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Saturday, 18 February 2012

US healthcare IT firm Allscripts expanding India operations, set to hire 300 professionals

Major US healthcare IT firm Allscripts is expanding its India operations to deliver healthcare information solutions to hospitals and physicians for improving patient care. The company will hire about 300 development professionals this year at lateral, mid and entry levels to spur growth and enhance operational efficiency.
“We are expanding our solutions’ development centres in Bangalore, Pune and Baroda to create innovative solutions for healthcare professionals to improve patient care,” stated Cliff Meltze, vice president, Allscripts.
“Our game plan is to build a world-class solutions development organisation by focusing on right people, key solutions and best practices to deliver industry-leading solutions capabilities, performance and innovation,” Meltzer said.
By hosting key clients in India, the company wants healthcare experts to see first-hand how it develops solutions they use.
“We would like to hear directly from our clients how our solutions work in action to provide the best patient care,” stated Nitin Deshpande, president, Allscripts India operations.
According to Cancer Treatment Centres of America (CTCA), which treats patients for complex cancer disease at its facilities in Chicago, Philadelphia, Tulsa and Phoenix, Allscripts solutions provide access to a single patient record, ensuring up-to-date information and streamlining patient care.

Every House Has a Cancer Patient in This German Village

Media reports indicate that a village in Germany has baffled health experts as almost every household there has a resident suffering from cancer.
The Wewelsfleth village with a population of 1,500 has been dubbed the "village of the damned", said the Daily Mail.
Village mayor Ingo Karstens, who lost two wives to cancer, said: "It feels like a curse."
Researchers from the University of Lubeck investigated the phenomenon and found cases of breast, lung, oesophageal, womb and stomach cancer.
They could, however, find no cause for the deadly disease.
Residents have blamed three nearby nuclear power plants and a shipyard where vessels were reportedly sprayed with toxic paint. Villagers say wind and rain blew in cancer-causing particles from those place into their homes.
Experts have probed the nuclear plants, the shipyard, asbestos sheeting used on roofs, electro-smog from power lines and the lifestyle of the cancer patients.

You can Now Play the Famous Angry Birds Game on Facebook

The famous Angry Birds game is now available as a free version on social network Facebook.
In the game, players use catapults to fire infuriated birds at pigs hiding inside buildings made of planks.The Facebook game, however, allows users to pay for extra birds and other in-game extras.
The website game is similar to the iPhone app. The only difference is players have to use a mouse to sling birds across the game's landscapes rather than a finger, the Daily Mail reported.
Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer of game-making company Rovio, said he hoped up to 40 percent of Facebook users would pay for in-game extras.
Rovio has never spent any money on advertising or marketing Angry Birds, the report said.
It had made 50 failed games before Angry Birds. The company also sells a million Angry Birds toys and a same number of T-shirts every month.

Stress, Nuclear Families Seriously Affecting Indian Youth Say Experts

Two youngsters killed themselves in West Bengal and another slashed his ex-lover on Valentine's Day and psychologists said on Wednesday stress, nuclear families and lack of communication with parents were affecting young adults."Actually, most of the families are nuclear families with both the parents working, so there is a tendency among the teenage boys and girls to cling to someone. And if they are rejected, then they opt for the extreme step," said Shika Dey, a consultant psychologist.
Dey added that teenagers were unable to share their emotions with their parents and were over-impulsive, which in turn makes them unable to control their frustration.
Valentine's Day was marred by incidents of violence in the state Tuesday.
Distressed over a failed relationship, a 22-year-old girl committed suicide by jumping on to the railway tracks from a bridge at Howrah station.
A 28-year-old spurned lover here tried to scar his 19-year-old former girlfriend's face with a blade, but she escaped with a slashed arm.
In the third incident, a girl studying in Class 10 in Murshidabad district consumed poison after her father snatched away her mobile phone as she was having an affair with one of her class mates.
"The emotional bondage between parents and kids has decreased to a large extent. There is a communication gap between them. So, the kids are unable to understand that the parents can never do any harm to their offspring," psychologist Dola Majumdar said.
Another city doctor blamed the "unnecessary hype" over Valentine's Day.
"Most of the time, teenagers want to do something which is remarkable and out of the book. This tendency is leading them to do negative things," said Suvarna Sen.

Laser Light Technology to Treat Prostate, Pancreatic Cancer

Lund University scientists are in the process of using laser light technology in combination with certain drugs to treat prostate and pancreatic cancer."I think we are about to see a real breakthrough, both for us and for other research groups around the world who conduct research on cancer treatment using laser light", says Johannes Swartling, Doctor of Atomic Physics at Lund University and Chief Technical Officer at SpectraCure, the company that is now developing the software.
The software's unique feature is that it uses the optical fibres for more than simply emitting light. Intermittently they also gather information about the tumour, which they send back to the laser instrument.
"In this way, the software can continually calculate the optimal light dose and adjust it if necessary. The entire tumour must be removed, while damage to adjacent organs must be avoided", says Johannes Swartling.
According to the researchers, the software could also be used with other light therapies that use LEDs or infra-red lasers.
Tests on prostate cancer patients in Sweden have shown that the method also works for internal tumours, and in the spring a clinical study on recurrent prostate cancer will begin in the US and Canada. An application for approval to carry out the study is pending. Meanwhile, the same laser light technology is being tested in the UK on pancreatic cancer.
"The advantage of laser light is that it appears that side effects can be minimised. With current treatment methods, prostate cancer patients who are cured risk both impotence and incontinence."
In addition, traditional treatments entail a risk of cancer recurrence, says Johannes Swartling.
The international tests focus on adjusting dosage, guaranteeing safety and ensuring the effectiveness of treatment. If everything goes smoothly, SpectraCure hopes the method will be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and Health Canada within a few years.
"This really could be revolutionary", says Sune Svanberg, Professor of Laser Physics at Lund University and one of the researchers behind the technology.
"The new technology has great potential to help certain patient groups, for whom current treatment methods have major limitations", says Professor Dr Katarina Svanberg, Department of Oncology, Lund University, who has been involved in the medical side of the development of the method.
How photodynamic therapy works Before the procedure, the patient is given a light-activated drug, which has no effect without light. The drug spreads throughout the body, including to the area of the tumour. The patient then receives a local or general anaesthetic and the doctor inserts needles with optical fibres into the area affected. These channel light into the cancer tumour. When the light comes into contact with the light-activated drug, it reacts with the surrounding oxygen, causing the cells in the target area to die. The hardware and software are based on patents developed by atomic physicists in Lund, led by Sune Svanberg and Stefan Andersson-Engels. The idea was to allow the same optical fibres used for treatment to be used for diagnostic measurements that make it possible to calculate the light dose required. The method was soon seen to be practicable and has been developed over the years, now by SpectraCure. The implementation has been carried out by programmers.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Aspirin can beat cancer spread

Aspirin and other household drugs may inhibit the spread of cancer because they help shut down the chemical 'highways' which feed tumours, Australian researchers announced on Tuesday.
Scientists at Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre said they have made a biological breakthrough helping explain how lymphatic vessels - key to the transmission of tumours throughout the body - respond to cancer."We've shown that molecules like the aspirin... could effectively work by reducing the dilation of these major vessels and thereby reducing the capacity of tumours to spread to distant sites," researcher Steven Stacker said.
Doctors have long suspected that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin may help inhibit the spread of cancer but they have been unable to pinpoint exactly how this is done.
By studying cells in lymphatic vessels, the researchers found that a particular gene changed its expression in cancers which spread, but not when the cancer did not spread.
The results published in Cancer Cell journal reveal that the gene is a link between a tumour's growth and the cellular pathway which can cause inflammation and dilation of vessels throughout the body.
Once these lymphatic vessels widen, the capacity for them to act as 'supply lines' to tumours and become more effective conduits for cancer to spread is increased.
But aspirin acts to shut down the dilation of the vessels. "So it seems like we have found a pivotal junction point in a biochemical sense between all these different contributors," Stacker said.
The discovery could lead to new and improved drugs which could help contain many solid tumours, including breast and prostate cancer, as well as potentially provide an 'early warning system" before a tumour begins to spread.
Last year, a study published in medical journal The Lancet found that rates of cancer of the colon, prostate, lung, brain and throat were all reduced by daily aspirin use.

Ayush Dept plans Pan-India roll-out of telemedicine hubs to extend tertiary treatment in ISM

The Department of Ayush is planning to expand the ongoing pilot projects of telemedicine services to more states and is targeting to set up one lakh nodes in the next five years to take the benefits of tertiary healthcare in the Indian systems of medicine (ISM) to the remote villages in the country.
Currently the project is being implemented at select places in Tripura and Bihar. Department has received such proposals from states like J&K, Punjab, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. The department is planning a mega roll-out across the country under the 'Ayush and Public Health Scheme', sources said.
“Considering the huge utility of telemedicine facilities for rural and remote populations, particularly where even basic public health infrastructure does not exist, it is proposed to introduce Ayush telemedicine nationwide during the 12th plan for covering the remote areas of the country including north east and hilly states,” sources said.
Department of Ayush with the intention of increasing the outreach of Ayush services facilitated a pilot project of Tele-Homoeopathy in Tripura to provide health care through 10 centres coordinated by the State Homoeopathic Hospital, Agarthala. There being no enabling provision in any of the 11th Plan Schemes to support such a project, the financial support was provided by the National Institute of Homoeopathy, Kolkata from its own funds.
Another such telemedicine project is being run in Bihar state where the patients with eye diseases are provided ayurvedic treatment. The project is undertaken through CCRAS for the advantage of patients that any time of the day they can walk into the kiosk, take consultation on video with a doctor sitting either in the PHC or Hospital.
This project is going on for the last one and a half years and found to be viable and successful. The project was selected for ‘Scindia Award’ given by Telecom Ministry and recently conferred with e-World 2011 Jury Choice Award under the Best Public Private Partnership initiative category jointly instituted by the Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), Ministry of Communication & Information Technology, and Department of Telecom, sources said.

Sleeplessness Tied to Early Alzheimer's, Study Says

Poor-quality sleep may have worse effects than simple fatigue: A preliminary new study suggests it's linked to the buildup of brain plaques seen in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis monitored the sleep patterns of 100 mentally healthy people between the ages of 45 and 80 -- half of whom had a family history of Alzheimer's disease -- and found that those who awakened more than five times an hour were more likely to have amyloid plaque accumulations than those with fewer sleep disturbances.
Amyloid protein plaques are a trait of Alzheimer's, a condition affecting at least 5.4 million Americans that robs patients of memory and reasoning skills. These characteristics, detectable with brain scans and spinal fluid tests, can appear years before Alzheimer's symptoms begin.
"We were initially looking at duration of sleep, but it seems the quality of sleep is more important to this association," said study author Dr. Yo-El Ju, an assistant professor of neurology. "We don't know if early Alzheimer's is causing poor sleep, or vice-versa.
"It's possible that there's some change in brain activity going on during sleep that allows soluble amyloid to decrease overnight," Ju added, "but we need to study this much more closely."
Preliminary results from the study were released Feb. 14 in advance of their presentation at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in April in New Orleans.
For two weeks, study participants wore a device on their wrists that determined whether they were awake or asleep depending on body movements. They also filled out sleep diaries and questionnaires, and underwent brain imaging and spinal fluid tests.
Testing showed that 25 percent had preclinical indicators for Alzheimer's disease, and researchers found that those who slept "less efficiently" were more likely to have the indicators for early-stage Alzheimer's than those with uninterrupted sleep. While the average time spent in bed was about eight hours, the average sleep time was 6.5 hours because of brief awakenings in the night. Those who spent less than 85 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping were more likely to have Alzheimer's traits, or biomarkers.
Because the study, which should be completed in several months, is still under way, Ju said it isn't yet known whether participants with a family history of Alzheimer's are more likely to suffer from disturbed sleep or show biological indicators of the condition.
"Results are very promising, but it's very important to follow the people who don't have any type of early Alzheimer's because that's the only way we'll know what comes first," disturbed sleep or Alzheimer's biomarkers, she said. Because while the study uncovered an association between poor sleep and plaque formation, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
Dr. Daniel Potts, a partner at Alabama Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Tuscaloosa, said he suspects that chronic poor-quality sleep will eventually be proven to contribute to amyloid plaque formation.
If that cause-effect relationship is established, scientists may be able to "tailor an intervention" to improve sleep for those affected, Potts said.
"That's my hunch. It makes sense to me," said Potts, also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Neurology. "The best possible thing we could get out of this would be that we could do something about it. But there's not enough data to step out and say [for certain] at this point."
Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
More information:The Alzheimer's Association has more information about amyloid protein plaques.

Research Suggests Red Wine Alone may Not be the Elixir of Life

In high doses resveratrol may increase longevity of life and reduce metabolic diseases of aging, previous research has demonstrated. The former is a constituent of red wine and other vegetable products.But, a new study in mice has argued that crediting only resveratrol for a specific effect on health could be misleading.
More than two decades ago, particularly through publicity related to the so-called "French Paradox," the public became aware of the potential reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease from the moderate consumption of red wine, and the media focused on a single constituent in red wine, resveratrol, as being the "key" factor.
Even though it is known that resveratrol is only one of hundreds of phenolic compounds in wine, many of which have been shown to have beneficial effects on vascular function, and that alcohol itself (present in wine, beer or spirits) also provides considerable protection against heart disease. Still, there has remained considerable attention paid to resveratrol, and extensive scientific research on resveratrol and related substances have shown that, in high doses, they may increase longevity of life and reduce metabolic diseases of aging.
In general, reviewers thought that this was a very well-done study. Their concerns related to the dose used in these experiments; while the levels of resveratrol and like compounds might be accessible with pharmaceutical doses, the suggestion that similar levels could be connected with wine consumption is misleading.
Further, in humans, resveratrol in the diet will interact with many other chemicals to achieve an effect, as whole plant extracts consist of many active and inactive micronutrients that may play a role in health and disease.
To ascribe a specific effect on health from one chemical found in wine or other plant products could be misleading.
Still, the reviewers believed that this paper was an important contribution to our knowledge about the mechanisms by which resveratrol and other chemicals may play a role in cardiovascular and other diseases.
Such knowledge could help develop approaches for the prevention and treatment of human disease and for increasing the longevity of a healthy life.

Fresh Food and Less Sodium Keeps Your Heart Healthy

An expert has stressed the need for eating fresh foods and reducing the sodium intake in order to keep ones heart healthy.
A healthy diet sustains us, but a poor diet can lead to increased blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and weight and put you at heart disease risk.According to Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health and president-elect of the American Heart Association, diet is only 'one component of the overall cause of heart disease.'
But, Arnett asserted that it can exert a strong influence.
Sodium also is considered the culprit for the one in three Americans who develop high blood pressure. Sodium attracts water into your cells; the increased fluid raises your blood pressure and subsequently raises your risk of stroke and heart attack, heart failure and death, Arnett says.
Race also plays a role in risk. UAB researchers recently examined the effects of sodium intake by race using data from the ongoing Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke and found a stronger association with death in black participants than whites, says Suzanne Judd, assistant professor of biostatistics at UAB and the study's lead author.
Blacks with the highest sodium intake (average of 2,600 mg/day) had a 62 percent increased risk of dying, while whites had no increased risk, she said.
"This supports the AHA recommendation that there may need to be race-specific sodium guidelines, but everyone should reduce their sodium intake," Judd says.
The AHA has an aggressive sodium goal of 1,500 mg per day for everyone.
First, Arnett said, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat daily, especially the leafy kind.
"This provides more potassium, which is associated with lower blood pressure," Arnett said.
"Fresh is the best source for fruits and vegetables, but canned versions can provide nutrition."
The primary drawback to canned and frozen foods is added sodium.
But Arnett offers a solution: "Rinse these foods before cooking to help reduce sodium. Once rinsed, I think they are a great option for people on the go."
Fish also is on Arnett's list of better food choices.
"You should eat fish twice per week; fish are sources of the good fats associated with reduced risk of heart disease," said Arnett.
When preparing your food, limit saturated fats such as those in butter, hard cheeses and red meats.
"Avoid trans fats because they raise your bad cholesterol levels. So read food labels and look for partially hydrogenated oils, which is another name for trans fats," Arnett says.
Fats considered to be suitable for low consumption - avocados, nuts, olives and olive oil - are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce the cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart disease.
A big calorie-causing culprit is sodas and sports and energy drinks, Arnett says.
"The hidden sugars in these beverages are a common cause of weight gain among young people. Limiting yourself to two 12 oz. cans per week to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes," Arnett added.

“The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards ” by William J. Broad

Yoga is as ancient as Sanskrit and as American as Walden Pond — Thoreau proclaimed “even I am a yogi” in 1849. Modern yoga is as rooted in the nation’s capital as Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, where the marvelously named philanthropist Mildred Bliss performed yoga postures in her famous garden, guided by a personal trainer imported from Austria in the 1930s. Today images of yoga bodies are as mainstream, and as annoying, as the parking tickets illustrated with “calming” poses issued last year in Cambridge, Mass., as part of a public art project.
But what is yoga? Almost all definitions mention the practice of a combination of physical poses, breathing, and mental exercises of South Asian origins, intended to achieve liberation from suffering. William J. Broad begins his new book, “The Science of Yoga,” with the assumption that readers know and agree that yoga is primarily a form of exercise. “Our own” yoga, as opposed to “old yoga,” involves “bending, stretching, and deep breathing” learned in classes at gyms, health clubs, studios and spas. No more nuanced definition appears at any point in this entertaining but haphazard tour through select scenes from the past century-and-a-half of investigations into yoga’s alleged powers — healing, sexual, magical and supernatural.Within a loose weave of chronology and theme, the book traces a contemporary odyssey, a journey East and into the past. It’s a wisdom quest with a twist. Instead of conducting a classic search for spiritual enlightenment, this seeker sets out on a fact-finding, myth-busting mission “to track down the best science” and answer questions accumulated over 40 years as a “knowledgeable amateur” yogi. Traveling to archives, ashrams, libraries and laboratories in the United States and India, he meets with dozens of researchers, doctors, scholars and practitioners, and surveys texts ranging from crumbling 19th-century treatises to online catalogues of 21st-century clinical trials.
An award-winning science journalist at the New York Times, Broad is at his best when he provides straightforward summaries of contemporary biomedical research and sketches of researchers in action. Noting that the National Institutes of Health have funded yoga research since 1998, he frequently cites their PubMed electronic database of 1,000 papers, with 100 new reports published each year.
Some of the studies show that yoga “works remarkably well” to lower cardiovascular risk factors; it “can reduce stress, the heart rate, and blood pressure, helping to boost immunity and prevent diseases” and, according to one study, has implications for “increases in life span.” A section of the book on Dr. Loren Fishman shows integrated medicine in action: The former student of B.K.S. Iyengar leads classes for patients, conducts research and writes on yoga’s role in treating back pain, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and osteoporosis.
There’s a great deal of science woven into Broad’s narrative, and the anecdotes he strings together are fascinating. They range from descriptions of Indian and Hungarian investigations of yogis who claimed they could survive being buried alive to the recent use of MRIs to map what “Sex and the City” called “yogasms.” But there’s a tendency here to pile on details indiscriminately: In the chapter titled “Moods,” readers need less information about what Harvard Medical School researcher Sat Bir Khalsa ate for dessert, and more on his work on how yoga can promote sleep and ease performance anxiety.
The more serious problem also is a matter of proportion. At the big-picture level, Broad loses his footing. His de facto definitions of both yoga and science are too narrow for the complexity of his subject. He announces early on that he will not explore “meditation and mindfulness, liberation and enlightenment,” leaves the brain science of meditation for others, ignores Ayurvedic medicine, and does not analyze the complex historic relationship between science and yoga in colonial and postcolonial India. Instead of looking at yoga as a mass-culture phenomenon, he takes easy shots at its commercialization. For an introduction to the other contemporary yoga boom, readers must look elsewhere — to interdisciplinary research in the social sciences, religious studies, and social history of the embodied practice of modern yoga, such as Elizabeth de Michelis’s work on yoga as a secular healing ritual and the illuminating insights of Joseph Alter, Mark Singleton and other emerging scholar-practitioners.
Other omissions and errors detract from a book that in places is as compelling as a good mystery, even if it’s not, as the author claims, the first book to offer an “impartial evaluation” of yoga. Broad’s chapter-length warning of the potential risks of yoga-induced injuries is valuable, but flawed by its reliance on only a handful of case studies over the past 40 years and its lack of comparative risk data.
Like yoga, the fable of the blind man and the elephant originated in India. Science may be the central nervous system of modern yoga — or one way to attempt to locate, analyze and describe it — but it’s not the whole beast. This rambling, time-traveling book is not the comprehensive, balanced account of the science of yoga that we need. But it’s a start.
Source:Washington Post

Pregnant Women Owning a Dog Have Better Exercise

Scientists say walking a dog, a low-risk exercise, could form part of a broader strategy to improve the health of pregnant women.
The study of more than 11,000 pregnant women, in partnership with Mars Petcare, showed that those who owned dogs were approximately 50% more likely to achieve the recommended 30 minutes of exercise a day through high levels of brisk walking than those without dogs.
Previous studies have shown that maternal obesity and large weight gain during pregnancy has adverse outcomes for mother and child. Studies show, for example, that obesity in pregnant women can result in difficult births and may also have implications for future obesity in the child. As a result, pregnant women, and those contemplating pregnancy, are advised to contact health professionals to manage their weight and exercise.
Recommended exercise during pregnancy includes walking, hiking, jogging and swimming, but many women prefer walking as their primary means of exercise. In the first study to investigate whether dog walking could help promote exercise in pregnant women, researchers anticipate the findings could be of value to health experts who offer advice on maintaining general fitness and healthy eating habits during pregnancy.
Dr Carri Westgarth, from the University's Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: "Although the higher physical activity levels of adult dog owners has already been demonstrated in the US and Australia, this is the first study of its kind to examine whether the effects also apply to pregnant women.. By not managing their weight and exercise, pregnant women risk unnecessary weight gain, as well as a difficult labour or weight problems for the child in later life.
"We found that owning one or more dogs was associated with pregnant women taking part in brisk walking on a regular basis, helping them to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of activity a week. Findings suggest that ownership of a dog provides some motivation to go for a walk, even during pregnancy.
"Dog walking alone cannot reduce the numbers of obese pregnant women, however, and we found no association between the weight of women with dogs compared to those without them. We also found that some pregnant women with dogs didn't go out walking. This means that we need to look at how promotion of dog walking could be integrated into a wider strategy, which includes advice on healthy eating, to encourage exercise during pregnancy and reduce weight gain.
"We now need to investigate why some people do not take up the health enhancing opportunity to walk their dogs regularly, and what barriers and motivators there are to walking. We also need to find out how factors such as the type of dog many affect the intensity of physical activity; for example whether owners with large dogs walk more briskly, compared to owners with small dogs. This will help us identify the advice health professionals could recommend to pregnant women for dog walking activity."
Dr Sandra McCune, Research Programme Manager at Mars Petcare, said: "Mars Petcare at WALTHAM® Centre for Pet Nutrition undertake a variety of research into benefits of pet ownership. We believe that owning a pet, and taking care of it properly, is hugely positive for the mental and physical wellbeing of the owner. This research shows that dog walking can form part of a healthy lifestyle for pregnant women, who may otherwise find it difficult to meet their exercise objectives."

Women living with HIV can continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy: WHO

On the advice of Guidelines Review Committee of World Health Organisation (WHO), it has concluded that women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV can safely continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy. The recommendation follows a thorough review of evidence about links between hormonal contraceptive use and HIV acquisition.
Current WHO recommendations in the Medical eligibility criteria for contraceptive use (2009 edition) therefore remain: there are no restrictions on the use of any hormonal contraceptive method for women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV. Couples seeking to prevent both unintended pregnancy and HIV should be strongly advised to use dual protection – condoms and another effective contraceptive method, such as hormonal contraceptives.
A study published in Lancet Infectious Diseases in October 2011 suggested that hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill or injectable contraceptives, may increase a woman's risk of HIV infection. It also found that women living with HIV and using hormonal contraception may be more likely to transmit the virus to their partner than women who did not use hormonal contraception.
WHO convened a technical consultation from 31 January – 1 February 2012 to review findings from all recent epidemiological studies on the issue. The meeting brought together 75 experts from 18 countries to review existing WHO recommendations in the light of these findings.
The experts recommended that women living with HIV, or at high risk of HIV, continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, but emphasized the need to also use condoms to prevent HIV acquisition and transmission. They also stressed the need for further research on the issue and the importance of offering a wider choice of contraceptive options.
On 15 February 2012 WHO's Guidelines Review Committee upheld the recommendations. The Guidelines Review Committee is the body responsible for ensuring that all WHO recommendations are based on the best available scientific evidence and have been developed in a transparent, unbiased and clearly reported manner.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Microchip successfully delivers bone-loss drug: study

A microchip inserted under the skin has been shown for the first time to successfully deliver a bone-loss drug to a small sample of women, according to US-led research published Thursday.
The device may someday allow patients to avoid daily injections of medication and permit doctors to adjust their doses from afar, said the study which appears in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"We hope this really is the dawn of a whole new way of thinking about delivering medications," said co-author Robert Langer, a professor of cancer research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Langer and colleagues presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada. Langer addressed the conference by phone.
The device is about the size of a pacemaker, or a computer flash stick, and contains daily doses of medication inside small wells that open up either on a predetermined schedule, or when the chip is given a wireless signal to release the drugs.
Each well is covered by a nano-thin layer of gold which protects the drug and prevents it from being released.
The wireless signal causes the gold to dissolve and allows the drug to enter the bloodstream.
In this case, researchers tested the device on seven women aged 65-70 in Denmark who were prescribed the drug teriparatide for osteoporosis. The microchip was implanted just below their waistlines.
After tracking the women for 12 months, researchers found that the treatment improved bone formation and reduced the risk of bone fracture, and delivered the drug just as effectively as daily injections.
However, the same issues that raised concerns in animal studies were also observed in the women: the formation of fibrous collagen-based tissue around the microchip.
The presence of the tissue had raised concerns among researchers over its potential to interrupt drug delivery, though no such problems were observed in the one-year study, after which the women had the chips removed.
Lead author Robert Farra, president and chief operating officer at MicroCHIPS, which was founded by some of the researchers and licensed the microchip technology from MIT, said the device is best suited for potent drugs needed in small but regular doses.
"For the 200 million people worldwide with osteoporosis, and for patients with many other diseases, taking a daily injection is not an appealing way to take every day for a chronic disease that you may face for the rest of your life."
No adverse events were observed in the patients in the study, though one had a device implanted that malfunctioned and did not release the drugs. Farra told reporters that diagnostic changes have been made to prevent such problems in the future.
He added that the cost was likely to be $10,000-$12,000 per year, comparable to the current costs of administering the osteoporosis drug that the team tested.
Scientists plan to continue studies on the microchip delivery system in heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer and chronic pain. The device is likely about five years away from potential market approval, the authors said.
The technology was first envisioned about 15 years ago, and according to an accompanying editorial in the journal by John Watson, a professor of bioengineering at the University of California, many questions still remain.
Among them, how reliable and durable the chip may be over time, and how it may be adapted to other diseases -- a process he likened to a meandering path with many sharp turns.
"For Farra, Langer, and colleagues, the 'hairpin' road to the clinic might be long and winding, but a versatile implantable device that exploits the microchip approach for controlled drug delivery will be well worth the wait for patients with chronic diseases," Watson wrote.

Scotland looking at developing close ties with Indian life sciences sector

Scottish Development International (SDI), a joint venture between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise is looking at developing closer ties with India to attract prospective investors from the life sciences sector to invest in Scotland. SDI expressed interest in initiating strong working relation with the Indian companies by providing incentives for those who are interested in exploring business ventures within Scotland.
To establish their presence more effectively in the country, SDI also launched Scottish business network in India so that through this they can sensitise both the Indian government and the industry about the investment opportunities in Scotland.
Anne MacColl, CEO, SDI pointed out, “Our main focus is to contribute to the growth of the Scottish economy, by encouraging inward investment and helping Scottish-based companies develop international trade. We want the Indian companies to know that Scotland has a lot opportunities in the area of research and development that will interest them in doing business with us. Scotland has a conducive and market friendly business environment for those who are interested in investing in the country at low risk. Most importantly operational cost relating to conducting business in the Scotland is also very less compared to others.”
At present, SDI has two offices in India i.e. Delhi and Mumbai respectively, representatives from SDI informed that since they are looking at growing their presence in the Indian sub continent this year, they may expand their base in India further. MacColl informed that it is high time to concentrate on the Indian companies as their presence in Scotland has been growing at 8 per cent over the past 12 years.
“We are sure that by investing in Scotland, Indian companies will be able to capitalise on the huge R&D talent pool that Scotland has. Most importantly, we can help companies to benefit from the business and research opportunities available in Scotland and provide them with information on our wide range of investor support services, including access to training, grants and funding. Since we have strong collaborations with the Scottish government, universities, Scottish industry, respectable financial funding corporations, training and research institutes etc..,” MacColl said.
It is interesting to know that there are many other incentives as well that the government is providing for the foreign companies so as to capitalise on each others needs. The representatives from the SDI pointed out that the business environment in Scotland is the best as it has a pool of skilled work force who are highly qualified and the best in their field.
It is important to note that five universities from Scotland are in the top 200 global universities in the world, which shows the countries commitment to R&D. Last year 22 per cent of UK's R&D initiatives came in through Scotland.

Many Breakfast Cereals Contain High Amount of Sugar

A British consumer watchdog has hit out against cereal manufacturers claiming that the amount of sugar contained in the products is high enough to store them alongside chocolate biscuits in the market shelves.Which? magazine found that 12 of the 14 popular brands of cereals available in the market contained very high levels of sugar. Kellogg’s Frosties was found to be the worst offender with 37 percent sugar while supermarket chocolate rice cereals came a close second. Around 50 brands of cereals were tested by Which? with over 32 brands containing high levels of sugar.
Stating that manufacturers and retailers should be doing more to provide healthier options, Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said, “Parents will be particularly surprised by the fact that the majority of children’s cereals contain so much sugar. More action is needed by retailers and manufacturers to provide a wider choice of healthier cereals.”

Popular Lipstick Brands Contain Lead in Trace Amounts

A recent report released by the US Food and Drug Administration has revealed that some of the most popular brands of lipstick contain trace amounts of lead.According to the report, more than 400 shades of lipstick were tested positive for the presence of lead. Five of the lipstick shades manufactured by L’Oreal and Maybelline belonged in the top 10 list of most contaminated of the cosmetics while two Cover Girl, two NARS and another lipstick manufactured by Stargazer were also in the list.
Even as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics continues to urge the government to limit the use of lead in cosmetics, the FDA said that the amounts of lead present in the cosmetics posed no danger to the consumers.
“Lipstick, as a product intended for topical use with limited absorption, is ingested only in very small quantities. Our results do not show levels of lead in lipstick that would pose a safety concern. The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities”, the agency said in a statement published on its website.

Varenicline to Curb Drinking

Varenicline, sold as Chantix - commonly used as a smoking cessation medication ups the negative effects of alcohol and holds promise as a treatment for alcoholism, shows study.A group of heavy-to-moderate social drinkers given a single dose varenicline three hours before an alcoholic beverage reported increased dysphoria and reduced "liking," even when researchers controlled for the effects of nausea from the drug. Those effects upon the subjective response to alcohol could reduce drinking in people prone to bingeing and other forms of abuse.
"We found that varenicline increased the unpleasant effects of alcohol and decreased drug liking," said Emma Childs, PhD, research associate at the University of Chicago Medicine and first author of the study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. "Thus, we think that varenicline may reduce drinking by altering the effects of alcohol."
Some patients prescribed Chantix to quit smoking have anecdotally reported a reduction in consumption of alcohol as well, and controlled studies in animals and humans have supported the effect. Researchers are now looking for neurobiological mechanisms that connect varenicline, a partial agonist of the brain's nicotinic receptors, with reduced alcohol craving or consumption.
"Smokers who use varenicline are approximately two to three times more likely to remain abstinent six months or more after their quit date," said Childs. "After it was approved, several patients treated with varenicline also reported reductions in their drinking, so investigators began to assess if this was an actual effect and how it might be produced."
The new experiment is the first to look at the acute effects of a single dose of varenicline on the subjective response to a subsequent alcoholic drink. Subjects were recruited based on heavy drinking behavior, not smoking behavior – though the recruits did smoke 4 cigarettes a day on average.
15 subjects (8 men and 7 women) were brought to the laboratory for six different sessions. On each day, the subject received either a varenicline or placebo capsule, and then three hours later was given a drink containing 0, 0.4, or 0.8 mg/kg alcohol. Researchers monitored the effects of the drink on cardiovascular and eye movement measures, and subjects filled out questionnaires to report the subjective effects of the drink.
Compared to sessions where the subjects received a placebo pill, varenicline increased nausea, heart rate, blood pressure. After an alcoholic drink, self-reported dysphoria was increased while alcohol effects on subconscious eye movements (a measure of the drugs' objective effects) were reduced. Even after controlling for the effect of nausea upon the subsequent response to a drink, the increased dysphoria and reduced "drug liking" after drinking alcohol remained significant.
By increasing the negative effects of alcohol, varenicline might be most effective in people who are unable to stop consuming alcohol after only one drink, Childs said.
"Our findings shed light on the mechanism underlying why people consume less alcohol when they have taken varenicline," said Childs. "The pleasurable effects of alcohol, for example feeling 'buzzed' and talkative, are associated with greater consumption and binge drinking. Some people lose control of their alcohol consumption during a drinking episode, for example they may aim to only have one or two drinks but end up drinking say four or five. If varenicline counteracts these positive effects by producing unpleasant effects, then as a result people may consume less alcohol during a drinking episode."
The authors cautioned that their study only examined the acute effect of a single dose of varenicline, rather than the sustained exposure experienced with regular use of the drug. But because the effectiveness of varenicline has already been proven as a smoking cessation drug, the unanticipated effects on drinking may make people struggling with both behaviors a logical first target.
"Varenicline may find a nice niche in those individuals who are both nicotine and alcohol dependent, who we know represent a large portion of alcohol-dependent individuals," added Hugh Myrick, associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina, who was not involved in the study. "Since there is a high comorbidity between nicotine and alcohol dependence, a single medication that could decrease the use of both substances would be ideal."

Curcumin as a Possible Drug Candidate to Combat Alzheimer's

Curcumin prolongs life and enhances activity of fruit flies with Alzheimer's, reveals study. The study conducted at Linköping University, indicates that it is the initial stages of fibril formation and fragments of the amyloid fibrils that are most toxic to neurons.
Ina Caesar, as the lead author, has published the results of the study in the prestigious journal PLoS One.
For several years curcumin has been studied as a possible drug candidate to combat Alzheimer's disease, which is characterized by the accumulation of sticky amyloid-beta and Tau protein fibres. Linköping researchers wanted to investigate how the substance affected transgenic fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), which developed evident Alzheimer's symptoms. The fruit fly is increasingly used as a model for neurodegenerative diseases.
Five groups of diseased flies with different genetic manipulations were administered curcumin. They lived up to 75 % longer and maintained their mobility longer than the sick flies that did not receive the substance.
However, the scientists saw no decrease of amyloid in the brain or eyes. Curcumin did not dissolve the amyloid plaque; on the contrary it accelerated the formation of fibres by reducing the amount of their precursor forms, known as oligomers.
–The results confirm our belief that it is the oligomers that are most harmful to the nerve cells, says Professor Per Hammarstrom, who led the study.
–We now see that small molecules in an animal model can influence the amyloid form. To our knowledge the encapsulation of oligomers is a new and exciting treatment strategy.
Several theories have been established about how oligomers can instigate the disease process. According to one hypothesis, they become trapped at synapses, inhibiting nerve impulse signals. Others claim that they cause cell death by puncturing the cell membrane.
Curcumin is extracted from the root of herbaceous plant turmeric and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. More recently, it has been tested against pain, thrombosis and cancer.

Union govt draws up roadmap to promote ISM through NRHM

The central government has drawn up an ambitious roadmap to promote Indian Systems of Medicine (ISM) like Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and therapies such as yoga and naturopathy through the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
With yoga and naturopathy gaining worldwide acceptance, the government is now gearing up to address health issues across the population through these systems of medicine, stated S Gandhiselvan, minister of state for health and family welfare.
“It is a foregone conclusion that yoga and naturopathy can prevent and cure various forms of ailments. In the last three decades, Yoga, in particular, has become popular all over the world as an effective disease management strategy. The government has decided to give special impetus to Yoga and Naturopathy so that the objectives of NRHM are met through the ISM,” he stated at the ‘Arogya Expo 2012’ and the ‘International Conference on Yoga and Naturopathy’ (ICYN) Bengaluru held here from February 9-13.
The broad policy support extended to the development of Ayush systems of medicine has ensured the organized development of all these six systems of healthcare based on their individual merits and strengths.
The launch of NRHM has been significant for Ayush systems, as one of its objectives was to promote the effective provision of the healthcare to the masses. Under NRHM, AYUSH doctors and facilities are being introduced in primary health centres and community health centres throughout the country. The availability of AYUSH facilities in PHCs and CHCs would ensure that the entire range of medical facilities would be available to the public and to the poor in particular. The main streaming of AYUSH in the healthcare system will have a significant impact on the health status of the people, stated the minister.
“The NRHM is significant for ISM, as it is capable of meeting the objectives of India’s health requirements. The government intends to introduce ISM at the primary health centres and community health centres all over the country shortly. Yoga and naturopathy have been accepted for effective disease management because of their unique and holistic healing approaches. It is time we also took advantages of the same by introducing them through public health system,” the minister added.
He pointed out that there were 6 lakh practitioners of ISM and homoeopathy in the country. However, that number was still insufficient to address the health issues plaguing the country.
“The government is evolving a broad policy to promote ISM and Ayush colleges. At present, there are 488 Ayush colleges in the country. But the quality of education is a concern. We will make suitable suggestions after consulting experts in the field to improve the quality of education,” he explained.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Cold Water Baths Reduce Muscle Soreness: Study

Bathing in cold water after exercise is an excellent way to reduce muscle soreness, shows review published in The Cochrane Library.Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is associated with stiffness, swelling and soreness a day or more after exercise. One increasingly popular method that both elite and amateur athletes use to try to prevent or reduce soreness is immersing themselves in cold water or ice baths. The claim is that this cold water immersion technique, sometimes referred to as cryotherapy, reduces muscle inflammation and its ensuing effects. The researchers wanted to assess the strength of clinical evidence about how well it works, and whether there is any evidence of harm.
The authors included 17 small trials involving 366 people in their review. Participants were asked to get into a bath or container of cold water after running, cycling or resistance training. In most trials, participants spent five to 24 minutes in water that was between 10ºC and 15ºC, although in some cases lower temperatures were used or participants were asked to get in and out of the water at set times. In the studies that compared cold water immersion to resting or no intervention, there was a significant reduction in soreness one to four days after exercise. However, few studies compared cold water immersion to other interventions.
"We found some evidence that immersing yourself in cold water after exercise can reduce muscle soreness, but only compared to resting or doing nothing. Some caution around these results is advisable because the people taking part in the trials would have known which treatment they received, and some of the reported benefits may be due to a placebo response," said the lead author of the study, Chris Bleakley of the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences department at the University of Ulster in Country Antrim, Northern Ireland. "There may be better ways to reduce soreness, such as warm water immersion, light jogging or using compression stockings, but we don't currently have enough data to reach any conclusions about these interventions."
The range of different exercises, temperatures and timings employed by the various studies made it difficult to establish any clear guidelines for safe and effective cold water immersion. There was also a lack of evidence about any harm that could be caused by the intervention, as most studies failed to report ill effects. The authors say higher quality studies are needed.
"It is important to consider that cold water immersion induces a degree of shock on the body," said Bleakley. "We need to be sure that people aren't doing anything harmful, especially if they are exposing themselves to very cold water for long periods."

Compassionate End-of-life Care is Complex, Needs More Attention: Study

End of life care involves providing for fundamental human needs to people who are close to death. It is complex and sophisticated, but ultimately needs the integration of physical, psychological, social and spiritual elements, according to a study published in this week's PLoS Medicine by a group of international researchers.
End-of-life care is a major public health issue, yet despite the inevitability of death, issues related to death and dying are often taboo. This study involved identifying the variety of care-giving activities (other than provision of medication) performed by health workers in the last days and hours of life for patients with cancer in palliative care settings in 9 countries—Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK, and also Argentina and New Zealand. The researchers found that the greatest number of activities involved care-giving for an individual carried out through contact with his or her body, such as attending to diverse bodily needs while maintaining comfort and dignity. Health workers also reported that important elements of care-giving close to death involved close communication with the individual and their family, together with creating an attractive, safe and pleasing environment. Professionals also reported that just being present was important, especially when the patient was close to death.
The researchers identified a number of areas needing further investigation, such as the ways in which a dying person's sensory and general environment can be improved, and suggest that developing a greater level of detail, such as improved terminology for end-of-life care, would enhance appreciation of the nuances and complexity in providing care during the last days of life, which should be also beneficial for clinical practice, teaching and research.
The authors say: "In these data, an underlying feature of the pattern of palliative care practice appears to be an effort to provide personalized and compassionate end-of-life care by maintaining and supporting links with the individual's everyday life."
They add: "This adaptation is accomplished by using knowledge about and respect for the person as an individual with a life history lived in a particular context, that is the person is not viewed only as a dying patient."

Ayurveda a key sector for growth in Kerala : Chandy

Ayurveda has been identified as one of the key sectors of growth and innovation for Kerala, and the government has selected seven specific areas within Ayurveda that need to be nurtured and developed, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has said.
He was inaugurating an international business meet held as part of the Global Ayurveda Fest here on Monday.
Mr. Chandy said Sam Pitroda, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Public Information, Infrastructure, and Innovations, had during his visit to the State recently suggested to the Cabinet 10 focus areas of development, one of which was Ayurveda. Mr. Pitroda had pointed out that Ayurveda held great potential for Kerala, for its health-care needs and for economic growth.
Scarcity of medicinal plants was one of the biggest problems that the Ayurveda sector faced. The government was contemplating legislation that a certain part of land on estates be set aside for cultivation of medicinal plants, Mr. Chandy said.
Kerala had the potential to contribute to the development of authentic and good quality Ayurveda products while promoting the curative side of Ayurveda through setting up of wellness centres and spas. Mr. Chandy said that the growth of the Ayurveda sector could contribute towards employment generation and revenue generation.
He said the government was considering giving tax concession to Ayurveda drugs. Mr. Chandy also assured his continued support to the Ayurveda sector.
Addressing the meet, P.V. Appaji, Executive Director of Pharmexcil, said that documentation, clinical outcomes, and standardisation were important if Ayurveda were to be accepted in the international market. He said the first target for the market expansion of Ayurveda should be the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations. He said that according to the World Health Organisation, nearly 80 per cent of the people in Asian and African countries used traditional medicines as their primary medical aid.
R.S. Jayawardane, member, Drug Regulation Council of Sri Lanka, said his country needed the support of India to promote traditional medicine. Centre for Innovation in Science and Social Action president G.G Gangadharan; Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Commerce Mridula Jain; former Vice-Chairman of the University Grants Commission V.N. Rajashekaran Pillai, Pharmexcil executive committee member Renjith Puranik, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, Coimbatore, head P.R Krishnakumar, and KIMS Hospital executive director E.M. Najeeb spoke.
Source:The Hindu

Teaching ayurveda to Germans in their country

Ayurveda in Germany? Has the West shed off its scorn for this ancient system of medicine was the question we had in our minds when we at Express went out to the Global Ayurveda Festival to meet Dr Jeevan E P, who teaches Ayurveda in Germany.
"Of course, it is not recognised there and we can only practise under an allopathy doctor. But there are many allopathy doctors there who are now getting interested in Ayurveda. It is them I teach,’’ said Jeevan, a native of Kozhikode, Vadakara to be precise.
Of the 450 students he has taught, Dr Jeevan said that maybe around 50 have taken it up seriously, studying further about it. His students include not just medical students, but also healing practitioners and teachers of Yoga, which Jeevan said is very popular in Germany.
Jeevan teaches Ayurveda courses in 1,000 hours, while a normal BAMS course has 4,500 hours. ‘’I cut it down as most of the medical doctors would already have studied anatomy, physiology and so on as part of their course in college. It would only be a duplication if we teach them that at our Academy too,’’ he said.
What Jeevan is worried about is that his Ayurveda Care Academy has not been given any affiliation by any of the Universities.
"We need to develop our system of medicine. Otherwise, we might end up importing Ayurvedic medicines from Germany as we do with homoeo medicines,’’ he warned.
But how can Ayurvedic medicines, which depend on a lot of tropical local plants, be made in Germany, without diluting the tradition? �
"Oh, we have identified plants in Germany that are equivalent to those we find here in terms of medicinal properties,’’ said Jeevan.
There are less than 10 Ayurvedic doctors in Germany, of which four are Malayalees.
Ayurveda Care Academy offers Panchakarma treatment that lasts for different durations such as 21 days, 28 days and so on.
At the Global Ayurveda Festival, there were two more doctors from Germany who had a regard for Ayurveda and who let Ayurveda doctors practise at their hospitals - Dr Horzt Przuntek and Dr Mark Rosenberg.
Source:IBN Live

The Swiss Government's Remarkable Report on Homeopathic Medicine

The Swiss government has a long and widely-respected history of neutrality, and therefore, reports from this government on controversial subjects need to be taken more seriously than other reports from countries that are more strongly influenced by present economic and political constituencies. When one considers that two of the top five largest drug companies in the world have their headquarters in Switzerland, one might assume that this country would have a heavy interest in and bias toward conventional medicine, but such assumptions would be wrong.
In late 2011, the Swiss government's report on homeopathic medicine represents the most comprehensive evaluation of homeopathic medicine ever written by a government and was just published in book form in English (Bornhoft and Matthiessen, 2011). This breakthrough report affirmed that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective and that homeopathic treatment should be reimbursed by Switzerland's national health insurance program.
The Swiss government's inquiry into homeopathy and complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments resulted from the high demand and widespread use of alternatives to conventional medicine in Switzerland, not only from consumers but from physicians as well. Approximately half of the Swiss population have used CAM treatments and value them. Further, about half of Swiss physicians consider CAM treatments to be effective. Perhaps most significantly, 85 percent of the Swiss population wants CAM therapies to be a part of their country's health insurance program.
It is therefore not surprising that more than 50 percent of the Swiss population surveyed prefer a hospital that provides CAM treatments rather to one that is limited to conventional medical care.
Beginning in 1998, the government of Switzerland decided to broaden its national health insurance to include certain complementary and alternative medicines, including homeopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, anthroposophic medicine, and neural therapy. This reimbursement was provisional while the Swiss government commissioned an extensive study on these treatments to determine if they were effective and cost-effective. The provisional reimbursement for these alternative treatments ended in 2005, but as a result of this new study, the Swiss government's health insurance program once again began to reimburse for homeopathy and select alternative treatments. In fact, as a result of a national referendum in which more than two-thirds of voters supported the inclusion of homeopathic and select alternative medicines in Switzerland's national health care insurance program, the field of complementary and alternative medicine has become a part of this government's constitution (Dacey, 2009; Rist, Schwabl, 2009).
The Swiss Government's "Health Technology Assessment"
The Swiss government's "Health Technology Assessment" on homeopathic medicine is much more comprehensive than any previous governmental report written on this subject to date. Not only did this report carefully and comprehensively review the body of evidence from randomized double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trials testing homeopathic medicines, they also evaluated the "real world effectiveness" as well as safety and cost-effectiveness. The report also conducted a highly-comprehensive review of the wide body of preclinical research (fundamental physio-chemical research, botanical studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies with human cells).
And still further, this report evaluated systematic reviews and meta-analyses, outcome studies, and epidemiological research. This wide review carefully evaluated the studies conducted, both in terms of quality of design and execution (called "internal validity") and how appropriate each was for the way that homeopathy is commonly practiced (called "external validity"). The subject of external validity is of special importance because some scientists and physicians conduct research on homeopathy with little or no understanding of this type of medicine (some studies tested a homeopathic medicine that is rarely used for the condition tested, while others utilized medicines not commonly indicated for specific patients). When such studies inevitably showed that the homeopathic medicine did not "work," the real and accurate assessment must be that the studies were set up to disprove homeopathy... or simply, the study was an exploratory trial that sought to evaluate the results of a new treatment (exploratory trials of this nature are not meant to prove or disprove the system of homeopathy but only to evaluate that specific treatment for a person with a specific condition).
After assessing pre-clinical basic research and the high quality clinical studies, the Swiss report affirmed that homeopathic high-potencies seem to induce regulatory effects (e.g., balancing or normalizing effects) and specific changes in cells or living organisms. The report also reported that 20 of the 22 systematic reviews of clinical research testing homeopathic medicines detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy.* (Bornhöft, Wolf, von Ammon, et al, 2006)
The Swiss report found a particularly strong body of evidence to support the homeopathic treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Respiratory Allergies. The report cited 29 studies in "Upper Respiratory Tract Infections/AllergicReactions," of which 24 studies found a positive result in favor of homeopathy. Further, six out of seven controlled studies that compared homeopathic treatment with conventional medical treatment showed that homeopathy to be more effective than conventional medical interventions (the one other trial found homeopathic treatment to be equivalent to conventional medical treatment). All of these results from homeopathic treatment came without the side effects common to conventional drug treatment. In evaluating only the randomized placebo controlled trials, 12 out of 16 studies showed a positive result in favor of homeopathy.
The authors of the Swiss government's report acknowledge that a part of the overall review of research included one review of clinical research in homeopathy (Shang, et al, 2005). However, the authors noted that this review of research has been widely and harshly criticized by both advocates and non-advocates of homeopathy. The Swiss report noted that the Shang team did not even adhere to the QUORUM guidelines which are widely recognized standards for scientific reporting (Linde, Jonas, 2005). The Shang team initially evaluated 110 homeopathic clinical trials and then sought to compare them with a matching 110 conventional medical trials. Shang and his team determined that there were 22 "high quality" homeopathic studies but only nine "high quality" conventional medical studies. Rather than compare these high quality trials (which would have shown a positive result for homeopathy), the Shang team created criteria to ignore a majority of high quality homeopathic studies, thereby trumping up support for their original hypothesis and bias that homeopathic medicines may not be effective (Lüdtke, Rutten, 2008).
The Swiss report also notes that David Sackett, M.D., the Canadian physician who is widely considered to be one of the leading pioneers in "evidence based medicine," has expressed serious concern about those researchers and physicians who consider randomized and double-blind trials as the only means to determine whether a treatment is effective or not. To make this assertion, one would have to acknowledge that virtually all surgical procedures were "unscientific" or "unproven" because so few have undergone randomized double-blind trials.
In my view, for a treatment to be determined to be "effective" or "scientifically proven," a much more comprehensive assessment of what works and doesn't is required. Ultimately, the Swiss government's report on homeopathy represents an evaluation of homeopathy that included an assessment of randomized double blind trials as well as other bodies of evidence, all of which together lead the report to determine that homeopathic medicines are indeed effective.
The next article will discuss further evidence provided in this report from the Swiss government on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic care.
Source:Danna Ullman,Evidence based homeopath.

Sex facts from History

In 953 Princess Olga of Russia introduced a law whereby men could ask to, essentially, return their wives if they found out they were not virgins. The husbands could ask for monetary or material compensation if they discovered that their wives were more experienced than they had hoped.If you were feeling sick in the 19th century then it was quite possible that your doctor may have prescribed you a dose of alone time with a sex toy, ladies. The Museum of Sex explains that vibrator-induced orgasms helped doctors identify “hysteria” and its symptoms.
Love and marriageIn the 12th century a book was written called The Art of Courtly Love. Within it there were 31 rules that told the British upper-class how to love and who they could love. It told the rich that “True love can have no place between husband and wife” and that marriage should be thought of as a business arrangement.
Size matteredIf you thought that men’s issue with the size of their manhood was a 21st century thing then think again guys and girls. In the Middle Ages it was highly fashionable for British men to wear a codpiece. A codpiece was a flap or pouch that men wore over their trousers to exaggerate the size of their crotch.
Playing away from homeWe all know the WWII poster that urged men and women to “Keep calm and carry on” but have you heard about the other, naughtier slogan that was printed in government brochures? The slogan went: "Don't forget – Put it on before you put it in." It was no surprise that many men returned from WWII with sexually transmitted diseases.
BurlesqueBurlesque may seem like a modern day phenomena, but the truth is Burlesque, in one form or another, has been around for centuries. The queen of burlesque, Dita Von Tease, points to Aristophanes as being the “founder” of the striptease. Aristophanes wrote a cheeky, titillating play back in the 5th century BC.
The G Spot
The G spot was unidentified until 1950 when Dr. Ernest Gräfenberg underwent a few experiments and found that attention to this area could trigger powerful O moments in women. Dr. Ernest Gräfenberg is in fact the G spot’s namesake and was also the first to claim that this spot could cause female ejaculation.
The first pornographyIt turns out that pornography has always been taboo. In 1524 the horny Marcantonio Raimondi published 16 engravings of people throughout history getting it on. Unfortunately for Marcantonio the Pope at the time did not share his open approach to sex and placed poor Raimondi in prison for a year.
The changing shape of boobsThese days it would seem that most women want bigger boobs, but like our clothes boobs have always been subject to changing fashions. In the Middle Ages people preferred small boobs and women wore corsets that flattened their chests. During the Renaissance it was popular in Spain to have cone shaped boobs – it seems Madonna was not the trend setter we once thought.
ContraceptionIt was only in the mid 1600s that condoms were used as a contraceptive. These early condoms were made from linen. It would seem that women were a little more proactive when it came to contraception than the guys. Women used crocodile dung, honey, mercury, sneezing and jumping backwards as early as 1850 BC.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Lavanya Ayurvedic develops herbo-mineral ayurvedic drug Las01 to treat cancer

Lavanya Ayurvedic Private Limited that runs a successful and renowned chain of ayurvedic hospitals and cancer research centres has developed and extensively tested herbo-mineral ayurvedic drug – Las01, which makes treatment of cancer a reality.
Las01 has been used successfully for treatment of different types of cancers at Lavanya Ayurvedic Hospital and Cancer Research Centre, Lucknow. The breast cancer and cervical cancer cell lines procured from National Centre of Cell Science, Pune, were used for the marker test of proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death).
According to Ashok Srivastava, chairman, Lavanya Ayurveda, “So far 36,000 cancer patients from all over India and abroad have registered with us and have received treatment for various forms of cancer at our modern and state-of-the-art hospitals. Of this almost 80 per cent had lost all hope. Some of the biggest hospitals had given up on them. We have been able to manage some of the most difficult cases and around 70 per cent of them have been successfully treated. They are back to their functional life. Their medical condition had worsened even after receiving chemotherapy and radiation from other sources earlier. This is primarily because chemotherapy and radiation only stop proliferation (multiplication) of cancerous cells temporarily through suppression, affecting the good cells as well. As and when their effect ends, the proliferation of cancerous cells starts all over again. Las01, our herbo-mineral Ayurvedic drug eliminates the root cause of cancer within the cells.”
Las01 has stopped proliferation up to 78 per cent and increases apoptosis up to 57 per cent in breast as well as cervical cell lines. It converts unregulated undesirable immortal cancer cells into desirable well regulated apoptotic cells. This novel preparation of Las01 is also found to be devoid of any toxicity whatsoever both in animals as well as in human subjects, which happens to be the main drawback of chemotherapeutic agents used in modern system of medicine. There was no significant change of WBC count, haemoglobin content, differential counts and hepatic and renal function during the acute and chronic administration of Las01 up to 14 and 90 days respectively. Acute and chronic administration of these drugs did not produce any alteration in sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate levels. No remarkable histopathological changes were noted in the internal organs of animal subjects receiving these drugs in higher doses.
“Yuvraj Singh, the renowned cricketer, reportedly suffering from lung tumour is in news these days and leading doctors have been offering opinions in national media about the time in which he shall be able to make a comeback. We have been treating lung cancer day in day out and many more complex cases are now leading perfectly healthy lives,” adds Srivastava.
Recently six different research papers from Lavanya Ayurveda Hospitals which were selected for presentation in the national seminar on management of cancer through Ayurveda conducted by Rashtriya Ayurved Vidyapeeth. Top scientists, Ayurveda experts, research centres, hospitals and institutions from across the country participated in the same and presented their research papers.

Step Up the Fight Against Leprosy, Says WHO

There is a need for greater efforts to fight leprosy, the World Health Organization has said. It also warned that the disfiguring disease was defying efforts to wipe it out across many countries in the Asia-Pacific region."We opened the champagne too early," said Shin Young-soo, chairman of the WHO's Western-Pacific region that covers 37 countries at the start of a three-day conference looking at how to combat leprosy and treat its victims.
There are 5,000 new cases being reported each year in the Western Pacific, according to Shin.
He said the problem was most severe in Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, which had failed to meet the WHO's technical definition of "elimination" of fewer than one case per 10,000 people.
Even in the Philippines, where the disease was officially "eliminated" in 1998, 2,000 new cases are still recorded every year, according to Shin.
Outside of the Western Pacific, the problem is worse.
India leads the world with more than 130,000 new leprosy cases every year since 2006, while Brazil is second with about 40,000 new cases annually, according to WHO documents.
Shin called for a renewed commitment to fight leprosy, stressing that it had to be long-term because the disease could incubate for as long as 20 years.
"We have the drugs, we have the knowledge. It does not take a lot of money. We must make a final push," he said.
Leprosy is an infectious bacterial disease that has been recorded for thousands of years. If left untreated it can damage the nerves, leading to paralysis in the extremities of the body and horrible disfigurements.
However it is curable with early detection and modern drugs.
The WHO has been providing free drug therapy to patients anywhere in the world since 1995.
Shin said that, with the medical hurdles overcome, the major challenge in countries with enduring leprosy was to ensure long-term commitment from governments.

HIV Treatment Strategy: Starve a Virus for a Cure

New research indicates that a protein that protects some the immune cells from the most common and virulent form of HIV works by starving the virus of the molecular building blocks that it needs to replicate. The report is published online in Nature Immunology.The finding comes from an international team of researchers including scientists from the University of Rochester Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, several institutions in France – and a graduate student who is a political refugee from Africa and is now at work in a Rochester laboratory, intent on helping his people who have been devastated by the HIV epidemic.
While researchers hope the work will one day lead to a way to make anti-HIV drugs more effective by increasing their potency against the virus, they're also excited about its implications for our knowledge of other pathogens, such as herpes viruses, which use the same machinery within our cells that HIV does to replicate.
"The findings may explain why certain anti-HIV drugs used today are more effective under some circumstances and not others," said Baek Kim, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center and one of three corresponding authors of the paper. "It also provides new insights on how many other viruses that afflict people operate in the body."
The work centers on a protein known as SAMHD1, which is found in white blood cells known as macrophages and related cells known as dendritic cells. Last year scientists discovered that the molecule makes it difficult for HIV-1 to infect macrophages – cells that specialize in gobbling up and destroying invaders like viruses.
Now researchers have discovered that the molecule cuts off the supply line of the raw material that HIV needs to create DNA and replicate. That raw material, dNTP, comprises the building blocks of DNA, and without it, HIV can't recreate its DNA in our cells.
The team found that SAMHD1 destroys most of these building blocks, making it nearly impossible for HIV-1 to replicate itself where SAMHD1 resides – the macrophages. Instead, HIV-1 uses the macrophage as a safe haven, surviving in patients for years as it dodges the immune system as well as the drugs designed to kill it. It's thanks largely to its ability to hide out in the body that HIV is able to survive for decades and ultimately win out against the body's relentless immune assault.
The team also discovered how a protein in the other common type of HIV – HIV-2, which is found mainly in Africa – knocks out SAMHD1. They found that the protein Vpx destroys SAMHD1, clearing the way for HIV-2 to infect macrophages. While scientists have known that HIV-2 needs Vpx to infect macrophages, they hadn't known precisely why. Interestingly, while one might think that a virus that is able to replicate itself in crucial cells like macrophages might be more dangerous than one that cannot, that's not the case with HIV. HIV-2 is actually less virulent than HIV-1.
"We don't know precisely how SAMHD1 and Vpx affect the virulence of HIV-1 and HIV-2, but it's something we're actively exploring," said Kim. "In this case, the ability of HIV-2 to replicate more quickly in macrophages does not help it become more virulent."
One possibility is that, like a starving man who becomes more and more desperate for food, the virus – when faced with a shortage of raw materials – puts its mutation gear into overdrive, creating more mutations in an effort to circumvent the pathway blocked by SAMHD1. Such constant mutations are one feature of HIV that makes it so challenging to treat patients.
"It makes sense that a mechanism like this is active in macrophages," said Kim. "Macrophages literally eat up dangerous organisms, and you don't want those organisms to have available the cellular machinery needed to replicate. And macrophages themselves don't need it, because they don't replicate. So macrophages have SAMHD1 to get rid of the raw material those organisms need to copy themselves. It's a great host defense.
"The work suggests new ways to target virus replication in macrophages, a critically important cell population that serves as a key reservoir of virus infection and a contributor to HIV-induced disease," added Kim.
At Rochester, Kim was joined in the research by graduate student Waaqo Daddacha, one of two first authors of the paper. A native of the Oromia region of Ethiopia, Daddacha came as a political refugee to the United States. He started out as a computer programmer, then decided to pursue HIV research as a way to help his homeland, where the rate of HIV is one of the highest in the world. As an undergraduate in Minnesota, he visited several laboratories around the nation that focus on HIV, eventually settling on the Kim lab, which he joined four years ago.
"Back home, many people are infected with HIV, and many people are dying because of it. I wanted to contribute to help solve the problem, and that's why I decided to pursue HIV research," said Daddacha, who still has family in Oromia. In Kim's lab he is focusing on understanding drug resistance among HIV patients and on finding ways to limit resistance to make the drugs more effective in patients.

Study Says 7-hour Sleep Helps High School Students Do Better

Even seven hours of sleep is ideal for high school students to do better in studies, reveals study.
"We're not talking about sleep deprivation, the data simply says that seven hours is optimal at that age," said study co-author Eric Eide from Brigham Young University (BYU).
The new study, led by Eide and BYU economics professor Mark Showalter, is the first in a series where they examine sleep and its impact on our health and education.
Surprisingly, the current federal guidelines are based on studies where teens were simply told to keep sleeping until they felt satisfied, said a university statement.
"If you used that same approach for a guideline on how much people should eat, you would put them in a well-stocked pantry and just watch how much they ate until they felt satisfied," Showalter said. "Somehow that doesn't seem right," he added.
Analysing data from a representative sample of 1,724 primary and secondary school students across the country, they found a strong relationship between the hours of sleep youths got and how they fared on standardised tests.
"We don't look at it just from a 'your kid might be sleeping too much' perspective. From the other end, if a kid is only getting 5.5 hours of sleep a night because he's overscheduled, he would perform better if he got 90 minutes more each night," Eide said.
The size of the effect on test scores depends on a number of factors, but an 80-minute shift toward the optimum is comparable to the child's parents completing about one more year of schooling.


High Carb Diet Helps Teen Beat Autoimmune Disease

A 16-year old girl in East Yorkshire who was told that she had just six to 12 months to live unless she gets a liver transplant is on her way to recovery thanks to a high carbohydrate diet rich in chocolates and crisps.Elle Wilkinson was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which led to liver failure. She was immediately placed on the national liver transplant list and the doctors also recommended a carbohydrate rich diet in order to prolong her life until the transplant was possible.
However the doctors were shocked when she showed remarkable improvement so much so that they have removed her name from the transplant list. While the doctors said that they are encouraged by her recovery, they did warn her that she may require a transplant in the future.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Elle said that she finds it weird to be gorging on the very food items that she has been told to eat in moderation. “My friends can't believe it - eating chocolate and crisps and all sorts of junk food, and not having to worry about the consequences. It is weird having to eat all these foods excessively when we are told to eat in them only in moderation or risk becoming fat - but I'm not complaining”, she said.

Study Reveals How Bacterial Systems Export Disease-Causing Toxins into Humans, Plants

The mechanisms behind how some of the bacteria kill hundreds of thousands every year has been discovered by scientists. This will possibly pave the way for more effective antibiotics against infections.
With antibiotic resistance on the rise in strains of pathogenic bacteria, innovative strategies are needed to discover ways of treating bacterial infections in both humans and in agriculture.
A team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences showed how they studied the molecular machine known as the 'type II bacterial secretion system', which is responsible for delivering potent toxins from bacteria such as enterotoxigenic E coli and Vibrio cholerae into an infected individual.
"Bacterial secretion systems deliver disease causing toxins into host tissue. If we can understand how these machines work, then we can work out how it they might be stopped," Professor Richard Pickersgill, who led the research, said.
In order to infect, Gram negative bacteria have to export their toxins into their host across both an inner and outer membrane.
"The pore in the outer membrane which the toxins pass through is formed from protein subunits which are guided into place by a protein pilot," Professor Pickersgill said.
"The protein pilot interacts with the subunits that form the pore in the outer membrane; if the protein pilot is missing, then the pore forms in the inner membrane and not the outer membrane and secretion is stopped.
"If we can successfully interfere with this or with other interactions we are discovering then we might be able to halt the secretion system and prevent these harmful diseases."
The same type II secretion system that enables E coli and cholera is also used by bacteria that cause substantial food spoilage, such as Dickeya dadantii.
Crop spoilage by plant infecting bacteria is becoming an increasing problem in the UK due to the warmer and wetter summers caused by global climate change, and the team hope that the results of this study will be of interest to both agrichemical scientists seeking ways of preventing crop damage and pharmaceutical companies seeking new antibiotics.
The study has been published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.


Monday, 13 February 2012

Drug resistant gonorrhea becoming more of a concern in US; Treatment failures are on the rise

Researchers are issuing more dire warnings about the growing threat of multi-drug-resistant gonorrhea in the US, according to a new paper published February 9 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
According to the article, gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported communicable disease in the country, with an estimated incidence of more than 600,000 cases every year.
Scientists note that the disease has a long history of developing resistance to modern medicine's arsenal. It became resistant to sulfanilamide in the 1940s, penicillins and tetracyclines in the 1980s, and fluoroquinolones by 2007, stated health news website Science Daily. "The treatment options recommended by the CDC are now limited to third-generation cephalosporins," and their effectiveness is decreasing rapidly.
Recently in the UK, doctors have been forced to change the recommended treatment for the disease -- also the second most common sexually transmitted bacterial disease in the UK -- because it is now resistant to the oral antibiotic cefixime. The Health Protection Agency in the UK says laboratory tests show that failure of gonorrhea treatment has grown from 10.6 percent in 2005 to 17.4 percent in 2010.
International experts such as the CDC and the World Health Organization are working on strategies to prevent the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
In the meantime, both organizations strongly advocate practicing safe sex and getting screened for sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea, if you are sexually active.


Indian ayurveda delegation holds workshop IN SriLanka

A delegation from Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, visited Sri Lanka from February 5-9.
The aim of the visit was to identify areas for cooperation in mutually beneficial areas in traditional indigenous medicine between Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Indigenous Medicine, Government of Sri Lanka. The visit of the Indian delegation was a follow up of the meeting between Indian Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad and Indigenous Medicine Minister Salinda Dissanayake in December last year in New Delhi.
The Indian delegation called on Minister Salinda Dissanayake and Indigenous Medicine Deputy Minister Pandu Bandaranayake and met officials of the Indigenous Medicine Ministry.
Discussions related to a review of the current status and future prospects for cooperation in the field of indigenous medicine, including in Homeopathy, Unani and Herbal Medicine.
Source:Daily News

Kerala mulls tax concession on ayurveda medicines

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Monday said the government is considering tax concession on ayurveda medicines and other steps to promote the traditional system of medicine.
"We are committed to set up authentic, quality products as well as classic, curative and promotional services such as wellness centres and ayurveda spas," said Chandy at a global ayurveda conference here.
The government had selected seven specific areas in ayurveda for its wholesome development, he said.
"We have now got the support of Sam Pitroda (adviser to the prime minister on public infrastructure, information and innovations) who is right now working on this. We are also looking at providing tax concession on ayurveda medicines," he said
"The scarcity of medicinal plants in the state has been one of the biggest threats that ayurveda faces. Our earlier government had enacted a law to help increase planting of herbal plants. This law will come into force as soon as possible," said Chandy.
V.S. Rajashekaran Pillai, former chief of Indira Gandhi National Open University, said there was a need for plans for protecting and encouraging the medicinal plants' plantation.
"Another important programme in connection with ayurveda is the purification of water through ayurvedic methods," he said.
R.S. Jayawardane, general manager, Ayurvedic Drug Manufacturing Corporation, Sri Lanka, made it clear that his country could not promote its traditional system of medicine without India's support.
"Even though both the nations are geographically separated, they both are emotionally the same. India and Sri Lanka are to sign a MoU (memorandum of understanding) on traditional medicines," said Jayawardane.

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