Sunday, July 31, 2005

Shallow understanding of HIV

Everyday 19 Malaysians are infected with the HIV virus and the Government has spent millions of ringgit raising awareness on the disease.
But most people have a shallow knowledge of the disease, a survey on behavioural risks that could lead to HIV infection shows. About 18,805 people aged 15 and above were polled last year by Universiti Putra Malaysia.
Following are some of the findings:

Sixty per cent of respondents believed or were unsure whether a mosquito bite could give them the virus.
Interestingly, 40 per cent of those surveyed said a healthy-looking person, a beautiful woman or a handsome man could not be infected with the virus.
The lack of awareness is surprising considering wall-to-wall media coverage, government activities and effort by non-governmental organisations to highlight the threat of AIDS.

This level of ignorance is more so disturbing because the World Health Organisation recently said Malaysia could have an epidemic on its hands.
Associate Professor Dr Lekhraj Rampal of Universiti Putra Malaysia said he found the survey findings surprising.
"We say we are spreading the awareness message but it is not reflected on the ground," he said.
The study was funded by the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas, under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.
It also showed that 48 per cent of those surveyed did not know whether a HIV-positive woman could transmit the virus while breast-feeding her baby.
Also, 56 per cent of respondents said HIV could spread through sharing of meals while 20 per cent said they did not know.
"Although it was heartening to know that 92 per cent of the people polled knew the definition of HIV, it is more important to know how it is transmitted," he said.
Someone who comes face to face with ignorance daily is Dr Kamarul Azahar Mohd Razali, a consultant at Kuala Lumpur Hospital’s Institute of Paediatrics.
He said many teenagers do not realise that the virus could be transmitted through unprotected sex, breast feeding.
Nor do Malaysians realise that if someone who is HIV positive consumes marijuana or heroin, the virus multiplies by 200 times.
Dr Kamarul said he believed that sex education should be taught to children.
"It is not about glorifying the act but teaching them about the anatomy and the responsibility associated with sex."

UKM offers programmes in safety management

STEPS taken to reduce problems in occupational safety and health are usually reactive, that is, they are taken following an accident.
Ideally, these steps should be taken proactively, before accidents happen.
To enhance awareness on the need to manage industrial safety, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Pusat Kembangan Pendidikan (PKP UKM) or Centre for Educational Advancement is offering 17 programmes including Occupational Health and Industrial Safety Management. Other courses offered are Counselling, Applied Finance and Investment, Manufacturing Systems and Intellectual Property.
PKP UKM is committed to ensuring that the quality of programmes conducted is of equal standard to those run directly by the university.
To this end, entry requirements outlined by the faculties involved are strictly observed, and teaching and supervision standards as well as examination procedures are followed.
The postgraduate diploma in Industrial Safety Management, first offered by PKP UKM in 1995, aims to produce managers who have the knowledge and capability to manage safety and health issues at the workplace.
Classes are conducted on Sundays. Participants will only be conferred the diploma if they have a minimum 70% attendance and complete all required assessment.
To date, a total of 71 people have graduated from the programme, with at least 10 more expected to graduate this year.
Currently, there are 26 students in the 2004/2005 academic session. Many of those enrolled in the programme have an average of eight years’ working experience at managerial level.
Fees, inclusive of textbooks, is RM11,900 for programmes of one and a half years’ duration and may be paid on an instalment basis. Students may withdraw their money from the relevant EPF account.
Entry requirements are either a bachelor’s degree from UKM, or from any university recognised by the Senate of UKM, or a diploma from public institutes of higher learning or private institutes of higher learning accredited by the National Accreditation Board, plus at least five years’ working experience in the field of industrial safety or occupational health.
High achievers from this programme may be considered for credit exemptions and fee reduction when they sign up for UKM’s master’s degree in Industrial Safety Management.

Friendly pharmacists

PHARMACISTS deal with both people and medicine. In line with this, University College Sedaya International recently organised the 4th Annual Public Health Campaign at Sunway Pyramid.
Themed Health is Wealth, Your Say? the campaign aimed to enhance public health awareness about geriatric diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and hypertension amongst senior citizens.
Selangor state director of health Dr Ang Kim Teng officially launched the campaign which aimed to educate the public about the importance of health as well as reinforce the public’s positive perception of the pharmacy profession.
Guests who attended the event included Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president John Chang and Universiti Sains Malaysia’s School of Pharmacy deputy dean Assoc Prof Dr Abas Hussin.
UCSI Pharmacy Students’ Society president Erik Tan said response from the public towards the campaign was very good.
UCSI’s School of Pharmacy head Assoc Prof Dr Yeong Siew Wei said another of the campaign’s objectives was to instill the importance of customer care into pharmacy students to prepare them for their future career.
The public was also offered subsidised screening tests such as blood pressure, body mass index and body fat tests throughout the three-day event.
“Our students also gave a demonstration on how emulsions and suppositories are prepared,” said Dr Yeong.
Counselling sessions were also held to educate the public on various ways to prevent and manage common lifestyle-related diseases.

Malaysians losing virginity before marriage

Most Malaysians lose their virginity by the time they turn 22, a year before most of them get married.
"It appears that Malaysians overall are having sex before marriage," said Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Associate Prof Dr Lekhraj Rampal, who led the study last year on the behavioural risks that could lead to HIV infection.
The study, which polled 75 per cent (14,121) of the 18,805 respondents who were or had been sexually active, also found that by age 15, 8.4 per cent of respondents had sex for the first time.
From ages of 16 to 18, 34 per cent of the respondents had their first sexual experience.
"The initial feeling was that many Malaysians would not want to discuss their sexual history but people are quite open about it," Dr Rampal said.
The study also revealed that 22 per cent had either sought the company of prostitutes or had non-regular partners, including one-night stands in the 12 months before answering the study’s questionnaire.

Provide Breastfeeding Facilities To Working Mothers

KUALA LUMPUR, July 30 (Bernama) -- Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil Saturday urged working establishments to support a breastfeeding drive by providing facilities for working mothers to practise breastfeeding.
She said working areas like factories should provide a room and facilities for mothers to store their milk before they were being fed to their babies.
"If we don't give the proper support system, there is a possibility that these mothers wean off breastfeeding prematurely and indefinitely," Shahrizat told a press conference after launching the World Breastfeeding Week 2005 at Pantai Medical Centre here.
She said more mothers in this generation had succumbed to the stringent requirements of their working establishments by depriving their babies of breastfeeding.
"For these simple reasons we need to encourage both mothers and employers to understand the logic of breastfeeding by providing a room for mothers to exercise this need," Shahrizat said.
Meanwhile Pantai Medical Centre had produced a 140-page Breastfeeding Management Manual as an integral part of the implementation of the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding.
It had been recognised as the first private hospital in Malaysia to be awarded the Baby Friendly Hospital status.
The success in achieving this accreditation since 2001 was from the compilation of practicing all the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding as required by the World Health Organisation, United Nations Children's Fund and the Ministry of Health Malaysia.
Shahrizat said that she would ensure that all the 53 National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) clinics throughout the country would be equipped with the manual.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

50pc of all buildings are sick

Half of the major commercial and office buildings in the country are "sick" and pose a health hazard.
A survey by the Human Resources Ministry shows that these buildings do not meet international indoor air quality standards.
Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said a survey on 2,000 workplaces showed that 50 per cent of the buildings were contaminated with chemical and mechanical pollutants.
This, he said, resulted in the "sick building syndrome" which affected work quality and performance.
He said the representative survey reflected the overall state of commercial and office buildings in the country.
"The ventilation systems in these buildings — offices, restaurants, entertainment and commercial centres — is so poor that toxic pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, respirable particulates, formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds are easily inhaled by the workers.
"These are emitted by diesel engines powering generators, air-conditioners, tobacco smoke and photostating machines. Formal- dehyde is found in office furniture and carpets," Fong said, adding that the work environment composed a large part of a person’s life.
From the surveyed buildings, the ministry’s Department of Occupational Safety and Health discovered that carbon dioxide levels exceeded 1,000 parts per million (ppm), the respirable particulate was over 150 micrograms per cubic metre, carbon monoxide levels over 10 ppm and formaldehyde exceeded 0.1 ppm.
Fong warned that tobacco smoke contained more than 1,000 chemicals, 20 of which were toxic and caused cancer, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and chronic lung illnesses.
To address the issue, the ministry has come out with a Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality, giving employers and building operators a two-year trial period to meet the required standard.
"This has worked in countries such as Singapore and Australia. We hope there will be voluntary compliance or we will have to invoke the powers vested under Section 15 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 1994."
Fong was launching the Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality at the Hotel Sheraton Subang.

JPJ 's move surprises MMA

The apparent appointment of a private company to monitor the medical examination proposed for commercial drivers has come as a surprise to the Malaysian Medical Association.
Voicing concern over recent newspaper advertisements taken out by a private company calling on doctors to register with it, MMA president Datuk Dr Teoh Siang Chin said the Road Transport Department (JPJ) must explain the rationale behind the award of the contract.
It should also review the contract, as the MMA had not been in any discussion on this matter of a third party being involved in the process of annual medical examinations for commercial drivers, he said.
He said doctors were disturbed by the lack of public disclosure on the appointment of a company that might have a negative impact on road safety and increase the cost of medical examination for drivers.
“It’s alarming to the medical profession as to how the tender process was done, and the capability of the new agency being involved in this vital role,” he added in a statement here yesterday.
The MMA, he said, appeals for caution and accountability and calls upon JPJ to reveal the rationale of the award of the contract.
Dr Teoh said the MMA was responsible for initiating the study and survey of drivers as a prelude to establishing an annual standard medical examination for commercial drivers.
MMA's involvement at that stage was much appreciated by the Transport Ministry, which had also recorded the implementation procedures at official meetings, he added.
However, the introduction of a “third party” into the screening process was without the knowledge of the MMA.
“The policy makers and other stakeholders must engage in open and direct discussions to explore the issues involved if there is to be any suggestions of change,” he said, adding that the involvement of MMA and examining doctors must be a pre-requisite in any discussion or change.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Action to halt rising dengue cases

A ten-fold increase in dengue cases within the last 10 years is worrying the government, prompting it to order all relevant government agencies to take measures to halt the upward trend.
This should result in closer monitoring, greater enforcement, enhancement of prevention measures, and better public education in schools.
A nationwide campaign to clean up schools will be launched in September to encourage full participation from students and teachers to ensure that their schools are aedes-free.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak said the current statistics showed that 156.1 out of 100,000 people had dengue, up from 132.5 out of 100,000 people last year.
“Last year over 33,000 people were hospitalised with dengue and the upward trend is continuing this year.
"In the last decade, 599 people had died of dengue and this is worrying,” he told reporters after chairing the Cabinet Committee meeting on Health and Cleanliness at his office yesterday.

More than medicine for doctors

Doctors will have to take part in “various activities” that can help their professional development before they are given medical practising certificates in the near future.
Attending workshops, seminars, downloading latest methods from the Internet or even listening to music to de-stress, are some of the activities that doctors could participate in.
“For example, if the doctor is seeing a patient and does not know how to treat, he can straight away browse the Internet for some help,” said Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican.
The move, which would be enforced in five years, is to ensure doctors, including specialists, were up-to-date with new treatment, technologies and knowledge in their respective fields.
Dr Ismail said they were still working on the details but “doctors must get used to the idea now as a time will come when they must show evidence that they have engaged in meaningful continuing professional development (CPD) activities.”
He said it was up to the professional medical bodies, such as the Malaysian Medical Association, Malaysian Medical Council and the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, to decide on the amount and type of CPD activities or courses required.
He said each activity participated by the doctors would carry certain points which would be accumulated throughout the year.
“It’s up to the stakeholders to agree on the required set of points per year – whether 30 or 100 – and what areas or courses would be covered,” he said when opening the Malaysian Cardiovascular International Symposium, with live transmission from the National Heart Institute, here yesterday.
He said CPD was the only way to stay relevant, as “the public wants to get the latest treatment and not second or third hand-me-downs.”
“There has been a case previously where a general practitioner told a patient that there was no cure for Hepatitis. This is no longer true,” he said.
On another matter, Dr Ismail warned stand-alone cardiac facilities that they risk facing action if they misuse superlative words, such as “world-class treatment” when promoting their services.
“This is a worrying trend as a lot of centres are being set up. They should not mislead the public by using such words if they are not offering such services.
“We have identified certain centres and they know who they are. We don’t want the public to be duped, as medicine is not a business where you just make money. It deals with people’s lives,” he said.
Event organising chairman and cardiologist Datuk Seri Dr Robaayah Zambahari welcomed the move to make CPD compulsory, as “it’s important to keep abreast because some things we learnt in medical schools are not used anymore.”

Fatwa Council To Discuss Proposed Supply Of Syringes, Condoms, And Methadone To Drug Addicts

PUTRAJAYA, July 28 (Bernama) -- The National Fatwa Council will discuss the government's plan to provide free syringes, condoms and methadone to drug addicts to check the spread of HIV/Aids.
Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Nooh Gadot said state muftis and Islamic scholars would look at the programme from the perspective of Islamic law in an effort to avoid confusion and misconception among Muslims.
A comprehensive study on the programme was needed besides thinking of the alternatives to overcome the drug abuse and HIV/Aids problems, he told reporters after attending a dialogue on the controversial issue at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).
The dialogue, organised by the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) with the collaboration of the Health Ministry, was attended by state muftis, syariah judges, religious officers of government departments, officers of statutory bodies and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
They were briefed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin and Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Ahmad.
The methadone supply programme is scheduled to begin in October while the provision of syringes in exchange for used ones and condoms is to start next January.
Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria was supportive of the programme if it were to be carried out properly to prevent the supply of syringes, condoms and methadone from being misused and regarded by the drug addicts as an encouragement for them to continue with their habit.
"If the implementation is done correctly, say for example a husband has HIV and he is given condoms - it's not wrong," he said.
"Similarly with the supply of methadone. I agree because it's a way of treatment, like giving insulin to people with diabetes under the supervision of doctors," he added.
He also welcomed the briefing and said that it was the first time he was briefed on the programme.
At the briefing, Dr Abdullah said the supply of syringes, condoms and methadone to HIV/Aids sufferers for free did not mean that the government was encouraging drug addiction.
Rather, it was aimed at curtailing the spread of the HIV/Aids virus and saving the lives of the innocent members of the public, especially the families of people infected with the dangerous disease, he said.
"The government feels compelled and responsible to do something to overcome the problem," he said.
Dr Abdullah said the programme had received criticism from various quarters, prompting the government to deal with the issue intelligently and equitably in the interests of the public without raising negative perceptions among them.
He said each disease had its remedy, so the government would not lose hope in efforts to help HIV/Aids and drug victims.
"The government hopes the decision or action taken can be understood by the people," he said.
Dr Abdul Latif said in his speech that public perception that the programme would only raise the number of drug addicts and people testing positive for HIV and promote free sex was incorrect.
He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had concluded after a 20-year study that there was no strong evidence to show that such a programme had brought about an increase in the number of new addicts or increased the frequency and period of addicts taking drugs.
The "harm reduction" approach was a new approach to prevent HIV infections which had risen many fold since it was detected in 1986, Dr Abdul Latif said.
"If the problem is not checked comprehensively from now, the number of HIV-Aids victims will reach 300,000 by 2015," he said.
He said the current rate of 18 new HIV cases daily would double as long as people kept sharing needles when taking drugs and had sex with partners whose HIV status was unknown.
Up to last year, 65,000 Malaysians were detected to have been infected with HIV and almost 9,500 of them were diagnosed to have Aids and 7,500 deaths were reported.
"The most saddening part is that 47,000 or 72 per cent of the HIV/Aids sufferers are Malays," Dr Abdul Latif said.
Chairman of the Health Ministry's HIV/Aids Programme Datuk Dr Faisal Ibrahim said the ministry was in the process of drafting a set of guidelines to ensure that syringes provided to the addicts were not abused.
"We are not going to distribute the syringes and go home. We will give out the syringes and at the same time give them counselling and advise them to return to the right path," he told reporters after the briefing.

Ministry To Check 'World Class' Claim By Heart Centres

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 (Bernama) -- Health Ministry officials will check heart treatment centres that claim to be "world class" to ensure their services meet international standards.
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said several heart centres were using the description casually with the intention to attract patients.
He described the trend as "disturbing".
"What kind of treatment and service at these centres are said to be 'world class'?" he asked when speaking to reporters after opening a symposium with the theme "Malaysian Cardiovascular Interventional with Live Transmission".
The four-day symposium is attended by more than 600 people from within and outside the country.
There are 34 heart treatment centres in the country and one more will be opening this year at the Serdang Hospital in Selangor.
On another matter, Dr Ismail urged doctors at government hospitals to manage their time well so that patients did not have to wait long to be treated.
"Based on spot checks at hospitals, I find that many doctors did not arrive for work at the required time. The doctors said they started to see patients at 9am but patients had to wait until 10am," he said.
On a Bernama report on July 8 that patients at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital's obstetrics and gynaecology (O&G) department had to wait between four and five hours for treatment, Dr Ismail said doctors in other hospitals treating more than 100 patients in the O&G and post-natal clinics could complete their work by 12.30pm or 1pm.
"So why is it that the doctors have to work until the evening at HKL?" he said.
"The process of providing service must be continuous and HKL must ensure that the doctors on duty are there. If this is adhered to, I am certain all the patients could be attended to by 1pm," he said.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Fertility centres popular

JOHOR BARU, July 27: Fertility clinics are the latest medical fad here, with four centres opening in the past year.
Almost all of them are believed to be eyeing the lucrative Singapore market for childless couples.
The centres, which cost close to RM1 million to establish, offer specialised services in in-vitro fertilisation — a medical technique where the embryo is fertilised in the laboratory before being transferred to the womb.
These centres are becoming increasingly popular with Singaporeans and the expatriate community in the republic because of low costs and high success rates.
However, the majority of the patients seeking treatment are still locals, said Johor Specialist Hospital (JSH) Fertility Centre medical co-ordinator Dr Mohanraj Krisnasamy.
"Of the 25 patients now, only seven are Singaporeans," he said, adding that JSH would like to see more foreigners as part of its health tourism package.
But Singaporeans cannot use funds in their Medisave (part of the Central Provident Fund) to pay for IVF treatments outside the country. "This is a deterrent for Singaporean patients," said Dr Mohanraj.
Couples in Singapore can withdraw S$6,000 (RM13,650) for their first IVF attempt at home, and S$5,000 and S$4,000 for their next two.
The cost of the procedure here averages between RM12,000 and RM16,000, compared to as much as S$13,000 in Singapore.
But cost, says Damansara Fertility Centre resident gynaecologist Dr Surinder Singh, is often not the main concern when choosing a fertility centre.
"The main criterion is the success rate," he said, pointing out that DFC’s main clinic in Kuala Lumpur, which opened in 1994, had a delivery rate of 41 per cent in 2003, based on the number of embryos transferred.
This translates to 65 per cent in terms of actual babies delivered, as some were twins and triplets.
In contrast, the success rate of IVF centres in Singapore, going by Health Ministry figures there, ranges between 16 per cent and 28 per cent, based on the number of babies born.
"It is the work done at the lab which ultimately determines the success or failure of the entire IVF procedure. The experience and quality of the embryologist makes a big difference," said Dr Mohanraj.
Dr Surinder said Damansara’s success was due to its focus on fertility treatment.
"Our operating theatre is designed especially for IVF procedures, with humidity and temperature mimicking conditions in the womb."

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maternal mortality success

Malaysia’s success in lowering its maternal mortality rate is a model for other countries.
"Malaysia is a fantastic example. It has shown a significant reduction in maternal mortality," said Lord Naren Patel of the National Health Service in Scotland.
A specialist in high-risk obstetrics, Patel said both developing and developed countries could learn from Malaysia’s success.
Health Ministry statistics show that the maternal mortality rate has been reduced from 530 per 100,000 pregnant women in 1955 to a ratio of 30:100,000 in 2003.
Comparatively, over 500,000 women die and millions more are disabled each year from obstetric complications, mostly in developing countries.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek has been quoted as saying that in the initial stage, the Government developed a three-centre system: a main health centre for 50,000 people, a self-help centre for 30,000 and a midwife centre for 10,000.
"The World Health Organisation recognises this success, notably of the increasing care in rural areas and how the programme became a pledge by the Government," Patel said in an interview with the New Straits Times today.
Malaysia’s achievements will be a topic for discussion at the largest congregation of gynaecologists and obstetricians at the Figo World Congress of Gynaecology and Obstetrics 2006 ( Figo 2006) in Kuala Lumpur from Nov 5 to 10 next year.
Patel is also the organising committee chair for Figo 2006, which will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.
Malaysia won the bid to host the triennial congress, which is held in an Asian country once in six years. Singapore was the last Asian country to host the event.
The aim is to bring gynaecology and obstetrics experts and industry players to share knowledge and ideas, as well as explore the latest scientific developments in these areas.
"The role has gone beyond health," he said. "The objective is also to increase awareness and recognise the rights of women in all aspects including alleviating gender discrimination, violence against women, and on the unavailability of services for gynaecological and breast cancers and specialised services in obstetrics."
On alternative medicine and stem cell technology, Patel said just because they were controversial did not mean they should be swept under the carpet.
"We recognise what could be the role of alternative medicine, and while some doctors say it is effective, others say it is not, but it is worth exploring."
He added that stem cell technology was the "science of the century".
"This bringing together of minds will encourage doctors around the world to share their knowledge and ensure their standards are on par with the best," said Patel, whose many credits include being a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the United Kingdom.
The congress expects to see the participation of between 8,000 and 10,000 doctors, nurses and health professionals, including 2,000 producers of drugs and medical products.
Between 50 and 75 seats have been reserved by governments for doctors from developing countries in Latin America and Africa.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Doctors urged to improve services

Give more attention to improving services and spend less time on preparing for ISO certifications, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek told doctors and other hospital staff.
He agreed that an ISO certification was vital for administrative purposes but said that improving clinical facilities and services at hospitals was far more important.
“A patient complained to me that doctors sometimes miss appointments or were late as they are busy with paperwork for the ISO,” he said.
“The patient also said that ISO stands for Ingin Susahkan Orang (intending to bother others) as they are not happy with the services provided,” he said after visiting the Slim River Hospital here.
Dr Chua added, however, that he was happy that of the 135 public hospitals in the country, 20 had already achieved ISO accreditation.
At an earlier function in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Chua said healthcare could bring big bucks to the country if it was developed as an industry.
Realising this potential, he said, the Cabinet had given its approval to the setting up of a health service industry unit to promote this field, which would include herbal and pharmaceutical products, health tourism and medical equipment.
Dr Chua said the proposed unit would help the country develop and capture the potentially lucrative and untapped market of the healthcare industry.
In the next five years, it could reap RM8bil he said.
The unit would be set up in three months time, he told reporters before delivering a keynote address at the 26th Asian Medical Asian Students’ Conference.
Citing health tourism, he said the country could develop this sector like what Singapore and Thailand had done.
Dr Chua said more than 39,000 foreign patients received treatment at local private hospitals in 1998 and the figure increased to more than 174,000 last year. They spent RM105mil.
On medical equipment, he said exports – including condoms and gloves – reached RM4.6bil last year, making Malaysia one of the biggest exporters of medical devices.
Dr Chua added: “We are now in the midst of finalising the Medical Device Act 2006, which will enable us to set a benchmark of international standard to export our medical devices.”
Regarding herbal products, he said the export of various Chinese drugs and traditional herbs, like Tongkat Ali and Kacip Fatimah was growing, and was worth RM4bil a year.

Doctors should give priority to duty

Doctors should give priority to serving the people and not be solely motivated by financial success, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
They should find in themselves the compassion and selfless servitude for their communities and strike a balance between material prosperity and sense of duty, he said.
He said there was an unfortunate trend today towards over-emphasis in the quest for material success instead of the duties and obligations as medical practitioners.
“The only thing that ever matters, it now seems, is the question of dollars and cents,” he said in a speech read out by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek at the opening of the 26th Asian Medical Students Conference here yesterday.
The eight-day conference, which began on Sunday, is attended by 500 medical students from 14 countries.
Its theme is Technology in Medicine - Embracing the Progress, Serving the People.
Najib said he found it alarming that doctors left government service and even their home countries to seek work in greener pastures.
“Governments today realise that they must also do their share to keep good talents at home,” he said.
Malaysia, he said, like many other Asian countries, had moved to enhance remuneration packages for doctors and provide incentives to get home-grown doctors practising in other countries to return home to serve.

Qualifying exam plan for foreign medical grads

In a move that may see adverse reactions from various quarters, the Malaysian Medical Council may require Malaysian medical graduates from recognised foreign medical colleges to sit a local qualifying examination.
Only those who pass the examination will be allowed to practise.
The MMC is thinking of requesting the Health Ministry and the medical faculties of local universities to set the examination if the proposal receives the green light from the Government.
MMC president Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said the examination could resolve the question of whether standards at the 344 medical colleges recognised by the MMC were adequate.
"If this is done, the question of de-registering medical colleges will not arise," he told the New Straits Times.
He is also making efforts to meet the 16 heads of mission here of countries where the 344 institutions are located as a first step towards reviewing their status.
The countries are Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Malta, Malaysia Myanmar, and New Zealand.
"We need to carry out the review urgently as it has not been done for many years. We don’t know if some of these institutions still exist," he said.
The review will involve an audit of Malaysians studying at these institutions, the curriculum offered, the passing rate and whether there have been changes to entry requirements over the years.
The feedback from the High Commissioners and ambassadors would be a short-term measure to learn about the colleges, said Dr Ismail, who is also the Director-General of Health.
Medical degrees offered by local public and private universities would also be reviewed.
"One private medical school is already under scrutiny based on alleged contravention of standards."
He said he would not hesitate to take action against any institution which did not meet standards and requirements set by the MMC.
"We want quality doctors. Surely that must be the determining factor rather than quantity."

Monday, July 25, 2005

Only 12 liver donors a year

Some 300 Malaysians need liver transplants every year but only a dozen are available.
Many succumb to their illnesses due to a lack of cadaveric donors.
Besides, the majority of potential donors assessed for living donor transplants were deemed unsuitable.
Director-general of health Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said a liver with more than 30 per cent fat was unsuitable for transplant.
"On the average, we get fewer than a dozen per year for transplantation," said Dr Ismail, who is also senior consultant physician and consultant hepatologist at Selayang Hospital.
In Malaysia, it is estimated that there are at least about 2,000 new cases of end-stage liver disease every year, of which at least 10 per cent would benefit from a liver transplant.
This does not include paediatric cases with various metabolic and development disorders.
Dr Ismail said liver transplants were the primary therapy for patients with end-stage liver disease.
Its high success rate has led to more seeking transplants and consequently, a shortage of donors.
Dr Ismail said living donor transplants was an option.
To date, 12 liver transplants have been done at Selayang Hospital — four with cadaveric donor organs and the rest from living donors.
Two of the four cadaveric liver recipients had died, one as a result of receiving the liver transplant too late and the other from severe organ rejection.
"All living related liver recipients are well, except one who died from a recurrence of liver disease," he told the New Straits Times.
Of 25 potential live liver donors who were assessed, Dr Ismail said, only 30 per cent were suitable.
Two-thirds were rejected because of fatty livers and other reasons, including illnesses like ischaemic heart disease (IHD), renal failure and hepatitis B.
The first liver transplant in Malaysia was performed in 1995 at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre, with the first liver transplant in Selayang Hospital on April 10, 2002.
"We have the expertise and we have the patients but to date, the procurement of cadaveric organs has been unsatisfactory despite nationwide campaigns and increased awareness."
He said the Health Ministry, together with the Malaysian Society of Transplantation, had undertaken various organ donation awareness programmes, which met with little success.
According to the Malaysian Liver Foundation, there was an extremely large pool of potential organ donors in accident victims, but these were lost due to apathy.
He said the ministry would step up efforts to improve the cadaveric organ donation situation.
He said if 10 per cent of those who died in road accidents were organ donors, the country would have at least 500 livers, 500 hearts, 1,000 kidneys and 1,000 corneas for transplantation.

Healthline Launched For Public Convenience

"Healthline" hotline was launched Monday for the public to interact and forward any queries on several aspects of health and normal diseases in the country.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the line 03-61578877 would be handled by three information officers of the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) from Mondays to Fridays, between 9am and 5pm, except for public holidays.
"The public can get information on breast cancer, cervix cancer and the health network relating to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems by calling the line," she said when launching the hotline, here.
She said the LPPKN Healthline also aimed to give awareness to the public, especially the women, on the importance of tracing the disease in the early stage.
"If the women do not take care about their health, how can they fulfil their responsibilities to the family and the community," she said.
Earlier, LPPKN Director-General Datuk Fatimah Saad in her speech said that 89 calls had been received since the Healthline was introduced on June 1.
She said the response to the line was not good due to the lack of promotion.
"I am very hopeful that the media can help to publicise the line for the sake of the women, men and families," she said.
Fatimah said LPPKN might widen the information scope by including the aspects of family planning, infertility and menopause after reviewing the current programmes.

45,748 Medical Professionals Needed In 2010

The country needs 45,748 doctors, dentists and pharmacists in the year 2010 to achieve the targeted ratio between doctors and patients.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Mustapa Mohamad said the ratio stipulated by the government by the year 2010 was one doctor for every 600 patients, while the ratio for dentists was 1:4,000 and that for pharmacists was 1:2,000.
The current ratio was one doctor for every 1,300 patients, one dentist for 9,900 patients while the ratio for pharmacists was 1:7,230.
"This means that at the moment, we have not attained the level desired and as such, we have to increase the number of professionals in these areas to provide better service to Malaysians," he said during question time at the Dewan Negara Monday.
Replying to Senator Datuk Yaakob Mohammad on the shortage of professionals in critical posts in the country, Mustapa said that up to the end of last year, there were about 15,300 doctors serving in the country.
He said the government had taken various measures to fill up the shortage of professionals in the medical sector including increasing the number of places in local universities and sending students abroad.
On the other professions, Mustapa said as at the end of last year, Malaysia had 21,130 accountants, 43,400 engineers and about 12,000 lawyers.
He said 174,000 engineers would be required by the year 2010.

Condoms In M'sia Safe For Use - Chua

KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 (Bernama) -- Condoms sold in Malaysia are safe but the Health Ministry will enforce stringent checks on their quality soon to ensure that defective condoms are not sold to consumers.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday the ministry, through its Engineering Department, would use the Medical Devices Act 2006, which is in its final stage of enactment, to monitor condom quality.
"Malaysian condoms are of good quality and we have not received any complaints so far," he told Bernama after opening the 26th Asian Medical Students' Conference here.
Dr Chua was asked to comment on whether the government would monitor the quality of condoms following a recent report that in Hong Kong more than one in 10 condoms sold was likely to leak or burst.
Last week, a Hong Kong Consumer Council survey revealed that 28 popular brands of condoms failed laboratory pressure tests and they included popular brands like Infinity, Strawberry Flavour, Wedding and Wonder Life Fruit Flavour.
Some 15 million condoms are sold annually with a market value of nearly RM17 million, said an industry source.
Condoms, mostly latex made, are either produced locally or imported and there are about 10 leading manufacturers in the country.
Dr Mohamed Ismail Mohd Tambi, an advisor with the Condom Evaluation Technical Committee under the Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (Sirim), said quality was vital as more people use condoms to prevent sexual diseases.
"Quality is important because more people are using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HIV rather than to prevent pregnancy, especially in the developing world.
"It is sad if end-users use condom and yet get infection. More clinical tests need to be done to ensure that there is less slippage and breakage," he added

Ministry To Help Generate Income From Health Industry

KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry will establish a Healthcare Development Industry Unit to develop and promote the lucrative healthcare industry which is likely to hit RM8 billion in the next five years.
Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday the cabinet had approved the ministry's proposal to set up the unit which would be in place within the next three months.
"The unit will be focused to help agencies in the health sector to promote, sell and benchmark Malaysian healthcare products to compete in the international market," he told reporters after opening the 26th Asian Medical Students' Conference here.
"The time has come for the ministry to play an active role to generate income from the health sector which can benefit the economy rather than just giving medical services to the public," he said.
He said the healthcare industry, ranging from pharmaceutical products, health tourism, medical equipment to herbal medicine, was worth billions of ringgit and yet remained unexploited.
"The health industry has a big potential but our problem is that we are not focused, we always take the easy way out," he added.
For instance, Dr Chua said, last year Malaysia exported medical equipment, including products like condoms, gloves and syringes, worth RM4.6 billion and drugs worth RM468 million.
"The export of Chinese drugs and traditional herbs like Tongkat Ali and Kacip Fatimah, which is growing without any assistance, is worth RM4 billion a year.
"Health tourism is another revenue generator but remains unexplored compared to Singapore and Thailand," he added.
He said health tourism was a healthy business and more foreigners were arriving in Malaysia for medical treatment.
In 1998, 39,140 foreign patients sought treatment in local private hospitals but the figure rose to 174,189 last year. In 1985 there were only 133 hospitals but the number has increased to 218 now.
"Income (from foreign patients) was RM105 million in the private sector but this is on the low side. This is under-reporting, private hospitals are not revealing actual figures for fear of competition" he added.
He also said that the Medical Devices Act 2006 was being enacted in line with the government’s move to further expand and protect the growing sector,
Some 500 medical students from 14 countries are attending the week-long conference themed "Technology in Medicine" in Kuala Lumpur.

Allergy centres to be set up

The Health Ministry plans to set up allergy centres in general hospitals to treat the growing number of people who suffer from allergies.
Health Ministry Communicable Disease Control Division director Dr Ramlee Rahmat said today these centres would make it easier for people to confirm if they suffered from allergies.
The setting up of the centres was part of the effort to improve the quality of service to Malaysians, he told the New Straits Times after the launch of Malaysian Allergy Day 2005 at a hotel here today.
At present, only the University Malaya Medical Centre, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and the Institute of Medical Research have allergy centres.
Dr Ramlee said there was a proposal to begin immunotherapy, the latest trend in the management of allergies. It involves regular injections against allergies.
Commenting on an NST report today that at least one in three Malaysians might be suffering from allergies, he said: "Allergies can be prevented and controlled with proper management."
Earlier, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad, whose speech was read by Dr Ramlee, said allergies were a growing worldwide problem. A third of all children suffered from one allergy or the other.
Latiff said a study was conducted between June last year and January this year involving 366 patients at four centres: UMMC, Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia in Kelantan, Ipoh Hospital, and the Kuching General Hospital.
It showed that 92.3 per cent of patients with nasal symptoms had allergic rhinitis (often called "hay fever", an overreaction of the immune system to particles in the air).
"Persistent allergic rhinitis (PER) is common in Malaysia and is prevalent in all ethnic groups, ages, gender, socio-economic strata and location," he said.
Other interesting finds from this study, Latiff said, were that PER seemed to have a higher incidence in Kuala Lumpur and Kubang Kerian, Kelantan, and that Malaysians had high sensitivity to house dust mites.
The study also revealed that susceptibility to PER appeared to be a genetic trait and patients with allergic rhinitis had a higher incidence of bronchial asthma.
UPM’s clinical lecturer/consultant allergy specialist, Associate Professor Dr Ranbir Kaulsay, later gave a talk on allergic emergencies to some 200 public and private hospital doctors and medical practitioners.
He said some people were allergic to antibiotics and other drugs, muscle relaxants, insects, latex, foreign proteins and certain medical procedures.
He warned about anaphylaxis, an acute, potentially life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction which can occur within minutes or up to a few hours after exposure to a provoking agent.
"Most cases are mild but any anaphylaxis has the potential to become life-threatening," said Dr Ranbir, who is Global Resources in Allergy chairman for Malaysia.
The foods most frequently implicated in anaphylaxis were peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts etc), fish, shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, oyster and scallops), milk (cow, goat), chicken eggs, seeds (cotton seeds, sesame, mustard), fruits and vegetables.
He said a severe allergy to pollen could indicate that an individual might be susceptible to anaphylaxis.
He said there was a need for increased awareness of allergies, especially in hospital emergency units.

Fifty Per Cent Of Malaysians Under 30 Susceptible To Hepatitis A

It is estimated that 50 per cent of Malaysians under 30 years of age do not have antibodies against Hepatitis A and were therefore susceptible to the disease, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.
"Paradoxically, as we become more affluent and less of the population get infected at an early age, we are actually more susceptible to Hepatitis A infection as adults, as most of us do not have the antibodies to fight Hepatitis A," he said at a charity dinner organised by the Malaysian Liver Foundation here Saturday.
He said this scenario of changing epidemiology of increasing incidences among adults had been seen in the more developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom and other nations in Europe.
Najib said, however, in Malaysia the reported national incidence rate of hepatitis A dropped steadily from 2.24 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 0.42 per 100,000 population in 2004.
"This decrease in reported cases from 497 in 2000 to 107 in 2004 is due to the various preventive and control measures and strategies taken by the government to control food and waterborne diseases by improving sanitation, providing safe water and encouraging personal hygiene," he added.
Hepatitis A is an infectious food and waterborne viral disease which is especially common in children residing in developing countries.
On Hepatitis B, the Deputy Prime Minister said although this form of virus was an Asian disease, in Malaysia, the reported indidence rate decreased from 12.89 per 100,000 population in 2000 to 7.72 per 100,000 people in 2004.
Compared to 2,863 cases of Hepatitis B reported in 2000, there were only 1,795 cases reported in 2004.
Najib said Malaysia had made many exciting inroads in the field of hepatitis, not only in education but also in basic and clinical research. He said the setting up of the National Liver Registry early this year at the Selayang Hospital was very timely.
"It is my hope that the registry will store all the data pertaining to liver related diseases in the country and contribute to overall clinical management," he added.

Two nursing scholarships up for grabs

THE INTERNATIONAL Medical University (IMU) has received approval from the Higher Education Ministry to offer a full-time Bachelor of Nursing honours degree programme.
The programme is scheduled to start at its Bukit Jalil campus on Sept 7.
IMU Medicine, Pharmacy and Health Sciences Faculty dean Prof Victor KE Lim says the nursing programme is a welcome addition as the university aspires to be a leading centre for the education and training of health care personnel.
“We have an established 12-year track record in our medical and pharmacy programmes and this new programme will complement the existing programmes.
“We are excited at the prospect for interaction and cooperation between our medical, pharmacy and nursing students. This will promote the spirit of team work among these future health care professionals, something which is extremely important in modern health care,” says Prof Lim.
Prof Lim adds the university has appointed Lim Pek Hong from Universiti Malaya’s Medical Faculty as the head of the Nursing Department.
“She brings a wealth of experience in nursing education and clinical practice,” he says.
The degree programme has been planned to prepare a person to become a registered nurse and to practice the profession in a variety of settings, either in the public or private sector health care system or in health-related industries locally and overseas.
The four-year or eight-semester full-time programme will lead to the award of an IMU Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) degree.
The nursing programme aims to equip graduates with the scientific knowledge, skills and attitudes to provide the best quality care to patients.
“Nursing is a noble profession,” says Prof Lim.
“Caring remains the essence of nursing as it is the caring behaviour and practices that distinguish nursing from other professions.”
The nursing students will be sent to hospitals in the private and public sector for their clinical practice stint.
IMU is offering two scholarships, each valued up to a maximum of RM72,000 for the entire duration of the course, to full-time students enrolling in the September intake.
For enquiries, call IMU at 03-8656 7272/73, or e-mail:, or log on to

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Health: Better early than too late

It’s time for Malaysian men to take a more proactive stance in dealing with their health issues, and the National Cancer Society Malaysia has embarked on a campaign to promote a greater awareness of men’s cancers, writes MEERA MURUGESAN.
WOMEN will talk and share facts about themselves, while men rarely do. Where our health is concerned, it is the sharing, talking and asking of questions that often makes a significant difference that leads to saving lives.
Men, in general, are not proactive when it comes to their health issues, says Dr Saunthari Somasundaram, executive director of the National Cancer Society Malaysia.
“Unlike women, they rarely, if ever, speak up about health issues or share them with other men for better awareness,” she says.
This lax attitude towards personal health is something the National Cancer Society of Malaysia is hoping to change with its latest campaign to create awareness on male cancers. Launched on July 6, the campaign aims to counsel and educate men about cancers that may affect them.
Says Dr Saunthari: “Most Malaysian men are reluctant to go for cancer screening procedures which focus on looking for the cancer before it happens, or trying to find it early. Men here usually wait for something to go wrong before they head to the doctor, and the cancer is eventually detected this way. The problem with taking this approach is that often, the cancers are detected at very late stages.
“Men are more likely to say ‘I’ll wait another day’ when it comes to seeing the doctor, even when they feel something is wrong.”
Women, on the other hand, are not only concerned about their own health but also that of their family, and the wives and mothers are usually the ones constantly pushing men to go for a check-up.
Unlike men, women also have more advocacy groups dealing with their health issues and they are more willing to talk about their health concerns to other women or come out and say “I have cancer,” says Dr Saunthari.
The strict definition of men’s cancers only includes those which are exclusive to men like prostrate, testicular and penile cancer. In Malaysia, however, the main or more common cancers affecting Malaysian men are cancer of the lung, colorectal cancer and nasopharyngeal or nose cancer.
Currently, based on 2003 figures from the National Cancer Registry, there are about 10,000 Malaysian men with cancer in the country.
This figure could be just the tip of the iceberg, cautions Dr Saunthari, as it only covers Peninsular Malaysia. Furthermore, many men, especially those in rural areas, may not be seeking medical help for their condition but turning to alternative therapies instead, and these men will not show up in the registry’s figures.
In 2003, when the Cancer Registry was first started, there were 26,000 noted cases of cancer among Malaysians in general, she adds, but the actual figure was thought to be more than 40,000.
“When we analyse the top 10 cancers among men in this country, the one glaring lifestyle risk that stands out is tobacco and smoking,” says Dr Saunthari.
Nine out of the 10 top cancers can be linked to tobacco use and a look at the statistics of tobacco usage among men explains why.
Says Dr Saunthari: “A whopping 50 per cent of Malaysian men smoke, a figure that is higher than in similar developing nations.”
Tobacco usage is the largest single-risk factor and cause of male cancers in Malaysia, she stresses, and being the most preventable cause of cancer, we must understand the importance of not smoking or allowing ourselves to be exposed to second-hand smoke.
Unlike other cancers, there is no early screening method for detecting lung cancer, and because our lungs have great capacity, most people don’t realise they have cancer until they are already in the third or fourth stage of the disease.
The same applies to colorectal cancer; since everything is very much internal, it is usually only detected at a late stage.
“Breast cancer makes up 30 per cent of women’s cancers, but at least it is more easily detectable. Nevertheless, men’s cancers can also be overcome with awareness that leads to being more proactive when dealing with health matters,” she adds.
“We need to change our perception of cancer, and this is especially true for men, who tend to be more apathetic. Cancer can be prevented or cured if found early and treated promptly. So be proactive, learn about cancer and change our lifestyle habits accordingly.”
In line with the campaign to create awareness on male cancers, all Topman stores will be selling a special wristband at a minimum price of RM10 to the public, until the end of the month. All proceeds from the sale of the wristbands, which come in four colours, will be channelled to the National Cancer Society Malaysia.

Council for asthma education

Despite the means to control asthma effectively, many asthma sufferers in Malaysia are not availing themselves of such strategies, leading to avoidable problems that can range from frequent asthma attacks to even death in certain circumstances. The Asthma Council of Malaysia aims to rectify the situation.
THE fight against asthma is an ongoing battle for all those involved in the management of the disease.
While the asthmatic patient struggles with the frustration of having a disease that disrupts his/her daily activities, doctors also have a tough time convincing the patient to stay on proper treatment.
For doctors such as Dr Zainudin Md Zin, who specialise in the treatment of asthma, progress comes in small, painstaking steps.
The disease itself is hardly the hurdle, as asthma can be controlled through treatment protocols that have been clearly defined by the World Health Organization.
The challenge lies in getting this message across to patients, so that they will not fall prey to misconceptions and outdated beliefs.
“Asthma is a very common disease and is highly prevalent in all parts of the world, including our country,” says Dr Zainudin, a consultant physician and respirologist.
In Malaysia, asthma affects approximately 10-13% of the total population. That’s almost three-and-a-quarter million people suffering from asthma, a large majority of whom are under-treated and living very poor quality lives.
Recognising the need for a focused effort in educating patients, a group of asthma care experts recently got together to form the Asthma Council Malaysia.
“The asthma council dedicates itself to promoting asthma care and education in the country for public and caregivers,” explains Dr Zainudin, who is the chairman of the council.

Asthma in children
Although asthma affects both adults and children, “it is well known that the prevalence in children is much higher than in adults,” says Dr Patrick Chan, a consultant paediatrician and paediatric chest physician.
It is estimated that one in 10 children in Malaysia have asthma. This is a dismal statistic when one considers the impact of the disease on the child’s life.
“Many children with asthma have a lot of symptoms that affect their well-being, their activities and their performance (in school),” says Dr Zainudin. Missing school and sports activities are common occurrences among asthmatic children.
“One must not look only at the (impact on the) child, but also the impact on the entire family,” Dr Patrick points out. When the child’s activities are limited, this affects the parents, siblings and the rest of the family as well.
The greatest problem with asthma in children, he says, stems from the misconceptions that parents and grandparents have about the disease. Most of these misguided beliefs relate to taboos about the child’s diet or activities.
Some parents even believe that the child should not have a bath when the asthma flares up. “When they come to see me a few days later, they will ask me, ‘My child is a bit smelly, can he bathe?’” Dr Patrick laughs as he relates the quirks of his patients and their parents.
In retrospect, these misconceptions may seem amusing, but they underscore the fact there is a serious lack of understanding about the disease. It is especially alarming when these beliefs affect the course of proper treatment, such as when parents do not allow their children to use the inhaler because they worry about addiction.
The one certainty about asthma in children is that it can be treated with good, effective medication – and ironically, this is the most misunderstood, overlooked fact by parents.

Bleak picture
This fact was confirmed by the Asthma Insights & Reality in Asia Pacific (AIRIAP) study, which was conducted in late 2000 to look at the state of patient knowledge, attitudes and behaviour about asthma across the Asia Pacific region.
The results of the study established what most doctors treating asthmatic patients already knew – that a majority of patients were falling far short of treatment goals.
“The study found that asthma patients generally do not perceive their illness as something treatable and they take their disease lightly,” reveals Datin Dr Aziah Ahmad Mahayidin, a senior consultant physician and respiratory physician.
The numbers are grim. The Malaysian part of the survey showed that more than 40% of patients believed their asthma was well-controlled, when in actual fact their symptoms indicated severe, persistent asthma.
Only one-third of patients had been given a lung function test by their doctor, indicating insufficient monitoring of their condition.
Half of all children with asthma missed school; half of all asthma patients had emergency visits to the hospital or clinic; and one-quarter of all asthma patients experienced sleep disturbance once a week.
“The ARIAP study also showed there is a lot of under-treatment of asthma in Malaysia,” says Dr Patrick.
Only 10% of patients are on inhaled corticosteroids, the most effective treatment to prevent symptoms of asthma.
The revelations about patients’ attitudes and knowledge was hardly news to doctors, but the numbers were alarming enough to kick-start some action in Malaysia.

Council in action
Over a year ago, several concerned physicians, including consultant chest physicians, respiratory physicians, consultant paediatricians, general practitioners and pharmacists, got together to look at how the management of asthma among patients in this country could be improved.
The Asthma Council Malaysia (ACM) is the only professional body in the country aimed at raising awareness about asthma and its treatment.
“The ACM mission is to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with asthma. We do not want to see patients with asthma getting admitted into the hospital and dying of a disease that can be managed with proper treatment,” says Dr Aziah.
The ultimate goal is for all asthma patients in Malaysia to learn to control their disease and enjoy good quality of life.
“One of the roles of ACM is to educate the public to help them understand what the disease is, why it occurs and what they can do to combat it,” says Dr Patrick.
Education for doctors managing the patients should not be neglected either, says Dr Aziah.
Dr Patrick concurs. “ACM will also upgrade knowledge among doctors and GPs through Continuing Medical Education and (dissemination of) guidelines for the treatment of asthma.”
The first feather in ACM’s hat was when it co-organised the World Asthma Day Jogathon with the Malaysian Thoracic Society to commemorate World Asthma Day 2005 in May.
The annual event attracted almost 1,000 participants, both asthmatics and non-asthmatics.
Other activities in the pipeline for the council are a consumer and medical website, educational print materials distributed at clinics and hospitals, as well as TV information spots.
The council looks forward to more activities that will help them achieve their objective, which is to “increase asthma awareness and encouraged shared responsibility between the community, caregivers and healthcare professionals,” says Dr Aziah.

Note: To contact the secretariat of the Asthma Council Malaysia, call Yushiza Yusof at tel: 03-7956 9098; or fax: 7956 2078.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Allergic Diseases A Major Health Problem In Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Bernama) -- Allergic diseases which afflict about 250 million people worldwide have become a major health problem in Malaysia, according to the Malaysian Society of Allergy and Immunology (MSAI).
Society president Associate Professor Dr Ranbir Kaulsay said Friday that the ailment was regarded as not very important in the past.
"However, it is now regarded as one of the major illnesses adversely affecting our society in terms of economic burden and quality of health," he said in a statement to announce the holding of the first Malaysian Allergy Day on Sunday at Hilton Hotel here.
The event is part of the activities of the World Allergy Organisation which annually organises a World Allergy Day focusing on the prevention of allergies and allergic asthma.
Those interested to attend the event, which is free and open to the public, can visit for more information.

Virulent malaria hits three

PENANG: Three men warded at the Penang Hospital are found to have the more virulent strain of malaria known as Black Water Fever.
Two of them – a Myanmar and a local – are in the intensive care unit, while an Indonesian plantation worker from Paya Terubong is in stable condition in the open ward.
State Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan said there was no cause for alarm as steps had been taken to contain the disease, believed to have been brought into the country.
“Employers should immediately send their foreign workers to hospital for screening if they are down with fever. Malaria can be treated if detected early.
“Black Water Fever or cerebral malaria is caused by plasmodium falciparum which attacks the brain and ultimately causes death,” he said.
Student Oon Chea Min, 11, who was admitted with malaria to the hospital on July 9 died last Thursday. Her grandfather Oon Hoay Lai is the local man under intensive care.

CCM buying Duopharma

Chemical Company of Malaysia Bhd (CCM) is taking control of Duopharma Biotech Bhd via the acquisition of a 36% stake comprising 47.93 million shares in the pharmaceutical-based company at RM2.80 per share for a total of RM134.21 million cash.
CCM will buy the shares from Duopharma managing director Chia Ting Poh @ Cheah Ting Poh and executive director Ang Bee Lian, who own 20.61 million and 27.32 million shares in the company, respectively.
CCM’s unit Tekan Maju Sdn Bhd entered into a sale and purchase agreement with Chia and Ang on July 20 to acquire all their shares, CCM said in a statement on July 21.
CCM, in which Permodalan Nasional Bhd holds a 52.67% stake, said Tekan Maju would be obliged to extend a mandatory offer at RM2.80 per share for the remaining shares not held.
The purchase consideration represented a 2.19% premium over the five-day weighted average market price of RM2.74 per share.
Duopharma, which was suspended on July 21, was last traded at RM2.78.
Analysts said the RM2.80 was fair value over the short term but said the valuation should take the long-term potential of Duopharma into more consideration given the contracts that it was expected to secure in the future.
Duopharma is expected to ink a two-year contract next month with the Health Ministry for the supply of drugs for HIV/AIDS patients.
The government is also expected to decide soon on the awarding of the contract for the supply of methadone in a two-year pilot project to treat drug addicts, and Duopharma is believed to be the frontrunner for the job.
TA Securities research head Ngu Chie Kean said the move showed that PNB was no longer an inactive investor.
He said the acquisition of Duopharma would make it easier for CCM to create more value in expanding and upgrading its operations and products.
“However, the question is whether CCM will keep the listing status or merge,” he said. PNB owned 199.97 million shares in CCM as at June 21, 2005. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) holds 11.33% or 15.08 million shares.

National Cancer Centre Counter A Hit Among Women

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21 (Bernama) -- The counter opened by the National Cancer Centre at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) where the 56th Umno general assembly is being held drew a large crowd, especially women, Thursday.
Radiographer Indra Thanalingam, when met at the counter, said most of the women who flocked to the counter wanted to undergo breast examination and they were also taught how to detect signs of the disease.
"Service at the counter is free and it is not restricted to women," she assured.
She said response from the men was not very encouraging although the centre also provided counselling and advice on lung cancer and quitting the smoking habit.
The counter is manned by four staff including a doctor and is open from 9am to 6pm until Saturday.
The National Population and Family Development Board is also providing free health examination at the same venue.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

District Hospitals Perform Non-emergency Surgeries On Saturdays

PETALING JAYA, July 21 (Bernama) -- The Health Ministry wants all district hospitals to perform scheduled or non-emergency surgeries on Saturdays, which is an off day, to reduce waiting time for patients.
Its minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said there were some 50,000 "cold cases" or scheduled non-emergency cases pending for surgery, and patients had to wait for months before undergoing treatment.
The hospitals were performing more surgeries now with 229,686 operations performed last year compared to only 175,490 surgeries in 1997, he said.
"We observed that the number of emergency operations are increasing compared to the number of non-emergency cases and this is affecting the scheduled surgeries (or non-emergency cases) due to lack of doctors and nurses," Dr Chua told reporters after opening the sixth Liver Update Conference, here Thursday.
"We also observed that patients had to wait for more than a reasonable time. For instance, for breast cancer, it is wise for a patient to go for surgery within two to three weeks after it was diagnosed but because of the increase in emergency surgeries, a patient waits between six weeks to two months," he said.
Dr Chua said for vasectomy surgery, patients currently had to wait for two to three months and it took about four to five months for a hernia operation.
Apart from district hospitals, he said leading hospitals such as Putrajaya, Selayang, Taiping and Muar would also have to perform non-emergency surgeries on Saturdays from 8.30 am to 1 pm.
Some of the common cases are vasectomy, hernia or cyst surgeries, which are mostly non-fatal.
He said the new move, likely to be implemented in October, would cost the ministry about RM4 to RM5 million to pay doctors to perform surgeries on Saturdays.
Meanwhile, Dr Chua said liver cancer, the 10th most common cancer among Malaysian males could be attributed to Hepatitis B.
Although the incidence of Hepatitis B fell from 2,863 cases in 2000 to 1,795 cases in 2004, yet about five to eight percent of Malaysians were chronically infected with the virus.
"In a survey of almost 900 patients with chronic Hepatitis B virus surface antigen carried out by MLF (Malaysian Liver Foundation), 50 percent of Hepatitis B carriers are infective, and of these 30 to 40 percent have evidence of liver disease and requires treatment," he said.
Dr Chua also said Hepatitis C was also a growing problem in Malaysia as more and more people were found to have the antibodies.
In 2000, 550 Hepatitis C cases were reported but the figures rose to 741 last year.

Community-based treatment better: Docs

As soon as they leave the rehabilitation centres, 80 per cent of dadah addicts will go into a relapse, with some even returning to taking drugs just an hour later.
This is the observation of doctors, according to the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM).
“The addicts would prefer another method to be rehabilitated instead of being locked up,” said its president Dr Steven K.W. Chow.
“So we are encouraging community-based treatment where addicts can receive treatment and counselling while they carry on with their lives, working or attending school,” he said at the launch of “Doctors Who Care” programme at Saujana Resort yesterday.
It was launched by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
More than 240 trained doctors throughout the country are taking part in the programme.
Addicts can have access to the panel of doctors via its website: or contact its helpline at 03-79531302.
The patient will be treated by the doctor before he is recommended to a psychiatrist or counsellor for a holistic approach, said Dr Chow, a dermatologist.
“Community-based treatment is more likely to work. This approach will supplement whatever the Government is doing to address drug addiction problem,” stressed Dr Chow.
Based on a United Nations report, for every addict arrested, four remain undetected.
“Our intention is to get these people who do not get any help. By doing so, it will reduce the chain of transmission,” he said.

Privatising Health Insurance Is Anti-Poor Say Activists

PENANG, Jul 20 (IPS) - A senior health ministry official has sought to allay fears that Malaysia's proposed national health insurance scheme could be privatised - but civil society activists are still worried.
The government plans to set up a National Healthcare Financing Authority next year to manage an estimated 3.38 billion US dollars in healthcare financing.
When asked whether aspects of the scheme such as management of funds would be privatised, Lee Kah Choon, the Health Ministry's parliamentary secretary, told IPS, ''The core understanding is that the scheme will not be privatised.''
But few details have been revealed to the public so far, raising concerns that private interests could benefit from the scheme and that the poor would struggle to pay insurance premiums.
''Yes, I am worried,'' says political economist Andrew Aeria. ''It amounts to the privatisation of an essential public service which is currently paid for through taxes.'' He worries that the poor could end up having only limited access to the health service or receiving less than quality service as they can, at best, afford only minimum health insurance.
''It will be a two-stage affair,'' explained Lee about the implementation. The Health Ministry, he said, was working with an ''international organisation'' to prepare the project document, which would contain the terms of reference for the project. ''The consultants have to come out and say whether it (the scheme)can be done without privatisation,'' said Lee.
Once the project document has been finalised, the next stage would see the appointment of consultants to work out the details of the scheme proper. This stage, Lee said, would determine who is to be covered - whether everybody would be covered at one go or whether it would be implemented in stages for targeted groups.
But the fact that the identity of the consultants has not yet been disclosed worries activists of the Coalition Against Healthcare Privatisation,made up of over 80 civil society organisations.
''It all depends on which consultants you hire,'' one of the coalition's steering committee members, Jeyakumar Devaraj, a respiratory specialist-turned-grassroots activist, told IPS.
Consultants, noted Jeyakumar, come with an ideological bent and are hardly independent. ''You can choose a consultant to tell you what you want to hear and make it sound like it is objective advice.''
''At the very least you must tell us who the consultant is and allow civil society to dialogue with the consultant,'' he said. ''And once the consultant's report is done it should be made public for public debate and not treated as an oracle from God.''
Lee said the consultant's identity would soon be revealed.
This is not the first time that consultancy work has been carried out. The Health Insurance Commission (HIC) Consultancy of Australia had undertaken a project in 2002 aimed at providing consultancy advice on the proposed establishment of a National Health Financing Authority in Malaysia. HIC is an Australian government statutory authority whose objective is ''to assist in improving health outcomes in Australia.''
Its project on Malaysia ''involved the preparation of a submission, covering the key issues that had prompted the reform of the national health financing system,'' an HIC Consultancy spokeswoman in Australia told IPS via e-mail. ''It also discussed the underlying principles and institutional and organisational requirements necessary for the establishment of a new health financing and payment system.''
HIC Consultancy, however, did not disclose to IPS who had commissioned the project nor its recommendations. The firm's website states that its usual project funders are multilateral organisations such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (AsDB), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), AusAID, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and, sometimes, commissioning governments.
Despite inadequate funding, overstretched government hospitals in Malaysia have performed impressively. In fact, Malaysia's infant mortality rate of seven out of every thousand live births in 2003 is on par with developed nations û a tribute to the viability of the existing public health care system.
The government now claims it cannot cope with rising health care costs, prompting activists to point out that privatisation of sectors within the public health care system in the 1990s was responsible for a huge chunk of the higher costs.
Critics point out that health care expenditure in Malaysia has aditionally hovered around 3 to 4 percent of GDP (with the public sector accounting for only about 2 percent) - well short of World Health Organisation minimum recommendations of 5 to 6 percent.
''The argument the government is currently making - that the public sector cannot afford to continue providing quality health care for free - is a red herring especially when the government is spending billions on unnecessary arms purchases like modern fighter jets and submarines,'' says Aeria.
If the official scheme is pushed through, activists want it to provide a comprehensive basic insurance package for all û instead of specialised packages at higher premium rates for those who can afford better service as already hinted at in media reports.
For his part, Lee said the government is mindful of the choice of consultants. The consultants preparing the project document are from a ''very respectable international organisation'' that would be acceptable to all parties.
''The appointment of the consultants (for the scheme proper) will be discussed with stakeholders including the Malaysian government, international organisations and workers.'' Civil society, he added, would be involved in the consultations as well.
Activists like Jeyakumar aren't taking official assurances at face value. They want primary health care û especially among rural and marginalised communities û to be the cornerstone of the country's health service.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

New haemodialysis centre opens in Kulim

Kidney patients here no longer have to go far for their haemodialysis treatment with the opening of the Seroja Haemodialysis Centre here in May this year.
With only three haemodialysis centres in Kulim previously, the patients have had to go to Penang, Bukit Mertajam and Butterworth for treatment.
Police retiree, Hussain Puteh, 56, the owner of the new centre, said he operated it with the help of his wife, Asmah Che Mat, a nurse, and five employees.
The centre has three haemodialysis machines and Hussain said he was getting another one soon.
Patients who go for haemodialysis treatment at his centre include those from Padang Serai, Baling and Seberang Perai.

Four foreigners down with malaria

PENANG: At least four foreign workers living in Paya Terubong, where malaria has claimed the life of an 11-year-old, are suspected to have contracted the disease.
Paya Terubong assemblyman Datuk Dr Loh Hock Hun said an Indonesian plantation worker was admitted to the Penang Hospital on Monday morning due to high fever.
He said state health officers also discovered during recent health screening exercises that another three foreign workers from the same area had the symptoms of malaria.
"We are still waiting for the test results on these workers," he told reporters yesterday after visiting the Oon family, whose youngest daughter Chea Min died of malaria last Thursday.
Dr Loh said health officers have been visiting the affected hill areas to carry out screenings on at least 100 foreign workers there, following the girl's death.
It was reported that Chea Min’s malaria-stricken 68-year-old grandfather Oon Hoay Lai has been warded in the hospital’s intensive care unit, and is currently fighting for his life.
Dr Loh urged the public to avoid the hill areas in Mukim 13 and 14 in Paya Terubong.
"If need be, they should wear long-sleeved tops and long pants, as well as apply mosquito repellent," he said.
Dr Loh also said houses and their surroundings should be kept clean to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
At a separate function in Bukit Mertajam, state Health, Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman P. K. Subbaiyah said employers must stop hiring illegal immigrants to prevent an outbreak of contagious diseases.
He said illegal immigrants could be carriers of contagious diseases, as they did not undergo medical screening upon entering the country.
"Employers must co-operate by sending their workers for a medical examination to keep infectious diseases at bay," he told reporters during Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Abdul Rahman’s visit to the Bukit Mertajam Hospital here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

1.7 million adult Malaysians 'obese'

Some 1.7 million adult Malaysians are obese and prime candidates for heart disease.
A Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) study revealed that among them were a million women, many of whom stopped exercising after getting married or later in life, while an abundance of food at home contributed to eating binges.
Associate Prof Dr Lekhraj Rampal of UPM said there was an obesity "epidemic" in the country, which would worsen if no action was taken.
He said the "epidemic" had spiralled out of control in the past five years, thanks largely to our sedentary lifestyle.
He said there was a significant relationship between obesity and gender, age, race and level of education.
The information was culled from a 10-month study on the risk of cardiovascular disease, funded by the Intensification of Research in Priority Areas, under the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.
Health Ministry statistics show that in 1996, 4.4 per cent of the then 10.4 million adult population were obese.
Eight years later, the number had jumped to 12.2 per cent of the adult population.
More than a million of those deemed obese were Malays, 400,000 Chinese and nearly 200,000 Indians.
"Malaysians are becoming lazy and too comfortable. The increase of affluence in urban societies has led to the problem," Dr Rampal said.
He said people were not doing enough to reduce the risk, despite widespread awareness that cardiovascular disease was the number one killer in the country over the past 40 years.
Many were not even aware they were at risk.
"Just ask someone what their cholesterol level is. Most likely, they won’t know."
He called for a continuous comprehensive cardiovascular disease prevention programme at community level.
"The key word here is ‘continuous’," he said.
"We have to go back to the basics of primary care.
"When doctors see an overweight patient, they should offer advice on cardiovascular risk."
When patients know their health status, they will make an effort to change, he contends.
"If no action is taken, the risk factors will automatically translate into heart diseases."

Sterilisers for critical hospital areas

The Health Ministry plans to install ultra-violet sterilisers in hospitals to protect patients and staff from infectious diseases, in addition to safety measures in place.
To start with, the sterilisers would be fitted at intensive and coronary care units, and operating theatres in need of an upgrade in safety standards, director-general of Health Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said.
"With additional funding, sterilisers will be provided at treatment rooms and examination rooms in the next phase," Dr Ismail told the New Straits Times.
He was commenting on a July 12 front-page NST report which asked, "Just how safe are our hospitals?"
Admitting that the risk of infection was always present, Dr Ismail added that it was greatly minimised by standard safety procedures and continuous supervision.
He said the introduction of new technologies and equipment to prevent the spread of diseases would continue.
"We assure the public that the risk of hospital-acquired infection is minimal."
On average, he said, most developed countries’ hospital-acquired infections comprised up to 10 per cent of acute care admissions.
However, studies conducted at four major hospitals here revealed that hospital-acquired infections stood at only four per cent.
Dr Ismail said all new hospitals and most hospitals built since 1980 had air-conditioning systems that met international hospital safety standards.
"Although most of our wards are not air-conditioned, they have natural ventilation with ceiling fans."
He said it was neither cost-effective nor necessary to provide sterilised air to the whole hospital.
"It is impossible to achieve a sterile environment in the whole hospital. Even in operating theatres, the most advanced technology can only achieve a sterile environment in the operation zones, which is adequate.

Get go-ahead before advertising, doctors told

Check before advertising your services, doctors have been warned.
Director-General of Health Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said they should get clearance from the Medical Advertisement Board before publishing information about their profession, speciality and other details.
Dr Ismail, who is also the Malaysian Medical Council president, said a booklet would soon be available at all hospitals and clinics, detailing the do’s and don’ts regarding advertisements.
"It’s more of do’s rather than don’ts," he said after launching Medical Grape- vine, a magazine for medical practitioners published bi-monthly by Optima Multimedia Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Ezyhealth Asia Pacific Ltd here today.
He said although the MMC had announced recently that doctors were allowed to advertise, many were still cautious and reluctant.
"They can provide information about themselves, qualification, where they work and their speciality," he said, adding that they can also place their photographs in the advertisement in newspapers, pamphlets or websites.
"Tourists who come to the country should be able to go to the websites and get information as to which hospitals, doctors and facilities they require," he said.
He said the green light for doctors to divulge information was also to promote medical tourism.

25 TB cases 'no cause for alarm'

Though relatively few hospital staff here have been infected with tuberculosis, preventive measures continue to be put in place.
"Of course, all health-care personnel are at risk of infectious disease, including TB," admitted Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican today, "but 25 out of some 12,000 employed by the ministry getting TB is no cause for alarm."
Dr Ismail said there were sufficient guidelines on dealing with TB, including reducing infectious droplet spread and engineering control measures.
In view of the cost, he said, older hospitals had to "phase in" engineering control measures.
Isolation facilities are also being upgraded in all hospitals.
Dr Ismail said infection control teams at hospitals were doing "a good job", observing that one of the reasons Malaysia was able to prevent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 was the efficiency of hospital control teams.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Success story of HUKM clinic in treating cleft lip and palate

NIINETY-nine per cent of patients who sought treatment for cleft lip and palate at the Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUKM) clinic since 1997 have been successfully treated.
The integration clinic, the one and only in the country, was set up together with the Health Ministry.
Kelantan Health Department director Datuk Dr Ahmad Razin Maher said those who had been successfully treated also underwent rehabilitation and therapies.
A cleft lip is a separation of the upper lip and a cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth. Clefts result from incomplete development of the lip or palate of the foetus in the early weeks of pregnancy.
He said one out of 900 people in Malaysia was born with the deformity and if not properly treated, may affect a patient's self-esteem.
Ahmad said improper treatment might lead to speech impairment although he no longer had physical distortion.
"We are helping these patients to live a normal life. However, they must receive early treatment," he said after attending the Cleft Lip and Palate Association of Kelantan (CLAPAK) Family Day at the HUSM yesterday.

An event for women and the family

AS September draws near, preparations for Wanita Health and Lifestyle Exhibition (WHL) 2005 intensify in an effort to make the event a bigger success than its predecessor.
While the event drew a crowd of 20,000 last year, with 3,000 people benefiting from the screening services, this year’s affair (from September 23-25) aims to be even bigger and better.
Organised by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Malaysia, WHL 2005 is part of the Nur Sejahtera Women’s Healthcare Programme by the Ministry to encourage women from all walks of life to assume greater responsibility for their own health and that of their family.
“WHL 2005 is an event that allows women of all ages to learn more about their health and discover new ways to uplift their image,” says Fatimah Saad, Director-General of the National Family Planning and Development Board.
Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar … ‘WHL 2005 will be bigger and better this year.’
“The focus is on the importance of incorporating simple preventive and positive health behaviours into everyday life. It is about creating healthier futures for women,” says Dr Nor Ashikin Ahmad Mokhtar, Chairman of the WHL 2005 Organising Committee.
Note: Wanita Health and Lifestyle 2005 will be held from September 23-25, 2005, at the brand-new Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur City Centre


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Push for spinal wards

Paraplegics are appealing to the Health Ministry to allocate spinal wards at government hospitals for proper treatment, particularly for bed sores.
Government hospitals, they claim, are generally disinterested in providing them adequate treatment and care for such wounds.
Often, they are sent home before they can recuperate.
“Bed sores are not something the disabled find it easy to handle on their own.
“Hospitals should be caring enough to understand their predicament,” said Independent Living and Training Centre president Francis Siva, adding that he was prompted to highlight their plight by a recent case.
He said one of the centre’s inmates was sent in May to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for treatment of serious bed sores.
However, Siva said the 24-year- old, who was referred to the centre by a non-governmental organisation from Sitiawan, Perak, was discharged even before he had recovered.
“The man was discharged after being warded for three days.
“As his condition was still critical, we decided to send him to Selayang Hospital where he was kept for a day.
“After much persuasion, the hospital authorities sent him to Kuala Kubu Hospital where he is still recovering.”
Siva said the paraplegic are urging the Government to allocate a spinal ward to enable them to enjoy proper medical care.
The centre, based in Rawang, was established five years ago to provide basic training for the handicapped.

CCM Phamaceuticals to expand

CCM Pharmaceuticals Sdn Bhd (CCMP), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chemical Co of Malaysia Bhd (CCM), is planning to expand its business both domestically as well as within the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) region this year.
CCMP is also poised to become Malaysia’s largest pharmaceutical company in the next two years with the completion of its RM56 million second manufacturing plant in Bangi, Selangor.
CCM group managing director Dr Mohd Hashim Tajudin said the company is expected to make at least two acquisitions by the year-end involving the purchase of an equity stake in another pharmaceutical company.

Friday, July 15, 2005

AIDS preventive measures not haram

A Malaysian HIV/AIDS doctor has rebutted claims that Islamic law is fundamentally incompatible with harm reduction efforts such as needle exchange.
Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, head of the infectious disease unit at the University of Malaya Medical Centre, said drugs and alcohol were haram (forbidden) for all Muslims as Islam forbids any action that would result in harm or destruction.
“However, beyond the simple haram and halal of substances such as drugs and alcohol lie the fundamental objectives of Islamic divine laws, which are the protection and preservation of the faith, life, intellect, progeny and wealth.
Dr Adeeba refuted claims that because drugs were intoxicants they were forbidden under Islam, and Islamic law was therefore fundamentally incompatible with harm reduction efforts such as syringe exchange.
The claims were made by Malaysian healthcare figures during a February hearing on harm reduction conducted by the US House Sub-committee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.
Dr Adeeba's detailed and eloquent rebuttal of the claims were published in the latest issue of Therapeutics Research Education AIDS Training (TREAT) Asia Report, a quarterly publication by amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research in New York.
“The principle of injury in Islam (darar) asserts that no one should hurt or cause hurt to others (la darara wa la dirar). Drug addiction and HIV/AIDS hurt patients and their families in their life and health. The law requires that any injury should be mitigated to the extent possible,” Dr Adeeba said.