Inflammation and stories on medicine

hiv children treatment where you live botswana study efavirenz nevirapine medicine
There are over 3 million children that are HIV-positive, with more than 90% of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends both efavirenz and nevirapine for first-line pediatric use in resource-limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa. A recent study compared the first-line treatments for HIV-positive children and was conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, along with colleagues at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence. The study found that initial treatment with efavirenz was more effective than nevirapine in suppressing the virus in children ages 3 to 16, and that nevirapine is less effective than efavirenz. Nevirapine, the less effective drug, is used much more often in countries with a high prevalence of HIV.

The study notes that nevirapine costs less than efavirenz and is more widely available in pediatric formulations, which may explain this disturbing fact. Studies that focused on adult treatment also found efavirenz to be more effective than nevirapine. Conclusively, the study states, “Given this evidence, it is very reasonable to adjust pediatric HIV treatment guidelines…more work should be done to make efavirenz a more financially viable option for children on anti-retroviral therapy in these resource-limited settings.”

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica
Photo: Science Daily

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Nearing the conclusion of the First World War, both Western Europe and the United States were swept up once again in mass casualties. However, this time it was not mustard gas or trench warfare, but rather it was the spread of a highly virulent virus that quickly moved from epidemic to pandemic proportions. Known as the Spanish Influenza, this virus emerged from the prairies of the United States and quickly spread throughout the ravaged cities of war-torn Europe, causing catastrophic levels of death and human suffering. Much has changed in the subsequent century since the Spanish Influenza pandemic, most notably increased coordination between governments in regards to global health concerns and early warning systems of epidemics. And if current trends continue, the end of global pandemics may finally be a reality.

Primarily due to the growth of social media and greater governmental cooperation, local epidemics are being reported to World Health Organization officials at a much quicker rate, allowing for the deployment of huge networks of heath workers aimed at both containing and studying a disease prior to it mutating and becoming a pandemic. Innovative health care workers and research scientists are now utilizing the full potential of social media, and have managed to decrease the detection time of possible pandemics to 23 days, possibly ushering the end of global pandemics.

In regards to the end of global pandemics, TEDMED speaker Dr. Larry Brilliant recounted the eighty countries that came together to end smallpox which lasted for more than two centuries. “Today, we are finding diseases faster than anyone ever imagined,” he comments. “Innovations in early detection, early response and global cooperation can put an end to pandemics.”

A future free of disease-causing viruses capable of inflicting huge losses of life are primarily due to the impressive scientific advances in global health and social media that have occurred over the last decade. Moreover, as early detection times continue to decrease, will this generation be the first one to see the end of global pandemics? If health scientists such as Dr. Brilliant continue to forge ahead with their efforts, it’s more than likely a possibility. Dr. Brilliant comments that “We are closer every day.”

Brian Turner
Source: CNN
Photo: Healthcave

$500 Million 'Rescue Mission' Initiative LaunchedWith cuts to foreign aid looming and some already in place, humanitarian organizations are going to become even more important in the fight against global poverty. Evangelical organization World Vision launched a $500 million ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative to help 10 million children living in poverty.  The ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative will focus on clean water, access to health care, and child protection.

Under the budget cuts that went into effect as of January 1, 2013, non-profits are predicting that there will be 1.1 million fewer mosquito nets distributed, 300,000 fewer people with access to clean water, and 2 million people with reduced or zero access to food aid.  This is cause for serious concern as we look at being less than 1,000 from the end date for the Millenium Development Goals (MDG).

World Vision launched the $500 million ‘rescue mission’ dubbed “For Every Child” which seeks to raise $500 million by 2015.  It is the farthest-reaching endeavor World Vision has ever taken on.  The initiative will focus on clean water, fighting communicable diseases, providing small loans to families, and protecting children from human trafficking.

When the government cuts budgets, it can be difficult for non-profit organizations to get the start-up capital they need to start new ventures. This campaign is important to continue the life-saving work World Vision is already doing around the world.  It will hopefully fill the gap from government funds and continue to promote the MDGs as we near the final stretch.  We have halved poverty in the last decade and it is very possible to continue the downward trend, but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

While the needs are great and the costs seem high, the alternative to pushing forward is not an option. As Richard Sterns, Executive Director of World Vision put it, “We’ve taken a hard look at the needs that exist today. They are great, but we refuse to believe that poverty is too big, too expensive, or too difficult to overcome-because for the millions of children living in poverty, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Christian Post

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The 13th Infopoverty World Conference was held in New York City last week. The focus of the United Nations-founded technology conference was “Innovations for Nation-Building and the Empowerment of People.” The conference was established to share new advances in the use of technology to solve problems in the developing world.

One tool that received a great deal of interest was a system that allowed ultrasounds to be taken in a rural location while the data was transferred to a doctor in a city hospital. Such a device makes ultrasounds more easily available for people living in rural areas while also offering the service at a lower cost to the patient and hospital. The Chinese company iMedcare Technologies Co. is responsible for the invention. By using real-time internet camera tools and simple on-site machinery, simpler medical tests such as ultrasounds may be conducted. This advancement in the medical field may eventually lead to a large variety of tests that could be run remotely in real-time.

Instead of doctors, residents of the rural areas could be employed and educated about the on-site machinery and doctors would be able to keep living near and seeing their many patients in more urban areas. While doctors would have to be present in person for more involved operations, this innovation in medical procedures may save lives by making medical care more easily available for many people in poor rural areas.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: China Daily
Photo: PC World

Energy Poverty Key in Healthcare DeprivationAccording to this year’s “Poor People’s Energy Outlook,” published by the NGO Practical Action, more than 1 billion people have been left with inadequate medical care because of energy poverty. The report cites such circumstances as emergency surgeries performed in the dark, lack of proper sterilization of supplies, and health centers being unable to store temperature-regulated vaccines.

The report states that over half of all health centers throughout India have no access to electricity – these centers are responsible for the health care of over 580 million people. The situation is similar throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 255 million people are serviced by healthcare facilities that lack power.

The report also highlights that even if health facilities do have access to electricity, it can be unreliable and frequently cause blackouts. In Kenya, only 25% of facilities have consistent energy services, making it extremely difficult for staff to aid patients at night, and putting emergency patients and mothers giving birth and their babies at risk. The Kenyan centers experience blackouts on an average of 6 times per month. “It can also lead to wasted vaccines, blood and medicines that require constant storage temperatures,” the report says.

Although the Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), sponsored by the UN, has pushed energy access for all people by 2030, the report warns that health and education should be the top priority, not simply energy development and efficiency. The report states that the program has put too much emphasis on energy “mostly on domestic use and access for enterprise,” ignoring the critical needs of huge numbers of medical facilities and clinics.

The report also addresses the need for consistent energy access in schools, and asserts that over 291 million children throughout developing countries attend schools with no access to electricity.

The report suggests that attaining numbers on poor people’s access to energy will be much more efficient than examining solely large-scale energy development, and has proposed a new system for doing so with World Bank and UN cooperation.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Belinda Otas

Doctors Without Borders and Measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo
There has been a threat from measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2010. Three months ago, the disease reached epidemic levels. Although much is being done to combat the spread of measles, tens of thousands of people are still affected.

Over the past year, Doctors Without Borders has inoculated nearly half a million children against measles, having to treat nearly 20,000 for the disease itself. Mortality rates can vary from 15 to 25 percent; the manager of a medical team “counted 35 dead in one village…traveling from village to village, we hear just one word: measles.”

Perhaps the most awful thing about measles outbreaks is that the disease itself is extremely treatable. Vaccines can be purchased for a pittance, but the problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo lies in getting the medicine to those who need it. Without modern infrastructure extending navigable roads to many villages, the vaccine cannot always be kept cold in transit. One health center “has only two refrigerators and one broken motorcycle to serve an area half the size of Switzerland.”

Doctors Without Borders put out the alert back in December, hoping that increased attention to the epidemic would bring more donations, and therefore more treatment. Tens of thousands of lives can be saved for barely a few dollars each. The only thing standing between those who are suffering and their good health is the vacillation of foreign donors.

Jake Simon

Source: Doctors Without Borders

Students and faculty at the University of Bristol are actively making many necessary pharmaceuticals more available to people living in the developing world. The university created its’ own “equitable access policy” act in order to help create affordable medicine and drugs that will be more accessible to patients suffering curable diseases throughout the world.

Any drugs that are produced using the University of Bristol are entered into this program and the result is a giant difference in prices, making them more realistically available to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medicines. Hopefully, other universities will create similar policies and contribute to making needed medicine more accessible. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that limited access to medicine is responsible for about 18 million deaths every year. The ability to get needed medicine at a lower price could save lives while also allowing people in the developing world to hold on to more of their disposable income, letting that money move in and out of local economies. While some programs have already been established to provide HIV/AIDS related medication at lower prices, people suffering from other diseases have not yet been able to receive such aid.

Affordable medicine and treatment are important anywhere, but they are especially important in the developing world. More reasonably priced medicine may be able help many people who have to choose between buying their medicine or food for their family. It may be just a small step now, but if such programs spread to other universities, they could make a great impact in helping the world’s poor.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Medsin
Photo: Photo Dictionary

Medicine Shortage in Greece Causes CrisisThe turmoil in Greece is beginning to have a dramatic effect on the healthcare of its citizens. Many pharmaceutical drugs are in extremely short supply; the government has accused the producers of halting shipments due to the current low prices in Greece. The medicine shortage has resulted in a feeling of panic across the country, as many Greeks cannot obtain the drugs they need on a daily basis.

From the corporations’ perspectives, these low prices would create opportunities for someone to purchase large quantities of drugs for a pittance in Greece. This middleman could then turn around and sell to the rest of Europe, where prices are higher, thereby drastically cutting into the profits of the drug makers.

The government, of course, is concerned with making sure that all its citizens have access to the medications that they need. Drugs for “arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, [and] anaesthetics” are all in short supply — a recipe for a public health crisis.

The Secretary-General of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, Dimitris Karageorgiou, claims that drug “supplies are down by 90%,” calling the entire situation “a disgrace.” To solve the problem 0f medicine Shortage, drug companies want the government to implement a new pricing system so that middlemen will not be able to exploit price differentials between the European states. Hopefully, this standoff can be resolved so that Greek citizens can get access to the medications that they so desperately need.

Jake Simon

Source: The Guardian

Climbing For Hemophilia AwarenessHemophilia is a life-threatening and frequently disabling condition that cannot be cured. However, with correct treatment, hemophiliacs can live a normal life. Hemophilia is a serious threat in the majority of developing countries where patients lack access to proper treatment.

Chris Bombardier, a 27-year-old hemophiliac, is attempting to climb Mt. Aconcagua as a part of his Seven Summit Challenge to raise awareness of hemophilia. Bombardier was the first American hemophiliac to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro in June 2011. The remaining 6 summits include Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Denali, Carstensz Pyramid, Mt. Elbrus, Vinson Massif and Mt. Everest. He is currently climbing Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina, which is approximately 22,847 miles high. He started the climb on Tuesday, January 29th with 2 guides and 8 other climbers.

Bombardier is a board member of Save One Life, an international non-profit that aids impoverished hemophiliacs in developing countries. All money that Bombardier raises through his climbs will go to Save One Life.

Bombardier hopes that his climbs will increase hemophilia awareness: “Most people in the States don’t even know about hemophilia; think about how little is known worldwide. I think having someone with hemophilia pushing the limits is a cool story in itself, but I hope it raises awareness of the discrepancy in treatment,” Bombardier said.

Bombardier’s Seven Summit Challenge is crucial for raising awareness about the existence of hemophilia in developing countries where therapy and factor concentrations are often unavailable. Factor concentrations are preparations that are injected into a hemophiliac’s vein to replace the missing blood clotting factors.

Only a few developing countries have fractionation facilities or have made concentrates available. Problematically, approximately 80% of patients with severe hemophilia (PWH)  live in developing countries. PWH patients denied access to factor concentrates will have five damaged joints by the age of 20. Damaged joints limit physical movement and thereby prevent normal participation in society.

In addition to factor concentrations, PWH patients should participate in physiotherapy and rehabilitation which help prevent disabilities that prohibit normal social involvement. Physiotherapy and rehabilitation procedures include muscle strengthening exercises, exercises that maintain or increase range of motion, training proprioception and coordination, management of pain, and orthotics.

Facilities must be formed in developing countries that provide access to educational materials and trainers in order to educate local areas about the proper treatment for those diagnosed with hemophilia or PWH. Hopefully, Bombardier’s Seven Summit Challenge will raise the money and awareness needed to tackle this challenge so that patients with hemophilia or PWH can enjoy a normal life.

– Kasey Beduhn

Sources: Europe PubMed Central, Europe PubMed Central, PRWeb, Adventures of a Hemophiliac
Photo: Adventures of a Hemophiliac