Monday, September 22, 2008

Big Pharma Drive

Unintended consequences brought about by a surge of legislation: The Cheaper Medicines Act that demeans the Generics Law, The Reproductive Health Bill under intense debate in plenary and heavy lobbying by the Church, and the prospective Senate Bill 2012, authored by Sen. Pia Cayetano, which seeks the mandatory vaccination of all infants after birth. This makes Big Pharma lick its chops and anticipate the events with great pleasure. Big Pharma sees a huge opportunity for disease mongering and for marketing the drugs in their inventory, marshalling their prime sales force, compliant doctors who expect the usual rewards. The invasion did not take long in coming.
The first wave was led by a cancer expert declaring that infants need to get anti-hepa B vaccination in a trite 3-step modus sting: scare with dread disease, seek medical help, treat with medication. According to a top honcho of the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS), there is a need to submit infants to anti-hepatitis B vaccination to minimize liver cancer, one of the three preventable types of cancer, that vaccinating infants is better than curing cancer because it is cheaper and it would assuage the burden on the family, and clinching his logic that there is an existing law requiring the vaccination of children but it has not been fully implemented. (Under Republic Act 7846 or the Hepatitis B Immunization Act, it is required for infants and children below eight years old to be vaccinated against the disease.)
The come on, “In government hospitals, it’s free.” Well, not really, since it’s paid for by taxpayer money. But Big Pharma is not squeamish about who pays as long as they get paid. The lament (perhaps because the rewards are puny) the first vaccination would go to waste if a child is not given two booster shots.
But even if the follow-up vaccinations can be acquired for free, PCS learned that many children are not brought back to hospital because of “lack of money for transportation fares.”
He maintained that the government can conduct immunization at the barangay level to reach more children.
Next, Tour of Hope: Biking enthusiasts will go on a tour for a cause from Vigan to Subic from Sept. 13 to Sept. 17 to raise awareness and funds for the prevention and control of cervical cancer in the Philippines. At the launching of “Tour of Hope”, the head of the Philippine General Hospital Cancer Institute gave an overview (read promo) of the cervical cancer situation in the Philippines. The Tour of Hope is co-sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline Philippines
The hype follows a familiar pattern. First the scare of dire disease, then the plug for treatment (or else) and lastly the drug for cure.
…“every eight minutes a Filipina dies of cancer. When a woman dies of cancer, you not only lose a mother, a wife, a sister, but one who may even be a breadwinner of the family. Although detectable through pap smear, the incidence and mortality rate of cervical cancer has remained unchanged for the past 30 years The reason for this, is two-thirds of the time, the woman is diagnosed very late when nothing can be done anymore.“
Finally, the plug for the healing drug (for prevention). Chronic exposure to the HPV leads to the development of cervical cancer. A vaginal examination and Pap Smear every 3 years by an OB-Gyn specialist may detect early stage of the cancer, which makes it curable. Late stages of the disease preclude total cure. A vaccine is now available, especially for children, both girls and boys, to prevent HPV infection and its transmission and spread when they become sexually active.

The Gardasil HPV Vaccine: Not the Shot in the Arm Merck Hoped for
by Judith Siers-Poisson

With the start of the school year, debate has heated up again about Gardasil, Merck's vaccine against human papillomavirus. Since writing my series of four articles on The Politics and PR of Cervical Cancer last year, I have continued to track the developments and have noticed some interesting trends. While Gardasil has not been the financial jackpot that Merck was hoping it would be, there is still a steady push for vaccination and even still for mandates. Even though it has not played out as positively as Merck planned, it is too early to turn our attention away from their efforts to sell their so-called "vaccine against cancer." Merck's obvious corporate steamrolling has generated a public backlash and has also faced general concerns about possible health risks from vaccinations, along with conservative opposition to the idea of government health mandates. These reactions slowed the company's money train but didn't bring it to a full stop.
The Politics and PR of Cervical Cancer: Resources

The Articles
Setting the Stage
Research, Develop, and Sell, Sell, Sell
Women in Government, Merck's Trojan Horse
Profit Knows No Borders, Selling Gardasil to the Rest of the World
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Recently, Safety in surgery drive kicks off

The Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS) convened the Philippine Alliance on Patient Safety in Surgery, to instill the culture of safe surgery in all Philippine hospitals, in tune with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “World Alliance for Patient Safety” which is intended to minimize deaths and complications resulting from operations, to “save lives through safe surgery.” The project begins with the distribution of a one-page checklist to all hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities across the country reminding them of what to check before, during and after surgery. The PCS-DOH agreement requires medical facilities to display the checklist in their operating rooms.
Worldwide, it is estimated that of the 230 million major surgeries performed annually, most of them are related to OB-gynecology cases. That’s a lot of babies entering this harsh world by caesarian section. So what is Big Pharma peddling in surgical procedures? Anesthesia? Painkillers? Anti-inflammatory drugs? Anti-histamines and –allergenics? Disinfectants for post-castration of randy clerics?

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