer, what was going to be made available and chose Malaysia as the best location,” she said at the signing ceremony at the Health Ministry between WHO and the Malaysian Government.
Namita said the decision was based on the skills mix, salary level, costs, standard of living and whether international staff could relocate easily to the centre.
She said the centre would handle WHO’s back office work such as running the entire organisation’s payroll, processing transactions and procurements. She said 90% of the staff would be Malaysians.
“We are committed on our part. We will do our best to upgrade their skills,” she said, adding that this included training them locally as well as in Geneva for four to six weeks.
The centre would start work in the second week of January with a small contingent of 26.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said in his speech that Malaysia was honoured.
“Cyberjaya was chosen because it’s Malaysia’s ‘Silicon Valley’ and the infrastructure there has the latest technology with fibre optic cabling in each building providing connectivity to all parts of the world,” he said.
The single global system will link 147 countries, including six regional offices and the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
It is estimated that by the end of 2008, local staff would number 200, with about 15 to 20 WHO officials, Dr Chua said.

December 11, 2007

Check nutrition labels on fast food before tucking in

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:00 am

NST: PUTRAJAYA: Come the new year, you may want to read the print on your burger wrapper before taking a bite.
The compulsory labelling of fast-food products takes effect from Jan 1 and with its implementation, you will be able to know if you are consuming too much salt, fat or carbohydrates.
Launching the guidelines on labelling yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek said fast-food operators were now obliged to state the calorie, carbohydrate, fat, protein, salt and sugar content of their products.
These figures must also be translated into the recommended nutrition intake (RNI) percentages so consumers can know the percentage of their daily intake requirement that will be met.
The Health Ministry hopes that the move will educate Malaysians and enable them to make better decisions about the amount and frequency of fast food that they eat.
Dr Chua said to date, only three — KFC, A&W and McDonalds’ — of the 20 fast-food companies were ready to label their products.
“The rest must do so by Jan 1, failing which I will announce their names in the newspapers and use administrative measures to penalise them,” he said, adding that the industry had been told six months ago about the compulsory labelling of their products.
The nutritional information must be displayed prominently, either on the food wrappers and cups, or on posters, pamphlets or on the table-tops.
However, the labelling requirement does not apply to seasonal promotions.
Dr Chua also launched guidelines on fast-food television commercials that can be shown during children’s programmes.
Fast-food companies are also banned from sponsoring children’s TV programmes.
Children’s programmes are defined as those aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 9.
The ban on sponsorship and commercials during children’s shows is already in place.
The guidelines also state that commercials during other programmes cannot give inaccurate or confusing information on nutrition, cannot encourage people to eat more fast food, cannot create the impression that fast food can replace a complete and balanced diet, and cannot refute the Malaysian dietary guidelines issued by the Health Ministry.
The Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) is to monitor the compliance of fast-food companies to the guidelines, as the ministry wants the industry to be self-regulated.
4As president Datuk Vincent Lee, who was present at the launch, said the industry was looking at a commercial which might be in violation of the guidelines and was considering pulling it off the air.
The commercial shows a working mother who was shopping for fresh produce at a supermarket for dinner but changes her mind when she sees the long queue at the cashier and opts for fast food for the family instead.

December 6, 2007

One number for distressed folk to call for help

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 10:45 am

Star: PUTRAJAYA: 15999 – this is the number to call if you are a victim of domestic violence, child abuse or a natural disaster.
This hotline, called Talian Nur, will be the lifeline providing early intervention for these victims. It is also meant to make it easier for the authorities to provide welfare and care for those in need.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when launching the integrated one-stop call centre established by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, hoped the public would use it properly and not make crank calls.
He added that those responding to the calls must be responsible to take quick action as the callers may be in an emergency situation.
When testing the line later, Abdullah advised the operator answering his call to provide feedback to the ministry on shortcomings of the hotline to ensure the system worked smoothly.
Speaking to reporters earlier, minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil said the 29 call agents would be working in three shifts to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the call centre in Kuala Lumpur.
The ministry’s current two helplines – TeleDera and Healthline – have been consolidated with Talian Nur, she said, adding that police would also help to deal with calls involving criminal activities.
She, however, hoped that those wanting to call the police would continue dialling 999.
“The call centre allows assistance to all types of social-woes victims with greater speed,” she said, adding that the hotline was a necessity with the increasing number of social issues and natural disaster cases being reported.

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