Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bowel cancer commonest in Malaysian men

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Bowel cancer is the most common form of cancer in Malaysian men, and the third commonest in women after breast and cervical cancers.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the increasing rate of large bowel cancer among Malaysians was due to people’s affluent and sedentary lifestyles and the lack of dietary fibres and physical activity.
He said other important risk factors of large bowel cancer included chronic inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal polyps and strong family history.
“About 13.8 per 100,000 Malaysians are likely to come down with large bowel cancer each year.
“This means that we can expect close to 3,900 cases of large bowel cancer each year from the country’s population of 28 million,” he told reporters after opening the Gastro-intestinal and Liver Diseases Symposium at Selayang Hospital near here yesterday.
He said 14.5% of all cancers reported among men from 2003 to 2005 were large bowel cancer while there were 9.9% reported cases among Malaysian women.
Among the reported cases, Chinese appeared to have the highest incidence of the disease, at 28.8 per 100,000 Malaysians, followed by Indians (9.9%) and Malays (7.1%), Liow said.
“Surgery remains the mainstay of treatment although there has been tremendous progress in terms of chemotherapy,” he added.
“Malaysians are advised to consume more vegetables and fruits in their diet and to be more active physically,” he said.
Currently, there are 18 gastroenterologists in 13 Health Ministry hospitals nationwide and another 13 doctors undergoing training in gastroenterology.
“Under the 10th Malaysian Plan, if the financial situation allows, we will be in a good position to strengthen our existing services and expand to the state hospitals like in Kangar, Penang, Kuantan and Kuching,” Liow said.
On Influenza A(H1N1), he said there were 20 to 30 cases now with five patients in the intensive care unit.
“It is still a serious issue,” he said, adding that the first batch of vaccine would arrive soon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A(H1N1): Malaysia to get 78,000 doses of vaccine soon

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia will receive 78,000 doses of the of the 400,000 doses of anti-H1N1 vaccine ordered from Britain for frontliners in healthcare and high-risk group end of this month, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Monday.
The balance vaccine would be received by January next year, he added.
He said although the spread of the disease in the country was still under control, the situation should not be taken lightly with the United States President, Barack Obama, having declared H1N1 a national emergency in the America two days ago.
Liow said Malaysia should be prepared to face the possibility of a second wave of the H1N1, expected end of this year.
"Of course the number of H1N1 patients warded in ICU is decreasing and the death caused by the pandemic is still at 77, but this is not the end, we have to be more cautious and alert to face a second wave of H1N1 which is expected at the end of this year," he told reporters after opening a seminar on "Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases" at Selayang Hospital.
He also said the spread of the virus was still active in the country and advised the public to take the necessary precautions.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Govt hospitals in three states to use complementary treatment

Star: KUCHING: Treatment using traditional and complementary medicine will be available at government hospitals in Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu soon.
This follows the Health Ministry’s decision to extend the integrative medicine programme to the three states.
The ministry’s Traditional and Complementary Medicine division senior officer Jaafar Lassa said the extension to one hospital each in the three states was due to an overwhelming response to the programme that was launched three years ago.
“There is sufficient evidence to suggest that traditional and complementary medicine is safe, and able to benefit patients,” he said at the two-day inaugural Malaysia International Medicine Congress which ended, here, yesterday.
“Such medicine has long had a profound impact on human medical history.”
More than 500 local and foreign participants attended the event organised by the Chung Hua Tradi-tional Chinese Medicine Study and Research Society of Malaysia.
Traditional and complementary medicine treatment is now available at the Kepala Batas Hospital in Butterworth, Penang, Johor’s Sultan Ismail Hospital and the Putrajaya Hospital.
Jaafar said the traditional and complementary medicine field should be given recognition and support to enable it to develop and expand, and offer holistic therapy.
He said the ministry had drafted a list of standards and criteria to promote education and training in the field.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RM14mil for A(H1N1) vaccine

Star: PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is spending RM14mil to purchase 400,000 doses of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine.
The first batch of 40,000 doses would arrive by the end of this month, said minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
Speaking to reporters after opening GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Global IT Centre yesterday, he said the ministry decided to purchase the vaccine from GSK as the company could meet the earliest delivery time.
Some firms could only provide the vaccine in mid-2010, he said, adding that the ministry had yet to fix the selling price per dose for the vaccine.
He had also noted previously that the vaccine would be for frontliners first such as health workers, the police and immigration staff.
Liow stressed that the public must take precautionary measures although H1N1 cases were on the decline and no deaths had been reported since Sept 16. The outbreak, he said, was still at Level 6.
Yesterday, 152 patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) were admitted nationwide while 146 people had been discharged.
Out of the 666 cases in hospital, only 4% or 27 are confirmed H1N1 cases.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Ministry restricts sale of imported dried fruits due to high lead content

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: The sale of 18 types of dried plum and prune from China, Taiwan and other Asian countries has been restricted by the Health Ministry after high degrees of lead was detected.
The foodstuff - known as asam or jeruk in Malay and kiam sui tee (salty, sour and sweet) in Hokkien which are immensely popular as tidbits among Malaysians - has been put on Level 5 alert by the ministry’s Food Safety and Quality Division under its Food Information System of Malaysia.
This means that the division would hold the products for testing and would only release them for sale if they pass the test.
The highest alert level of 6 involves an immediate rejection of a product.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said for the moment, dried fruit products by other manufacturers and distributors would be permitted to be sold locally.
“If these 18 products are found in the local market, they will be seized and sampled for lead analysis,” he told reporters after launching the ministry’s management conference here yesterday.
Lead, in cumulative amounts over time, causes nervous system disorders and distorts brain development, especially in children.
Liow said the monitoring began following a US Food and Drug Administration report on Oct 1 that alerted consumers over the dried fruit sold by the 15 manufacturers due to lead contamination.
“If a product by a manufacturer or distributor is found to contain more than the permitted two parts per million (ppm), legal action will be taken under the Food Regulations 1985,” Liow said.
The 18 products apparently had lead levels of up to 30 ppm.
Asked if any of the 18 products were being sold locally, the minister said the division was checking on this.
Meanwhile, Liow announced that former International Trade and Industry Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Ooi Say Chuan had been appointed Malaysian Health Tourism Council chief executive officer.
He said the council, to be launched in December by the Prime Minister, would focus on consolidating private and Government efforts in promoting Malaysia as a health tourism destination.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cervical cancer vaccination: Up to parents

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: Parents will be given a choice to allow their daughters to be given anti-cervical cancer vaccination that will begin next year for secondary schools girls aged 13.
Those who agree need to sign a letter of consent, said Education director-general Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom when contacted regarding the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme that was announced by Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai recently.
Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman, director of the disease control division at the Health Ministry, comfirmed that vaccination will only be given after getting the consent of parents.
The move is to contain cervical cancer that is the second most common cancer among women in Malaysia, after breast cancer, with 1,500 new cases each year.
“The ministry is still waiting for further directives from the Health Ministry regarding the vaccinations. We are ready to cooperate with the Health Ministry in implementation,” Alimuddin said.
Alimuddin said the ministry had not received any complaint or objection from any quarter regarding the Health Ministry’s suggestion.
“From feedback we have received many Parent-Teacher Associations and parents agree with the vaccination, and we believe the Health Ministry will study the best medicine available before implementation,” he said. Honorary advisor to the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) Datuk Zuraidah Atan supports the programme as a preventive measure.
“However, the decision by the schools to implement the vaccination programme depends on the parents. If they are aware of the importance of the vaccination as protection for their children, they should continue with it,” she said.
“For NCSM, we support fully the Health Ministry’s action to have the vaccination programme at 13 years of age. I’m sure the ministry had thought of the process before intending to implement it and the programme is really good, especially for rural students, who mostly cannot afford it,” she said.
Dr Hasan said that the decision to introduce the HPV Vaccination Programme for girls as young as 13 years old was made as that age group produced better immune response compared with those in older age groups.
At that age the girls are considered to be still naive to the HPV infection and are free from the disease, he said.
He said the Health Ministry has also had “a secondary prevention programme” since 1969, the PAP Smear Screening Programme, to help detect cancer, but the response has not been satisfactory.
“The acceptance rate is however not very encouraging as shown by the National Health Morbidity Survey III (2006) which indicates that only 43.3% of women aged 18 and above ever had a PAP Smear.
“The Penang Cancer Registry Report 2004 has also reported that 75% of cervical cancer cases are detected at late stages,” he said.
He said based on research done by Prof S. AlJunid of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, results showed that prevention of cervical cancer by vaccination was cost effective.
It was estimated that the cost of three vaccination doses was RM400 compared with RM235,000 for a lifetime of treatment for cervical cancer.
“Thus it would cost approximately RM360mil to treat 1,500 newly diagnosed cervical cancer cases every year,” said Dr Hasan.
Dr Hasan said many factors contributed to the onset of cervical cancer, usually closely related to HPV infection, and the risk of getting infected got higher with increased sexual activity.
He said the impact from HPV vaccination can only be seen in the long run, between 15 and 20 years, as benefits from the vaccination will reduce any side effects as well as prevent premature deaths among women who were in their productive years.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated the 13 types of HPV could trigger cervical cancer with HPV types 16 and 18 causing 70% of cases.
Dr Hasan said the estimate was consistent with the situation in Malaysia where 74% of cases were caused by those two types of HPV.
On the death of a teenaged girl in Britain after being vaccinated, Dr Hasan said: “There is no increase in the rate of the documented adverse events reported due to HPV vaccine.
“There was also no convincing evidence between HPV vaccination and the deaths reported,” he said.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

PD Hospital to offer TCM services soon

Star: PORT DICKSON: The Port Dickson Hospital will be the country’s fourth to offer traditional complementary medicine (TCM) services, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
“The unit will be set up soon. In fact, I will be visiting the hospital on Friday, and I will be able to tell you more in detail,” he said when met at the MCA operations centre here yesterday.
Liow said the ministry will also help train more practitioners in TCM, adding that he was glad to note that the Higher Education Ministry had given approval to three local universities to offer TCM diploma and degree programmes.
Asked if he was confident that the Chinese would support Barisan Nasional in Sunday’s Bagan Pinang by-election, Liow said recent trends suggested so.
“The party has put me in charge of the Teluk Kemang area where there are some 752 Chinese voters. From my conversations with them, I am confident they are supportive of Barisan,” he said.
Liow said the party has been getting plenty of support from young voters, adding that this was made possible by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government giving priority to the needs of the rakyat.
On issues raised by the people, Liow said these centred mostly around the need for better basic amenities and infrastructure.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Health warning on traditional medicine capsule

Star: PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has advised the public against buying and using Senna Plus Capsule 400mg after the Drug Control Authority (DCA) cancelled the registration of the traditional product.
The DCA said the capsule (labelled MAL06100616TC) contains a scheduled poison.
The ministry’s Pharmacy Services senior director Eisah Abdul Rahman said the DCA had cancelled the registration of the product following the detection of the scheduled poison Sibutramine, which is not allowed for use in traditional products.
The product registration holder for the Senna Plus Capsule 400mg is Winson Health Product Marketing and the manufacturer is TST Packaging Sdn Bhd, she said.
She said there were certain products containing Sibutramine that were registered with the DCA but these had been evaluated for their safety, efficacy and quality.
Furthermore, those products can only be supplied by doctors or obtained from pharmacies with a prescription.
“The public should not use traditional products containing the scheduled poison without consulting a doctor because its use without proper diagnosis and monitoring could cause serious adverse events such as high-blood pressure and other cardio-vascular effects.
“The products can have detrimental effects on consumers in the high-risk category,” she said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Eisah said the ministry was also calling on anyone possessing the product to immediately cease its sale, distribution or use.
She said possession for sale of the product was an offence under the Controlled Drugs and Cosmetics Regulations 1984, which carries a fine of up to RM25,000, three years’ jail or both for the first offence, and a fine of up to RM50,000, five years’ jail or both for subsequent offences.
Companies face a fine of up to RM50,000 for the first offence and a maximum fine of RM100,000 for subsequent offences, she said.

No evidence to back LBA’s effectiveness, says Health D-G

Star: PETALING JAYA: The public has been urged not to be easily duped by those who make claims about live blood analysis (LBA) test and other non-evidence based therapies not endorsed by the Health Ministry.
Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said in a press statement said although the test itself appeared harmless, the Ministry was very concerned about the implications of managing a patient based solely on LBA findings as it may be detrimental to one’s health.
His statement was in response to Monday’s Starprobe report on LBA scams
The LBA, also called nutritional blood analysis or live cell analysis, is a test where practitioners claim they could diagnose a host of illnesses including vitamin deficiencies, infections and even cancer by observing the abnormalities in a drop of blood.
They then proceed to persuade customers to buy nutritional supplements or undergo alternative therapies.
“Live blood analysis is not a valid test as there is no scientific evidence to support the claims made,” he said.
On whether an LBA test can be considered valid when a medical doctor performs it, Dr Ismail said: “There is no scientific basis for the technique and hence even if it is carried out by a medical doctor it is still not valid. No doctor should carry out such a test.”
He said the Ministry’s health technology assessment unit had completed its assessment on LBA and found no evidence to support its effectiveness.
“Furthermore, some evidence has shown that the LBA lacked diagnostic accuracy and reliability,” he said.
Dr Ismail also said that the ministry had received some complaints about the test from patients and medical doctors and was investigating the matter.
He noted that LBA tests were mostly carried out by practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine, especially those who practised naturopathy.
He said that the ministry’s traditional and complementary medicine division and medical practice division had inspected a naturopathy practitioner’s premises in July and advised him against performing LBA tests.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Health Ministry awaits report from British govt

Star: BENTONG: The public should not jump into conclusions over the death of a girl in Britain after she was vaccinated against cervical cancer.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysian authorities were awaiting feedback from the British government and other parties, including the pharmaceutical company which produced the vaccine.
“We want to look at the report first to find out the cause of the girl’s death.
“We cannot say that the girl’s death was caused by the vaccination process,” he said, adding that the ministry would carry out its planned vaccination programmed against cervical cancer through strict and controlled measures.
Liow said the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination has been carried out in many countries and proven to be very effective in preventing cervical cancer.
“The vaccine is safe and, according to our knowledge, only a very small percentage of one million people who undergo vaccination suffer minute side effects,” he said, after launching The Star SPM Workshop Series 2009 here yesterday.
The British girl reportedly fell ill after receiving the vaccine at her school in Coventry.
Health authorities there said no link could be made between the death and the vaccine until a post-mortem was conducted.
The ministry recently announced that the Government would offer the vaccination to girls aged 12 to 13 to prevent cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women in Malaysia.
In Putrajaya, disease control division director Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the ministry’s decision to introduce the vaccination to girls in this age group was because they produced better immune response compared than older girls, and assumed to be free of the HPV infection.
“Nevertheless, the vaccination will be administered only with written consent from the parents,” he said yesterday.
On influenza A(H1N1), Liow said no new deaths were reported yesterday, adding that fatalities from the virus remained at 77.
He said 18 people were still being treated at the intensive care units.
In Kuala Lumpur, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican reminded people that the spread of the virus was still prevalent, although there was a reduction of cases recently.

More Malaysians below 40 at risk of heart disease

Star: KUALA LUMPUR: More young Malaysians below 40 are at risk of getting heart attacks due to poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, according to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre cardiology unit head Assoc Prof Dr Oteh Maskon.
He attributed this to the craving for teh tarik, roti canai, nasi lemak, smoking, and lack of exercise.
“They are at risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes which could lead to heart ailments”, he told reporters after attending a public forum on heart disease at the centre here today.
Dr Oteh said 5% of the 450 patients admitted to the centre for the past one year was below 40 and most of them were diagnosed with high blood and diabetes.
He said the youngest heart patient at the centre was a 23-year-old male with metabolic syndrome and a family history of heart disease while a simple heart surgery was conducted on a 29-year-old male.
“We also had a 38-year-old female with three arteries blockages and who was also a diabetic. This is shocking as women are hardly known to have heart disease at that age,” he said.
He said family history of heart disease accounted for 10% of heart patients admitted to the medical centre.
“A healthy lifestyle and intake of a balance diet must start at a young age. Avoid smoking and exercise regularly.
“Go for periodical medical checkups so that early treatment can be administered if you are diagnosed with heart problems,” he said, adding that a number of sudden deaths occurred in heart patients before they could be given initial treatment.
Opened by the centre’s dean and director Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Saim, the forum was held in conjunction with the 12th Malaysian Association for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Conference Malaysia.