Cardiologist suggests fat tax to combat obesity

Jul 20, 2016 0

New Delhi–A fat tax on high-calorie foods to encourage healthier lifestyle choices needs to be enforced universally on all foods containing trans fats rather than partially on fast foods, a leading cardiologist has suggested.

“Without universal application such laws would only reinstate the belief that only certain foods are unhealthy and this would not help in bringing down obesity,” Dr (Col) Anil Dhall, Director of Cardiovascular Sciences at Venkateshwar Hospital here, told IANS.

Anil Dhall

Anil Dhall

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fats that are uncommon in nature but since the 1950s have been commonly industrially produced from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food.

The Kerala government recently said it was mulling a 14.5 per cent fat tax on pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and tacos sold through branded outlets. The move has been hailed as an important decision towards public health — coming as it does in the wake of WHO’s advocacy of using fiscal methods to curb obesity.

Other states in the country were also understood to be pondering similar cess after concerns were raised about increasing obesity which fuels lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart ailments and hypertension.

But, is it the right way to go, wonders Dhall, pointing out that with 39 per cent of adults worldwide being overweight — and 13 per cent being obese, involvement of the government in leading people into living a healthy lifestyle was not something new.

Responding to the growing obesity crisis, Japan was the first to implement the “metabo law” that requires men and women above 45 years of age to undergo an annual waist measurement. On failure to meet the required size, the person has to undergo counselling and consult a doctor. The law, that went into effect in 2008, has helped Japan cut back on obesity by 3.5 per cent.

Subsequently, Denmark, in 2011, imposed a special tax on food items such as butter, milk, meat, cheese and oil containing more than 2.3 per cent fat. That same year, Hungary levied a tax on foods high in sugar and salt. And last year, Philadelphia became the first city in the US to impose a “soda tax” on sugary beverages.

But implementation has been plagued by problems. Denmark, for instance, rolled back its fat tax in 15 months, after people started bypassing it by buying from across the border.

Mexico levied a tax on sugar sweetened beverages two years ago. But after an initial dip, the sales figures are back to original levels.

Dhall stressed the need to be clear as to what is being targetted as a result of such legislation.

“Are we targetting obesity, which is a risk factor for heart disease, or do we want to bring down the atherosclerotic risk,” he wondered, pointing out that India was the global leader in cases of diabetes mellitus, thin-fat metabolism and atherosclerotic coronary heart disease.

Kerala itself has a large number of diabetics and obesity is also a significant concern. Right now, 28.1 per cent of women and 17.8 per cent of men in the state are either overweight or obese, putting Kerala a close second to India’s most obese state Punjab, where 29.9 per cent of women and 18.2 per cent of men are either overweight or obese.

Dhall averred that if we are to target the population risk, we have to curb carbohydrates excess as well. “We all notice a recent sharp increase in sweetened beverage consumption,” he pointed out.

Fast food, also known as junk food, is considered unhealthy since in many cases it is highly processed, containing large amount of sodium, carbohydrates and trans fats. “The food is mainly empty calories with no nutrition,” the cardiologist noted.

However, in the process of demonising fast foods and blaming them for the increasing obesity and decreasing public health, we don’t realise that trans fats, which are largely responsible for the increased atherosclerotic risk, are also present in the everyday Indian snacks that we eat, Dhall pointed out.

From samosas to deep-fried pakodas which are easily available for less than Rs 10 at every street corner and even in locally-branded outlets — they all contain trans fats, he said.

They are prepared in industrially-processed vegetable oils which are largely used to fry snacks at the local food vendors. Also, when these oils are heated repeatedly above their smoking point, they lose their integrity and break into a smaller compound which harms our health.

Trans fats raise our bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower the good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Eating trans fats increases our risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and of developing type 2 diabetes.

Making international cuisine provider food more expensive may be easy but is not really relevant to the bulk of the population. Our Indian snacks which are more widely consumed and are a lot cheaper than conventional fast foods are equally unhealthy, Dhall said.

The unregulated neighbourhood halwai often uses 30 per cent trans fats as compared to the permissible one per cent. Still, there has been neither any regulation on them nor any awareness campaign against it.

This can also be attributed to the fact that most of the studies that have been carried out in the field of dietary fats have been Western where the main source of trans fats are fast foods, said Dhall.

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Indian healthcare firm picks majority stake in Turkish firm for $5.5 million

Jul 13, 2016 0

Bengaluru– Leading Indian medical devices major Trivitron Healthcare Ltd has acquired majority stake in a Turkish healthcare firm for 5 million euros (Rs 37 crore), the Chennai-based company said on Wednesday.

“We have invested five-million euros ($5.5 million) to buy 60 per cent equity stake in Turkish firm Bome Sanayi Urunleri Dis Tic Ltd, whose promoters will retain 40 per cent post-acquisition,” said Trivitron chairman G.S.K. Velu in a statement here.

G.S.K. Velu

G.S.K. Velu

Bome’s three promoters, include its founder Mehmet Demirel, chief executive Gulsah Sonmez and co-founder Zeynep Demirel. They had 55 per cent and 20 per cent each equity stake in their company before the acquisition.

The Turkish firm reported sales turnover of 22 million Turkish lira ($7.6 million) in calendar year 2015.

The 19-year-old and Rs 700-crore Trivitron makes medical devices and delivers cost-effective services to the underserved through inorganic synergies with local and global firms. It exports its various products to 165 countries, worldwide.

As the Ankara-based Bome is a leading maker of in-vitro diagnostic device, the acquisition will give Trivitron access to markets in Turkey, Middle East (Gulf), Africa and South East Asia and its production facility, research labs and a newly set up screening laboratory.

“Bome has 100 per cent market share in new born screening tests in Turkey, as it screens 1.8 million babies and 10 million tests per year,” Velu said on the occasion.

With nine manufacturing units in India, Finland and Turkey, Trivitron expects to grow significantly in the region, as its products are marketed under brand name Trimaris and exported to Egypt, Iraq, Kenya, Portugal, Syria and Sudan.

“The buyout brings in growth capital and distribution network for Bome, which has been in diagnostics since 1989 and conducting new born screening tests in the past eight years for the Turkish government,” Velu recalled in the statement.

With manufacturing units at Ostim and Ankara in Turkey and labs in Ankara and Istanbul, Bome’s production lines include new born screening tests, haematology solutions, clinical chemistry reagents, rapid urea tests, coagulation reagents and sterile & non-sterile deionized water.

The buyout will also help Trivitron gain expertise on running low-cost new born screening programmes, which India is yet to launch in public-private partnership mode.

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Shire brings new hemophilia treatment to India

Jul 12, 2016 0

New Delhi–Hemophilia patients in India can now have more treatment options as global biotechnology major Shire on Tuesday announced that doctors in India can now prescribe ADVATE, a widely used treatment for Hemophilia A, also called Factor VIII (FVIII) deficiency in which blood does not clot normally.

ADVATE came to Shire as part of the acquisition of US-based rare disease specialist Baxalta last month.

“We are committed to the advancement of hemophilia treatments and elevating the standard of care for hemophilia patients in India because we know that many of them out there are not diagnosed, let alone treated,” said Vineet Singhal, Country Head, Baxalta Biosciences India.

“Striving toward a goal of zero bleeds, we are able to bring innovative third generation treatments like ADVATE to patients in India and help them achieve better outcomes in managing their bleeding conditions,” Singhal noted.

In India today, there are about 16,000 hemophilia patients but the actual number could be seven times more due to low awareness, diagnosis and treatment, Shire said in a statement.

“ADVATE was approved in the US in July 2003 and has a proven safety and efficacy profile with over 13 years of real-world patient experience data. It is the world’s most widely used FVIII treatment to date,” the statement added.

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Coronary artery disease up by 300 percent in India

Jul 2, 2016 0

Bengaluru– Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) spiked by 300 percent among Indians in the past three decades, with two to six percent of the affected people living in rural India and four to 12 percent in urban India, said a leading cardiologist on Saturday.

“Indians have the highest mortality and morbidity rates from CAD as compared to any other ethnic group,” said Thomas Alexander at the inaugural ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) India 2016 Conference.

“It is now projected that the number of Indians with CAD is above 60 million of which 23 million is below the age of 40 and 10 million younger than 30,” he said.

Though CAD is one of the most challenging emergencies, he said if treated promptly and appropriately, significant death and disability can be reduced.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), CAD is projected to claim 2.9 million lives annually, out of which one million are expected to be below 40 in the future.

STEMI is a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing heart attack care in India which will focus on managing STEMI at its two-day workshop scheduled from July 2-3.

Some other leading doctors participating in the workshop include Ajit S. Mullasari, Director of Cardiology, The Madras Medical Mission, C.N. Manjunath, Director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences & Research, S.S. Iyengar, Consultant and Academic Head, Department of Cardiology, Manipal Hospital, and P. Ranganath Nayak, Medical Director and Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru.

Ajit S. Mullasari

Ajit S. Mullasari

About the workshop, Mullasari said the deliberations aim to bring the latest knowledge in the management of STEMI to India.

“The faculty – international and national – are leaders in heart attack management. This day and a half programme provides a comprehensive review and training to the medical team involved in the processes and procedures in the care of the heart attack patient,” said Mullasari.

Manjunath said one of main aims of the workshop also to develop a heart attack management programme in Karnataka, and as many as 750 delegates from south India will be trained various aspect of heart attack care there. (IANS)

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New code system to check spurious medicines in India

Jun 24, 2016 0

By Anand Singh and Rupesh Dutta

New Delhi– Counterfeiters are lurking in the dark and there’s no guarantee that the medicines sold from the drug stores across India are all genuine. A consumer cannot tell whether the pharma product wrapped in sleek packaging isn’t fake.

India is yet to adopt international solutions which are necessary to authenticate medicines and pharmaceutical products that millions of people depend on to combat health conditions. Unlike Pakistan, India doesn’t have a system with which the consumer can check whether a medicine is genuine.

“The counterfeiters here are successful because we are not making their task difficult and not making this business less profitable for them,” U.K Gupta, President of Authentication Solutions Providers Association, told IANS.

“The counterfeiters can pursue their business because of non-adoption of authentication solutions, inadequate surveillance efforts by brand owners to identify counterfeit products and lack of consumer awareness,” he said.

According to Gupta, the product packaging is easily copied due to availability of packaging raw materials in the neighbouring countries.

So what needs to be done?

“We already have a barcode system to check the authenticity of medicines that are exported. Through this system we can keep at bay all types of spurious and fake medicines,” Drug Controller General of India G.N. Singh told IANS.

“However, we do not have any system to check the medicines that come to India and the medicines that are sold in India,” he added.

But it’s a different scene in Pakistan where the Drug Regulatory Authority introduced the global unique identification code system to counter the sale of spurious drugs and over-pricing. Under the new system, buyers having smartphones can verify a medicine and its price.

Can such a system be implemented in India?

Singh said: “The process has already been initiated and within a couple of months we will have a code system like Pakistan to check the spurious medicines”.

“Documents and the entire plan is with the ministry and they are examining it. This will be a technology-driven system.”

A large part of the procedure will involve oversight, testing, tracking and analysis of practices.

“Adopting authentication solutions is the most important preventive step. The government and brand owners should communicate to the consumers about the authentication features on their product and the means to verify those features,” Gupta said.

“Hologram is the best tool. These days we have interactive and 3D hologram as well,” he added.

“The interactive hologram can be verified by a device which tells the consumers about its authenticity. The consumer can check the details of this product by physical verification such as visual checking,” Gupta said.

“Even a consumer can verify product details from a company’s website or by digital authentication of products with features such as barcodes or unique SMS verification codes,” he added.

A 2014 ASSOCHAM report titled ‘Fake and Counterfeit Drugs In India-Booming Biz’ stated that around 25 per cent of India’s drugs are fake, counterfeit or substandard. The fake drugs market is likely to cross US$ 10-billion mark by 2017.

ASSOCHAM had suggested that the government must make it a mandatory for all branded medicines to feature a tracing and tracking mechanism.

“The only step required is a strong regulatory oversight with proper testing procedures, and a robust tracing and tracking mechanism. We also must have a centralised depository to analyse the good manufacturing and distribution practices,” Bejon Misra, former Chairman of Consumer Coordination Council, told IANS.

However, Misra said the “biggest challenge is the lack of trained persons in the state drug regulatory authorities” to curb the menace of fake pharma products.

Expressing a similar view, Anil Bansal, former Chairman of Anti Quackery Cell of the Delhi Medical Council, said: “The government should enforce the Pharmacy Act strictly so that the chemists cannot sell any medicine without a doctor’s prescription. But it seems that the government is not seriously concerned about the health of the people.”

According to a World Health Organisation report, every year about one million people die globally due to spurious drugs. Keeping that in mind, India must not lag behind in taking stringent measures to stamp out the counterfeit drugs. Authentication solutions would be a step forward.

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Indian and US firms to launch air medical services in India

Jun 13, 2016 0

Bengaluru–City-based Aviator Air Rescue on Monday announced it has teamed up with leading American air medical services company Air Medical Group Holdings and Airbus Helicopters to provide Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS).

“With the support of Airbus Helicopters and Air Medical Group Holdings, we will provide India with top-notch air medical services that will be affordable and accessible for everyone. These services will be on par with the established HEMS operations in the US and Europe,” said Arun Sharma, managing director, Aviators Air Rescue.

Arun Sharma

Arun Sharma

The tripartite agreement will use a fleet of three Airbus H130 helicopters equipped with emergency patient transportation facilities, organs, neo-natal and other time critical medical missions for the service.

Airbus Helicopters and Air Medical Group Holdings will train the pilots, medical personnel along with the definition of practices and procedures.

“We will bring to bear our global expertise in medical helicopters and our India-based support and services team to ensure that these H130s are always ready to respond to a call,” said Xavier Hay, President, Airbus Helicopters in India.

With the delivery of helicopters slated to begin in the second half of 2016, Aviator Air Rescue plans to launch the service in October 2016, to offer services to state governments, rescue groups, hospitals, clinics, public and private companies and individuals through subscription. (IANS)

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Indian Council of Medical Research and Sun Pharma come together to eradicate malaria

Apr 25, 2016 0

New Delhi– The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday announced it will collaborate with Sun Pharma to initiate research for malaria eradication and other innovative programmes related to it.

The research body also signed an agreement with the pharmaceutical company and the Madhya Pradesh government to establish a malaria elimination demonstration project titled ‘Malaria Free India’ under the public-private partnership model.

It will support the national framework for the elimination of malaria in India.

Saumya Swaminathan

Saumya Swaminathan

“It is the first time ICMR is entering into a partnership with India’s largest pharma brand in the field of malaria research. Drugs and other disease strategy in India can be tackled by this effort,” said ICMR director general Saumya Swaminathan.

The malaria elimination demonstration programme will start in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, which along with five other states contributes 60 percent of malaria cases in India.

To demonstrate the feasibility of eliminating malaria and prevention of re-establishment of this disease, ICMR and Sun Pharma will use rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malarial drugs, long-lasting insecticide treated bednets and indoor residual spray.

Joint scientific research for development and testing of medical products (including drugs, biosimilars and vaccines) as well as disease control and elimination programmes would be undertaken.

Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said the agreement between ICMR and Sun Pharma reiterates India’s commitment to eliminate malaria.

“Implementing the malaria demonstration project in a high transmission district of Mandla using proven case management and vector control strategies will be done in collaboration and through the government of Madhya Pradesh,” Nadda said.

The two organisations will set-up a Joint Working Group to identify and collaborate in disease surveillance and elimination that are relevant to India.

“Both will expand cooperation in the area of translational health sciences research with the objective of developing new and improved medicines for infectious and chronic diseases. They will jointly work to strengthen capacity and facilities required for conducting research and trials aimed at testing safety and efficacy of medical products,” said a statement from the ministry.

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Shares of Syed Kamal-founded dialysis provider rise 20% on first day of trading

Apr 21, 2016 0

BEVERLY, MA–Shares of Syed Kamal-founded dialysis provider American Renal Associates Holdings Inc. soared by more than 20 percent on the first day of trading Thursday morning, Boston Business Journal reported.

Company shares rose to $26.83 as of Thursday at 11:30 a.m. The firm now has a market cap of $796 million.

Syed Kamal

Syed Kamal

Kamal is president and co-founder American Renal Associates. In addition, he has served as the director of the company since its inception in 1999. He has more than 36 years of experience in the dialysis services industry.

Prior to founding American Renal Associates, Kamal served in various management roles at FMCNA, including as President of FMCNA’s southern business unit, Vice President of Operations for FMCNA’s North America division, Director and Vice President of Operations for FMNCA’s International division and Regional Manager of FMNCA’s Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions (U.S.).

He  holds a B.A. degree in Economics and Statistics and an M.B.A. degree from the University of Punjab in Pakistan.

Unlike other dialysis providers, which wholly operate clinics, American Renal seeks to partner with established physicians to own and operate dialysis treatment centers, providing treatment to patients with the most advanced stage of chronic kidney disease, known as end stage renal disease, according to Boston Business Journal.

The company said it plans to use proceeds from the IPO to pay back $239 million in debt, as well as for working capital and to help fund development of new clinics, expansion of existing clinics or acquisition of other clinics.

Boston Business Journal said that the top shareholders of American Renal are private investment firm Centerbridge Partners (59.3%); American Renal CEO and co-founder Joseph Carlucci (2.5%); and company president and co-founder Syed Kamal (2.5%).

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Conglomerate to invest $200 million in Indian healthcare

Apr 18, 2016 0

Kochi–UAE-based healthcare conglomerate VPS Healthcare on Monday announced it will enter India by acquiring majority stake in Lakeshore Hospital here to set global benchmarks in healthcare delivery.

Lakeshore Hospital here will now be known as VPS Lakeshore.

Shamsheer Vayalil

Shamsheer Vayalil

VPS Healthcare has set aside Rs.1,000 crore, or about $200 million, for its expansion plans in India.

Announcing this, VPS Healthcare managing director Shamsheer Vayalil said the acquisition is part of the ambitious expansion plans VPS has chalked out for the subcontinent in the next five years.

“With the acquisition, VPS Lakeshore has become a part of our global healthcare mission and the new Rs 300 crore block would be open soon,” said Vayalil.

VPS is the largest private internationally accredited hospital network in the UAE.

In a span of less than a decade, with a combined business turnover of around $1 billion, VPS Healthcare has created a portfolio of 16 hospitals and network of over 100 medical centres in addition to ventures in pharmaceutical manufacturing and retail.

Lakeshore Hospital is a super specialty hospital and leader in health tourism.

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Ratan Tata inaugurates 351-bed hospital in Mathura

Feb 28, 2016 0

Mathura– Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata here on Sunday inaugurated a 351-bed hospital that aims to provide better medical services to the western part of Uttar Pradesh.

Nayati hospital will have several advance techniques including high end CT, MRI, Linear accelerator, for radiation treatment, advanced Cath labs and blood banks, among others.

According to the hospital authorities, Nayati healthcare aims to transform the medical facilities in other tier-II cities apart from Mathura.

Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

“The new hospital inaugurated today at Mathura will provide much needed medical help and health care facilities for the people of the region. It is heartening to see a full- fledged speciality hospital being established in Mathura with a considerable personal sacrifice, driven by passion and a genuine desire to serve the community,” said Ratan Tata on the occasion.

Among several departments, the hospital specialises in includes Oncology, Orthopedics, Neurosciences, Pulmonology, Gastrosciences and Nephrology.

“Our aim has been to reduce the physical, emotional and economic burden of illness that blights the life of ordinary people in Tier-II and Tier-III towns by taking the treatment to the patient,” said Niira Radia, chairperson of Nayati Healthcare.

She further said: “We understand that illness of an individual can profoundly impact the psychological and financial wellbeing of the entire family. We, at Nayati, have felt deeply the need to bring advanced technology and clinical expertise together, both of which we have chosen with utmost care.”

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