“In developing countries where access to health care during pregnancy can be scarce or grossly underused due to lack of education, financial costs, and proximity to health centers, women die unnecessarily from pregnancy and birth complications,” Jennifer James, founder of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, writes in this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. However, “[i]nternational agencies and developing country governments are working in partnership to reduce maternal death rates in order to meet the goal of reducing by 75 percent the number of women who die during pregnancy, childbirth, and immediately afterwards, in the most vulnerable countries,” she writes, and highlights three projects in sub-Saharan Africa that are working to save maternal lives (8/29).
Access to Health Services
Speaking Wednesday at a seminar titled “Campaign Against Counterfeit Medicines,” Mauritian Health and Quality of Life Minister Lormus Bundhoo “cautioned against the dangers posed by counterfeit drugs and their impact on human life” and “said that the authorities are determined to raise awareness on the dangers of the manufacture of and trade in counterfeit medicines, and the importance of combating counterfeit medicines in Mauritius,” PANA/Afriquejet reports. “The minister recalled that Mauritius had set up a National Pharmacovigilance Committee for drug surveillance and drug use in the public and private sectors since December 2011,” the news service writes, noting, “So far, there has been no evidence of counterfeit drugs in Mauritius, he stressed.” The news service provides some statistics about counterfeit drugs worldwide that were cited by Charges d’Affaires Troy Fitrell of the U.S. Embassy in Port-Louis, who also spoke at the event (8/29).
Though many pregnant women are aware that treatment could save their lives and the lives of their infants if they test HIV-positive during prenatal care, a new study and literature review have found that a “[f]ear of being stigmatized as an AIDS patient is still a major barrier to good medical care for pregnant young women in many countries,” the New York Times reports. The study, published last week in PLoS Medicine, was “based on a survey of 1,777 women in rural Nyanza Province in Kenya,” according to the newspaper, which adds, “Only 44 percent of mothers in the province delivered in clinics, and the study found that a major obstacle was that they feared HIV tests.” The study’s author, Janet Turan, a professor of public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in July also published “a review of multiple studies in many countries” that documented multiple accounts of “stigmatizing behavior,” the newspaper notes (McNeil, 8/27).
In an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” blog, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, discusses potential policies contained within the “Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region.” However, “[a]t this point, it’s not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public,” he says. Noting “[a] few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact,” he discusses how the “pharmaceutical industry is … likely to be a big gainer” from the TPP if the pact includes “stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of ‘data exclusivity.'”
At the opening ceremony of World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “launched a framework that will help combat food insecurity by providing methods to better manage water resources in agriculture and reduce waste,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “The initiative, entitled ‘Coping with water scarcity: An action framework for agriculture and food security’ [.pdf], seeks to encourage practices that will improve water management, such as modernizing irrigation schemes, recycling and re-using wastewater, implementing mechanisms to reduce water pollution, and storing rainwater at farms to reduce drought-related risks, among others,” the news service notes.
Highlighting a recent report by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine about the use of the drug misoprostol to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and the WHO’s inclusion of the drug on its Essential Medicine List, Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley writes in this post in her “Global Health Blog,” “Seldom has there been a drug that has excited as much controversy as misoprostol.” She continues, “Misoprostol causes the uterus to contract, which is why it can stop postpartum hemorrhage, the cause of around a quarter of maternal deaths,” but “there has been a huge fight over whether and how well it works, which in some quarters has been ideologically motivated, because misoprostol can also bring about an abortion.”
Dominican Republic Establishes Commission To Examine Implications Of Including ART In Country Health Plan
“The Dominican Republic is one step closer to ensuring that all people living with HIV access treatment,” UNAIDS reports in an article on its webpage, adding, “The country’s National Social Security Council has established a commission to look into the technical, financial and operational implications of including antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the Basic Health Plan.” According to the article, “[t]he establishment of the commission comes after a financial feasibility study about covering people living with HIV under the country’s family health insurance,” and “[t]he newly-established commission — whose membership includes several national health system offices in addition to regional and global partners such as PAHO and UNAIDS — is set to complete its work during the last quarter of 2012” (8/23).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Max Kamin-Cross, a self-proclaimed political junky and youth activist, writes that by improving access to contraceptives, “[w]e could lift millions of people of all races and both genders out of poverty throughout the world,” “we could significantly decrease the number of premature deaths, as well as the number of lives claimed by deadly infections like HIV,” and “the quality of life for millions more people would be drastically improved.” He provides statistics regarding access to contraception and continues, “This issue should not be controversial. The future of my generation truly may rely on the fate of contraceptive access” (8/22).
One Blog Examines GAVI Alliance's Efforts To Accelerate Introduction Of Hepatitis B Vaccines In Developing Countries
“I am looking forward to participating in the 2012 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, to be held in Montreal, Canada on August 27,” GAVI Alliance Deputy CEO Helen Evans writes in this post in the One Blog. “This will be an opportunity to take stock of where the world is with regards to cancer prevention and treatment and to learn more about action to address the existing challenges to eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations,” she writes, and discusses GAVI’s efforts to “accelerat[e] the introduction of hepatitis B vaccines in developing countries since 2000,” noting “GAVI has helped prevent an estimated 3.7 million deaths from liver cancer (caused by hepatitis B)” (8/21).
“India’s top court will hear final arguments … in a key patent dispute between Swiss drug maker Novartis and India’s patent office, a case that could curb India’s global position as a supplier of cut-price generic medicines,” Reuters reports. “Novartis appealed to the Supreme Court after its cancer medicine Glivec was refused a patent on the grounds the drug is not a new molecule but an amended version of a known compound,” the news service notes, adding, “Novartis has challenged this clause of Indian Patents Act.”