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One in 10 medicines fake; diseases becoming untreatable: WHO

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Medicines

New Delhi, Nov 29: An estimated one in 10 medical products circulating in low- and middle-income countries like India is either “substandard or falsified”, says a new research report from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to WHO, these medicines not only fail to treat or prevent diseases but can also cause serious illness or even death.

“Substandard and falsified medicines particularly affect the most vulnerable communities,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General.

The report highlighted that since 2013, the WHO has received 1,500 reports of cases of substandard or falsified products. Of these, antimalarials and antibiotics are the most commonly reported.

Most of such reports (42 per cent) come from the WHO African Region, 21 per cent from the WHO Region of the Americas, and 21 per cent from the WHO European Region.

“This is likely just a small fraction of the total problem and many cases may be going unreported. For example, only 8 per cent of reports of substandard or falsified products to WHO came from the WHO Western Pacific Region, 6 per cent from the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, and just 2 per cent from the WHO South-East Asia Region,” said the report.

The report further says that substandard or falsified medicines promote antimicrobial resistance in people, who can pass on the mutant infection while travelling abroad. Such bacteria or virus resistant to medicine will become impossible to treat.

Noting that antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines are manufactured and prescribed at doses designed to destroy the pathogens that are causing illness, the report states that if a treatment course contains only a fraction of the correct dose, or if it is so badly made that the active ingredients are not released properly, then it is only likely to destroy some of the pathogens, but not all of them.

“The ones that survive will be the ones that have mutated enough to survive low doses of the medicine. Usually, they do not reproduce very quickly. But with all the more susceptible strains killed by the weak medicines, they have room to multiply and spread to more people,” said the report.

According to the report there is clear evidence that resistance to the most important antimalarial medicine, artemisinin, first appeared in a part of the world where at one point between 38 and 90 per cent of the artemisinin medicines on the market were substandard or falsified.

The findings are part of WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System for substandard and falsified medical products. It is first time in 10 years that the WHO is publishing estimates on substandard and falsified medical products in low- and middle-income countries.

Doctors and other health workers waste precious time trying out alternative treatments, when all that is really needed is a quality version of the same treatment. In the worst cases, several of which are described in this report, people die, either from untreated disease or because the product itself kills them.

“This really is a global problem. In the age of cheap air travel and mass population movements, people who develop resistant infections because of substandard or falsified medicines in one country can easily travel to another country and pass on the mutant infection,” said the report, adding that once a bacteria or virus is resistant to a medicine, even a full treatment course will not kill it.

“So even if the medicines in the new host country are all perfect quality, they will not cure the disease,” said the report.

The substandard and falsified medical products also affect the legitimate manufacturers of both generic and innovators pharmaceutical products who suffer financially and reputation-wise when criminals falsify their products.

Substandard and falsified medical products strain the budgets of households and health systems, damaging the very fabric of society.

The report says that over the past four years, the WHO has received reports of substandard or falsified medical products in all therapeutic categories, covering everything — from cancer medicines to contraception, from antibiotics to vaccines.

The report says that some 15 years ago, global sales of medicines rose above US$ 500 billion for the first time. Since then, sales have doubled again, to approximately US$ 1.1 trillion, with by far the largest growth occurring in middle-income markets.

IANS

Health

Influenza infections may up pneumonia risk: Study

The presence of HtrA weakens the immune system and promotes bacterial growth in the influenza-infected airways. The lack of HtrA stops bacterial growth.

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H1N1 influenza

London, Nov 29: Researchers have now revealed that influenza infections can lead to an increased risk of bacterial pneumonia, which claims many lives around the world every year.

Using an animal model, the study, published in the journal PNAS found that different nutrients and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and other normally cell-protective substances leak from the blood, thereby creating an environment in the lungs that favours the growth of the bacteria.

The bacteria adapt to the inflammatory environment by increasing the production of the bacterial enzyme HtrA.

The presence of HtrA weakens the immune system and promotes bacterial growth in the influenza-infected airways. The lack of HtrA stops bacterial growth.

“The ability of pneumococcus to grow in the lower airways during an influenza infection seems to depend on the nutrient-rich environment with its higher levels of antioxidants that occurs during a viral infection, as well as on the bacteria’s ability to adapt to the environment and protect itself from being eradicated by the immune system,” said study author Birgitta Henriques Normark from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

The results provide valuable information on how bacteria integrate with their environment in the lungs and could be used to find new therapies for double infections between the influenza virus and pneumococcal bacteria.

“HtrA is an enzyme, a protease, which helps to weaken the immune system and allows pneumococcal bacteria to penetrate the protective cell layer on the inside of the airways,” said study author Vicky Sender.

“A possible strategy can therefore be the use of protease inhibitors to prevent pneumococcal growth in the lungs,” Sender added.

It is still not known if Covid-19 patients are also sensitive to such secondary bacterial infections, but the researchers think that similar mechanisms could potentially be found in severely ill Covid-19 patients.

“It’s likely that acute lung inflammation, regardless of cause, gives rise to leakage of nutrients and antioxidants, and to an environment that fosters bacterial growth,” Henriques Normark noted.

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Health

Winter care: Tips to protect your lips from cold, dry weather

The dry air indoors, wind, and rough weather outside contribute to worsening conditions.

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Lip care winter

Winter is here! The cold and dry season is bad for your skin and lips. Our lips don’t have oil glands, so they’re almost always exposed to the elements. Exposure to sun, wind, and cold, dry air can contribute to chapped lips.

People have chapped lips throughout the year, but it can get much worse during the winter months. The dry air indoors, wind, and rough weather outside contribute to worsening conditions.

Here are six easy tips you can keep in mind if your lips are drying out or are chapped:

Apply Almond oil: Almond oil is a super-moisturizing variant, enriched with vitamin A and E, applying it to your lips nightly for a deep and nourishing conditioner will show amazing results.

Hydrate yourself: It is no secret that we also tend to drink less water during winters. This is one of the reasons for our skin and lips becoming dry. Make sure you consume a minimum of 7-8 glasses of water every day.

Exfoliation: To maintain soft and plump lips. Exfoliation is, sadly, not a key part of the lip care routine for many. But, incorporating the step can improve the look and feel of your lips. Make a soft paste of ghee and sugar, scrub it nicely or dip your toothbrush in lukewarm water. With soft circular motions, take off the dead skin on your lips and apply a generous amount of lip balm. Do this once a week before going off to sleep.

Don’t forget to use a sunblock: If you’re going to be outside, opt for a lip balm with SPF included.

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Health

180 doctors in Indonesia succumb to Covid-19

The victims belonged to East Java (38), followed by Jakarta (27), North Sumatra (24), Central Java (15) and West Java (12).

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Covid 19 Doctor

Jakarta, Nov 29 : A total of 180 doctors in Indonesia have died due to the novel coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, according to authorities.

The Indonesian Medical Association said on Saturday that of the 180 doctors, 92 were general practitioners, 86 were specialists, and two were residents, reports Xinhua news agency.

The victims belonged to East Java (38), followed by Jakarta (27), North Sumatra (24), Central Java (15) and West Java (12).

Indonesia has so far reported a total of 527,999 coronavirus cases, with 441,983 recovered, and 16,646 deaths.

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