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Serial testers and cursory checks – India’s flawed generic drug trials business | Reuters

By Zeba Siddiqui
| HYDERABAD

HYDERABAD Vasudeva Prakash left his job as a mechanic in Hyderabad three years ago for what he calls a more lucrative career: taking part in clinical trials on generic drugs.For two years, Prakash participated in trials of drugs being tested to treat HIV/AIDS and other diseases for contract research organizations (CROs) hired by global pharmaceutical companies. The drugs tested at Indian CROs have been key in getting several hundred medicines approved for sale around the world.Yet, Prakash did not follow international guidelines for testing – and the CROs that hired him didn’t require him to. He says that to earn more money he would participate in back-to-back trials on different drugs with gaps of only a few weeks or even a few days, instead of waiting the 90 days that the World Health Organization recommends.Half of more than a dozen volunteers interviewed by Reuters across four cities – Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and New Delhi – also said they waited much less than 90 days between trials. In the past three-to-four years, they said they spent several months at a time in different cities so that they could participate in as many studies as possible.Prakash provided documentation proving he underwent trials with short gaps at Apotex Research Pvt Ltd, owned by Canadian drugmaker Apotex Inc; Lotus Labs, owned by U.S. generics giant Actavis; Ethics Bio Lab, owned since last year by U.S. drugmaker Par Pharmaceutical Inc; and India’s Semler Research Center Pvt Ltd, among others. Ethics Bio and Apotex did not respond to requests for comment. Lotus Labs and Semler said they had systems in place to check for cross-participation by trial volunteers.The guidelines of the WHO, which decides on approvals for drugs sold in several countries dependent on United Nations programs for basic medicines, are not legally-binding for the CROs. While India has guidelines on clinical trials, they don’t specify the length of time participants should take between trials.Still, the serial testing of some volunteers is raising new questions about the level of oversight of India’s generic drug trials industry, after some CROs came under recent international regulatory scrutiny. Last year, the European Medicines Agency banned about 700 medicines across Europe after an investigation revealed data tampering in some trials of generic drugs in India.International medical experts said that undergoing back-to-back trials endangers the health of patients participating. It can also compromise clinical data gathered through these trials, on the basis of which drugmakers seek approval to sell generic medicines around the world.“The time gap between participation in two different trials should be 90 days minimum,” said Stephanie Croft, a lead inspector at the WHO. “When [data] is incomplete or incorrect it could pose a serious risk to patients.”Gyanendra Nath Singh, head of India’s national drug watchdog, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), said that it has been trying to inspect more CROs in the past two years. The watchdog is also considering the introduction of a track-and-trace system through which patients can be tracked across CROs, he told Reuters.“We are emphasizing on good regulatory practices … some reports have shown that the CROs have deviated from (the) system,” said Singh.India’s Health Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

GLOBAL REACH
Several large international drugmakers, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Mylan NV, rely on CROs in India to carry out tests on cheaper versions of branded drugs. The aim of these so-called “bioequivalence” studies is to gauge whether non-branded drugs are equally safe and effective. The faster the trials are undertaken, the faster the drugs can come to market.In some major markets, such as the United States, being the first to launch a generic guarantees market exclusivity for a period of time, which can reap millions more in sales.International and local regulators have struggled to keep its oversight in line with the growth of an industry that expanded rapidly in the 2000s, as drugmakers shipped clinical trial work to India to save money. The market is estimated to have crossed $1 billion in 2016, according to consultants Frost and Sullivan.Over the past two years, international regulators have suspended or banned medicines tested by four major Indian CROs after finding manipulation of clinical trial data and other violations.Issues found at Indian CROs are “a big problem that is gaining more and more attention from all sorts of agencies,” said Anders Fuglsang, a consultant and former regulator long involved in audits and inspections of CROs around the world on behalf of international regulatory agencies and companies.Last year, the European Union banned about 700 medicines that had been approved based on clinical trial data provided by GVK Biosciences, then India’s largest CRO. European regulators said they found GVK had manipulated data concerning the heart readings of patients taking part in the study. GVK denied any violation, but several large drugmakers that had won drug approvals based on GVK’s data were asked to re-apply for approval with fresh evidence.

Such re-testing is a headache for drugmakers, as it is expensive, and delays lead to a loss in sales, said Nilesh Gupta, managing director of India’s Lupin Ltd, which was one of the companies to be affected by a U.S. ban on trials by Semler earlier this year.GVK, part of the Indian conglomerate GVK Group, has since limited its business interests in the generic drugs testing business, said Shankar Chelluri, a spokesman for the company. Overall, sentiment toward the generic drug trials business is weak, Chelluri said.Another CRO, Quest Life Sciences, was found last year to have manipulated clinical data on certain trials, according to inspection reports from the WHO and the UK’s medicines authority. The Spanish and German regulators had also found problems with Quest’s trials, and the WHO said it found Quest had falsified data on drugs including the antibiotic doxycycline hyclate and HIV/AIDS drugs lamivudine, zidovudine and nevirapine.Quest managing director T.S. Jaishankar said his CRO, which has conducted dozens of generic drug trials for companies including India’s top drugmaker Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, has since invested heavily in improving its systems and been cleared by all international regulators. In a response to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the European Medicines Agency said they were “closely monitoring” the involvement of Quest in the drug approval applications they receive.India, like other countries, has ethics committees – groups of independent experts – meant to approve the design and conduct of clinical trials. Their stamp of approval is required by foreign regulators considering allowing a generic drug to be sold. However, these committees depend on the CROs for reimbursement in exchange for reviewing trials. Three members of different committees Reuters spoke to said national guidelines did not clearly define their roles and responsibilities.In the wake of trial data manipulation scandals at CROs in the past three years, many large drugmakers including Swiss firm Novartis, have been shifting more critical trials back to the United States and Europe, according to consultants and industry executives.

Novartis is also ramping up its own checks of Indian CROs, said Bodo Lutz, a data integrity officer at the Swiss firm. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Hyderabad in July, he said: “We can’t rely on the regulators … we’re increasing our own audits.”VOLUNTEERING “LIKE AN ADDICTION”
Prakash, the former mechanic, said he was never asked by CROs, and their ‘agents’ who approached him for studies, about whether he had recently taken part in another trial.”Everybody does it. Once you start getting the money, it’s very hard to quit. It’s like an addiction,” said Prakash.He said after the first study, he began to regularly receive messages on his phone and Facebook, often from agents working on behalf of CROs, informing him about ongoing clinical trials where volunteers were required. Such messages included three key things: the city where the trial was being conducted, the total pay offered, and the “blood loss”, or the amount of blood the volunteer will need to provide.Venkatesh, from the southern city of Tirupathi, described travelling from Chennai to Hyderabad and then to Bangalore and Mangaluru for different trials.”I know of several people who participate in three or four trials in the same month,” said Venkatesh, who stopped volunteering two months ago and has since married. He did not want to be referred to by his full name.Prakash said he was paid 10,000-30,000 rupees ($147-$441) per trial, depending on the duration and type. He stopped participating after his health began to deteriorate last year at age 25.He now works at a call centre earning 20,000 rupees a month, but, despite knowing the risks, entered two more trials recently to raise cash.”I needed some money desperately so I did it, but I won’t do it again,” he said. (Additional reporting by Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Martin Howell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 04:47 IST

Vedanta to invest up to $2.9 billion over three years in key India plants | Reuters

By Devidutta Tripathy and Jatindra Dash
| BHUBANESWAR, India

BHUBANESWAR, India Vedanta Resources Plc plans to invest as much as 200 billion rupees ($2.9 billion) over three years to expand its alumina and aluminium producing capacity in Odisha, its chairman Anil Agarwal said.The company plans to expand the capacity of its Lanjigarh alumina refinery to 5 million tonnes from the current 2 million tonnes and double the capacity of its Jharsuguda aluminium smelter to 2 million tonnes.Vedanta has been trying to expand the capacity of its refinery for almost 8 years but a lack of availability of bauxite, the raw material which is refined to make alumina, has proved a hurdle.Vedanta, which currently buys bauxite from elsewhere to feed the plant, is still in talks with state-run Odisha Mining Corp to get access to the raw material locally, Agarwal said in the state’s capital where he was attending an investment summit.”We are looking forward to some bauxite strategy to come,” the metals tycoon said in a group interview.

He said Vedanta, which has already invested 600 billion rupees to build the refinery and smelter, will need to put in a further 150 billion to 200 billion rupees to expand capacity.Vedanta would also be interested in bidding for iron ore mines in the mineral-rich state and elsewhere in India in state auctions, Agarwal said.

Vedanta’s Cairn India unit produces oil in the country.Agarwal said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision to reduce oil output for the first time since 2008 was a positive.”Good for us,” he said. “Prices will increase a bit.”

Vedanta has previously said it planned to invest about 300 billion rupees to augment its oil production capacity.($1 = 68.3355 rupees) (Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy and Jatindra Dash; Writing by Promit Mukherjee, editing by David Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 19:17 IST

Oil rallies in choppy trade; dollar flat, stocks dip | Reuters

By Rodrigo Campos
| NEW YORK

NEW YORK Crude futures rallied in choppy trading on Monday ahead of an OPEC meeting later in the week that could reap production cuts, while the U.S. dollar recovered from earlier losses but was still slightly lower.The dollar index .DXY dipped 0.22 percent after having fallen as much as 0.8 percent. The U.S. currency sank as much as 1.6 percent against the yen, going as low as 111.32 yen JPY= before recovering to 112.07. Most analysts said the dip in the dollar since Friday was simply a corrective pullback with the greenback still on track for its strongest two-month gain since early 2015.”It looks much more like a correction than anything else – a Monday morning clearing of the decks before the end of the month,” said Societe Generale macro strategist Kit Juckes in London.The euro was little changed versus the greenback after having gained nearly 1 percent to $1.0684 as it got a lift from the election of Francois Fillon as the center-right candidate in next year’s French presidential election. It was last at $1.0595 EUR=. Fillon, a former French prime minister, is favorite to become president, with a flash opinion poll suggesting he would easily beat far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in a second round run-off. Markets worry that Le Pen, who has promised a referendum on membership of the European Union if she wins, would threaten the future of the currency bloc.On Wall Street, consumer and financial stocks weighed on the S&P 500 after rallying last week. Recently battered stocks in utilities and telecom services posted the largest gains.

“The absence of major economic news today offers investors a chance to take some light profit taking ahead of a barrage of macro news and the OPEC meeting,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets on Wednesday, while a week heavy in U.S. economic data including a GDP revision, inflation, factory and services activity is set to climax on Friday with the monthly jobs report.The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 53.35 points, or 0.28 percent, to 19,098.79, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 7.93 points, or 0.36 percent, to 2,205.42 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 19.40 points, or 0.36 percent, to 5,379.52.The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 fell 0.90 percent, while MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.19 percent.

Emerging market stocks rose 0.9 percent.Asian shares .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.5 percent overnight led by gains in Hong Kong .HSI and Taiwan .TWII, though Japan’s Nikkei .N225 ended down 0.1 percent.Oil prices jumped in volatile trading after falling as much as 2 percent, recouping losses as the market reacted to the shaky prospect of major producers being able to agree output cuts later this week.U.S. crude CLc1 last rose 2.1 percent to $47.04 a barrel and Brent LCOc1 traded at $48.22, up 2.1 percent on the day.

Industrial metals also remained red hot on hopes of strong demand for property and infrastructure investment in China and the United States. Chinese steel futures SRBcv1 jumped nearly 6 percent.[MET/L]Spot gold XAU= rose 0.7 percent to $1,191.27 an ounce. U.S. gold futures GCcv1 added 1.0 percent to $1,190.70 an ounce.Copper CMCU3 gained 0.7 percent to $5,919.00 a tonne.In the bond market, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield US10YT=RR hit a session low at 2.312 percent. Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR last rose 15/32 in price to yield 2.316 percent.U.S. Treasury yields fell from last week’s multi-month or multi-year highs on month-end buying and views that the selloff that followed the surprise U.S. presidential election victory of Donald Trump earlier this month may have gone too far. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos, additional reporting by Sam Forgione, Jessica Resnick-Ault and Dion Rabouin; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 22:05 IST

Delhi becomes the most polluted city on Earth

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>New Delhi is the most polluted city on Earth right now, and parts of the city has pollution levels almost five times those considered “unhealthy” by the US environment protection agency AirNow, reported CNN.The US Embassy in Delhi placed the capital’s Air Quality Index (AQI) at 999 on Monday which is much higher than the “hazardous” level that is set at 500. To gain some perspective on this, Baoding, China’s most polluted city was at 298 on Monday. The World Air Quality Index recorded the quality level at Chandrapur to be 824, making it the second most polluted city following the capital.Research released earlier this year found that air quality levels exceed World Health Organization’s guidelines for 80% of those living in urban areas around the world. With increased awareness and warnings from the government, shops in one of Delhi’s trendiest areas-Khan market that were selling specialised anti-pollution masks, saw a rise in business as people lined up to buy protection against the smog.The government released an emergency ruling asking schools to be shut and construction work to be halted for three days. Officials stated that the number of vehicles allowed on the street may be curbed if the situation does not abate.

Tax cigarettes, bidis, chewing tobacco at 40% under GST

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>There is unison of opinion among all quarters on taxing tobacco at a high rate of forty percent under the Goods and Service Tax (GST). Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised the roll out of GST starting April 1, 2017.The GST council will meet in New Delhi from October 18 onwards to decide tax rates to be levied on goods and services. In this light, victims of tobacco use, doctors, public health activists and Members of Parliament (MPs) have appealed to the GST council to tax cigarettes, bidis and chewing tobacco at a rate of 40%.Cigarettes cost between Rs 7 – 13. A pack of twenty that close to Rs 140 – Rs 260 depending on the brand and state’s taxation structure. Currently, each state levies Value-Added Tax (VAT) on cigarettes which makes the prices variant across state. “While in Maharashtra the VAT on cigarettes is 25%, in Rajasthan, VAT is 65%. Naturally, cigarettes are more expensive in Rajasthan as of now,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, oncosurgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital. “We did not want tobacco products to get included in GST, which is a common tax. We wanted states to levy higher taxes based on their consciousness. This has not happened. So we are pushing for higher GST now.”Activists feel higher prices will lead to people buying less cigarettes as that will pinch their pockets. World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommends that an increase of tax by 10% can lead to a 5% reduction in consumption of tobacco.”Government should make tobacco prohibitively expensive in GST era. There is no justification for giving any subsidy to a product that kills every second user prematurely”, Dinesh Trivedi, MP, Trinamool Congress and Former Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare.Higher taxes are particularly effective in reducing tobacco use among vulnerable populations, such as youth, pregnant women, low-income smokers and chewing tobacco users.Tobacco-use imposes enormous health and economic burden on the country. Each year, almost ten lakh Indians die from tobacco-related diseases in India. The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering Rs1.04 lakh crore ($17 billion) in 2011 or 1.16% of GDP, according to reports.”Hospital and medicine-related expenses incurred for diseases caused by consuming tobacco account for 21% of the national health expenditure. However, Indian government and states gain just 17% of the total health cost in tobacco excise revenue,” said Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, oncosurgeon at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai.Another bone of contention is the age-old favourite Bidi. Bidi manufacturing has never attracted any tax. This is shocking to doctors considering the unorganized nature of the industry. A whopping 6.75 lakh Indians smoke Bidi.Of the entire tobacco market, bidis command a market share of 48%, chewing tobacco comes a close second at 38 % and cigarettes are smoked in a niche market of 14% consumers. Bidis have been subjected to very low central and state taxes under the false pretext of protecting bidi rollers’ livelihood. This is far from truth. “We strongly support the highest level of tax for bidis under GST and petition that some of these bids taxes are used to improve our wages/living conditions as well as provide alternative livelihoods”says Nazim Ansari, Secretary Abul Kalam Azad Jan Sewa Sansthan which represents around 6000 bidi workers in Uttar Pradesh.According to World Health Organization (WHO) reports, India ranks 80th in the world as far as taxation on cigarettes go. Even Sri Lanka and Bangladesh rank better on the taxation front.”Bidi industry owners make vulgar profits. They wield great political clout. They violate every law related to minimum wages, child labor, healthy workplace. Excise and Tax violation remains rampant in this unorganized industry. It is shocking that there is no tax on Bidis in many states. All tobacco products should be taxed very high in GST era”,Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, Oncologist, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai.Ashwini Kumar Chaube, Ex-Health Minister of Bihar and MP, Bharatiya Janta Party said, “As a Health Minister of Bihar I had banned gutka and raised taxes on tobacco products including bidi. I am sure GST council will put tobacco in highest tax category. It will save millions of lives.”Current rates of Cigarettes -Cigarettes cost between Rs 7 – 13. A pack of twenty that close to Rs 140 – Rs 260 or higher depending on the brand and state’s taxation structure.Market Share of tobacco and tobacco-related productsBidis – 48%Chewing Tobacco – 38%Cigarettes – 14%

Opec agrees modest oil output curbs in first deal since 2008; prices zoom more than 5%

Algiers – Opec agreed on Wednesday modest oil output cuts in the first such deal since 2008, with the group’s leader Saudi Arabia softening its stance on arch-rival Iran amid mounting pressure from low oil prices.

“Opec made an exceptional decision today … After two and a half years, Opec reached consensus to manage the market,” said Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who had repeatedly clashed with Saudi Arabia during previous meetings.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

He and other ministers said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would reduce output to a range of 32.5-33.0 million barrels per day. Opec estimates its current output at 33.24 million bpd.

“We have decided to decrease the production around 700,000 bpd,” Zanganeh said.

The move would effectively re-establish Opec production ceilings abandoned a year ago.

However, how much each country will produce is to be decided at the next formal Opec meeting in November, when an invitation to join cuts could also be extended to non-Opec countries such as Russia.

Oil prices jumped more than 5 percent to trade above $48 per barrel as of 2015 GMT. Many traders said they were impressed Opec had managed to reach a compromise after years of wrangling but others said they wanted to see the details.

“This is the first Opec deal in eight years! The cartel proved that it still matters even in the age of shale! This is the end of the ‘production war’ and Opec claims victory,” said Phil Flynn, senior energy analyst at Price Futures Group.

Jeff Quigley, director of energy markets at Houston-based Stratas Advisors, said the market had yet to discover who would produce what: “I want to hear from the mouth of the Iranian oil minister that he’s not going to go back to pre-sanction levels. For the Saudis, it just goes against the conventional wisdom of what they’ve been saying.”.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Tuesday that Iran, Nigeria and Libya would be allowed to produce “at maximum levels that make sense” as part of any output limits.

That represents a strategy shift for Riyadh, which had said it would reduce output to ease a global glut only if every other Opec and non-Opec producer followed suit. Iran has argued it should be exempt from such limits as its production recovers after the lifting of EU sanctions earlier this year.

The Saudi and Iranian economies depend heavily on oil but in a post-sanctions environment, Iran is suffering less pressure from the halving in crude prices since 2014 and its economy could expand by almost 4 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Riyadh, on the other hand, faces a second year of budget deficits after a record gap of $98 billion last year, a stagnating economy and is being forced to cut the salaries of government employees.

OIL PRICE PRESSURES

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest OPEC producer with output of more than 10.7 million bpd, on par with Russia and the United States. Together, the three largest global producers extract a third of the world’s oil.

Iran’s production has been stagnant at 3.6 million bpd in the past three months, close to pre-sanctions levels although Tehran says it wants to ramp up output to more than 4 million bpd when foreign investments in its fields kick in.

Saudi oil revenue has halved over the past two years, forcing Riyadh to liquidate billions of dollars of overseas assets every month to pay bills and cut domestic fuel and utility subsidies last year.

“The Iranians have lived with a very tough macro backdrop for many years…” said Raza Agha, chief Middle East economist at investment bank VTB Capital. “So a sustained drop in oil prices has a more difficult social impact on Saudi.”

However, with unemployment in double digits, Tehran is also facing calls to maximize oil revenues and President Hassan Rouhani is under pressure from conservative opponents to deliver a faster economic recovery.

Oil prices are well below the budget requirements of most Opec nations. But attempts to reach an output deal have also been complicated by political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are fighting several proxy-wars in the Middle East, including in Syria and Yemen.

Opec sources have said Saudi Arabia offered to reduce its output from summer peaks of 10.7 million bpd to around 10.2 million if Iran agreed to freeze production at around current levels of 3.6-3.7 million bpd.

Riyadh has raised production in recent years to compete for market share while Iran’s output was limited by sanctions. Minister Zanganeh has said Iran wanted an output cap of close to 4 million bpd. Saudi output drops in winter when it needs less fuel than during summer, when cooling requirements spike.

India to become permanent SCO member during two-day summit in Uzbekistan today

India will become the permanent member of Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) during the organisation’s two-day summit meeting beginning in Uzbekistan capital Tashkent today.For the membership, India will sign a memorandum of obligation.Talking to media, Uzbekistan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anvar Nasirov said Uzbekistan, within the framework of its presidency at the SCO, has paid great attention to India’s admission to the organisation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said, at a meeting in Ufa last year, heads of member states took the decision to include India as a full member. Nasirov said the process will be completed in the forthcoming meeting.At present Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are permanent members of SCO.The organisation aims at strengthening friendly relations amongst member states and maintaining peace, stability and security in the region.It promotes co-operation in combating terrorism and the menace of narcotic substances.According to reports, on so many occasions, the organisation has seen friction and distrust among the member states, but India’s inclusion in the group is likely to lift its influence in the international arena.India’s inclusion in the group will expand the territory of the organisation and it will nearly account for 80 percent of the Eurasian continent and will have a population of 2.7 billion, more than one third of world’s population.While expansion may hinder the organisation’s ability to act decisively, it will give SCO the opportunity to transform into a more comprehensive institution capable of converting and integrating a broad swath of Asia.The expansion of SCO would infuse fresh vigour into the group’s future development and boost its influence and appeal in the international arena.Addition of India will increase block’s political and economic potential and improve its ability to counter pressing regional challenges.Meanwhile, smaller SCO members concerned of being squeezed by two dominant partners in the group, the interest of two superpowers, see the inclusion of India as an opportunity to diversify and build new partnerships,.

HC directs Tamil Nadu govt to form a committee to check liquor consumption

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday directed the state government to form a committee to check the menace of alcohol consumption, particularly among the youth, and submit a status report within two months.

The court’s response came when Advocate General AL Somayaji submitted that a committee will be formed in this regard. However, the court said mere formation of a committee itself may not suffice to monitor the holistic scheme of how to reduce alcohol consumption.

“This is so as lot of private organisation and voluntary agencies worked in these social sectors and may have both information and solution,” it said and pointed out that only a coordinated effort can be successful.

Representational Image. ReutersRepresentational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

The matter relates to a PIL filed by Advocates Forum for Social Justice represented by K Balu, its President, also an advocate of the PMK party, seeking a direction to give effect to the recommendations and measures set out in the ‘Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014’.

“We expect the committee to be constituted within a maximum period of two weeks from today. The committee to submit a status report on the action taken within two months of its constitution,” the First Bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan, said.

Disposing of the petition, the bench said “No further directions are required, except that it should be a court monitored process at least initially till the system starts working of its own.”

When the matter came up, the petitioner brought to the knowledge of the court that the toll free prohibition helpline no:10581 was ineffective.

The bench went through the affidavit filed by Apurva Varma, Principal Secretary to Home, Prohibition and Excise Department, in response to the PIL narrating steps taken in respect of the World Health Organization report and heard the Advocate General’s submission.

The bench said though the AG has cited various aspects of the ‘Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, 2014’ being implemented in different forms, “the ground reality is quite different. It cannot be disputed that there is large consumption of alcohol and there is need to check this habit especially in two sectors one the under aged sector and another where essential family means are diverted to purchase of alcohol.”

To prevent liquor consumption among the ‘under aged sector,’ the bench suggested that personnel demand identity cards of such persons, who they suspect are underage, at the liquor sale depots.

JNU V-C sets up four-member panel to hear appeals of indicted students

New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Vice Chancellor M Jagdeesh Kumar on Thursday set up a four-member committee to assist him to hear the appeals of the students found guilty by the High Level Enquiry Committee for the 9 February incident in the campus.

File photo of  JNU campus. IBNLiveFile photo of  JNU campus. IBNLive

File photo of JNU campus. IBNLive

“The Vice Chancellor has formed a committee to assist him in his capacity as the appellate authority to hear the appeals from students who had been found guilty by the HLEC of violating various university rules during the 9th February, 2016 incident in the campus,” said a varsity statement.

Professor Vibha Tandon of Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Professor Priyadarsi Mukherji of Centre for Chinese and South East Asian Studies, Assistant Professor Krishnendra Meena of Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament (CIPOD) and Assistant Professor M. Qutbuddin of Centre of Arabic and African Studies are the members of this committee.

According to sources, all the students deposed before the Vice Chancellor and the committee on the incident. The JNU Teachers Association was not informed about the formation of a new committee.

Anti-national slogans were raised at an event held on the JNU campus on February 9 to commemorate executed parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, following which JNU Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were arrested on sedition charges.

Newer drugs against TB show promise: Study

Newer drugs, available almost after 50 years, are showing promise against tuberculosis, states a study. Twenty-six patients in Mumbai, who had developed multi-drug resistance to TB, that is they had failed almost a year’s treatment through Category I and Catergory II prescribed medicines, were considered for the study. They were put on either one of the two new drugs on the block, Bedaquiline or Delamanid, under the compassionate drug use programme run by international NGO Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF).<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While 12 patients were put on Bedaquiline, other 14 patients were given Delamanid along with other drugs in a specially designed regimen. “Locally available drugs are not enough to cure these patients so we got these drugs. MSF got Bedaquiline for the first time in 2013 from pharmaceutical manufacturer Janssen, after the compassionate use pact was opened for India. Delamanid was procured from Japanese pharma company Otsuka much later, only in June, last year,” said Dr Sarthak Rastogi, MSF, Mumbai.Of the 12 patients selected in the Bedaquiline arm, one died before starting the treatment and one succumbed during the course of treatment. “The rest of the ten have completed their course and are doing well,” said Dr Rastogi. Of the 14 patients in the Delamanid arm, one died before starting the course while one could not be put on effective regimen. Of the remaining 12, two died during the treatment while ten are doing well, post completion of the treatment. “The deaths are not attributable to the drug. They died due to progression of TB. Their disease was far advanced and there were complications,” he said.Apart from the deaths, two patients in each arm suffered from severe side-effects of the drugs. Bedaquiline comes along with a black box warning for death and arrhythmias. It suggests that the heart function may go awry as a result of induced cardio-toxicity of the drug. “There were two cases of severe QT prolongation, which means there is abnormal electrical activity of the heart within a specified time. These patients were stopped on treatment for 5-6 days. These events did not lead to deaths. They were restarted later on the same drug and are now doing well,” said Dr Rastogi.In the Delamanid arm too, two patients suffered from cardio-toxicity and QT prolongation. Experts observed that Bedaquiline induces severe vomiting and electrolyte imbalance in the body, which could also be one of the reasons for cardio-toxicity.At this point, it is difficult to say whether one drug will be preferred over another or if a combination of both these drugs will prove to be effective in combating TB.”We are getting a good response for both the drugs in separate patients. When Delamanid was made available to us in 2015, the supply of Bedaquiline was about to close. We have tested these drugs on separate sets of patients during different periods,” said Dr Rastogi.Dr Petros Isaakidis, medical epidemiologist, MSF said, “In curing cases of drug resistance, we need as many drugs as possible, at least four or more to constitute a regimen. We have to ask pharmaceutical companies for supply of certain drugs. It is not more a question of who needs it but more a question of what is available.”While Bedaquiline has received conditional approval from US-FDA to be used in treating TB, Delamanid is still considered an experimental drug and has not received drug approvals for usage in TB treatment. “TB is being treated with a cocktail of drugs. Most of these treatments are non-evidence based at the moment. There are no clinical trials for using these drugs together. In cases that have progressed from MDR to extremely-drug resistant (XDR) TB or pre-XDR phase, when you don’t have anything working, there is a sense of despair. You have to decide if to give nothing, either one or later both,” said Dr Isaakidis.Only 50% of those who are in need of the newer drugs will end up receiving them, it is noted. World Health Organization estimates that India has 75,000 multi-drug resistant TB cases, of which up to 2%, at least 1,500 patients, will go on to become pre-XDR and XDR TB cases, who require these newer drugs.After Government of India received sanction for conditional access to Bedaquiline in August last year, the drug was discontinued to be supplied to NGOs like MSF under compassionate use. Even after nine months of receiving the sanctions, the GoI is still dragging its feet at putting its first 600 pre-XDR and XDR patients on Bedaquiline use. Earlier there were fears that the drug will no longer be supplied to MSF under the compassionate use clause. “Even as the GoI is procuring the drug from Global Drug Facility with help from USAID, it has now been decided to not curb the compassionate use programme of the MSF,” said Dr Rohit Sarin, director, National Institute of TB and Respiratory Diseases, New Delhi.Drug costsDrug Price (in rupees) in International Market -Bedaquiline – Rs 2 lakh for 6-month course (no generics till 2029)Delamanid – Rs 18-25 lakh for 6-month course (no generics can be formed till 2031)India is receiving the drugs for free through Global Drug Facility and USAID support currently

AIIMS-like hospital for AYUSH in Delhi in 3 months: Sripad Naik

The AYUSH Ministry would open an All India Institute of Medical Sciences-like hospital, exclusively offering Ayush treatments like Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, in Delhi in the next three months, Union Minister of State for AYUSH Sripad Naik said.The AYUSH Ministry is planning to set up similar hospitals in every state, Naik said on Sunday after inaugurating a Homeopathy Centre of Excellence at neighbouring Palghar district.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The World Health Organization has recognised the AYUSH treatment and is carrying out research on its application in cancer and public health, he said. He said his ministry was making efforts to make available doctors who provide AYUSH treatment in all the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) of the country, besides trying to set up an independent AYUSH ward in every district hospital.Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik presided over the function which was organised by Dr M L Dhavle Memorial Trust.

What does modern slavery look like?

More than 45 million people are living in modern slavery, with Asia accounting for two thirds of the victims, a new report says.

WHO rejects call for Olympics to be moved due to Zika | Reuters

LONDON, The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday rejected a call for the Rio Olympic Games to be moved or postponed due to the threat posed by a large outbreak of Zika virus in Brazil.

Responding to a call from more than 100 leading scientists, who said it would be unethical for the Games to go ahead as scheduled, the United Nations health agency said having the Games in Rio as planned would “not significantly alter” the spread of Zika, which is linked to serious birth defects.

“Based on the current assessment of Zika virus circulating in almost 60 countries globally and 39 in the Americas, there is no public health justification for postponing or cancelling the games,” the WHO said in a statement.

In a public letter posted online on Friday, around 150 leading public health experts, many of them bioethicists, said the risk of infection from the Zika virus was too high for the Games to go ahead safely.

The letter, sent to WHO director-general Margaret Chan, said the Games, due to be held in Rio de Janeiro in August, should be moved to another location or delayed.

“An unnecessary risk is posed when 500,000 foreign tourists from all countries attend the Games, potentially acquire that strain, and return home to places where it can become endemic,” the letter said.

But the WHO rejected the call, saying Brazil “is one of almost 60 countries and territories” where Zika has been detected and that people continued to travel between these countries and territories for a variety of reasons.

“The best way to reduce risk of disease is to follow public health travel advice,” it said.

One of the signatories of the letter, brain injury specialist Dr Ford Vox, called the WHO’s response “defeatist, depressing, and quite a bit too quick for anyone to believe they gave the letter due consideration.”

The scientific community is divided over the threat of Zika due to the Rio Olympics, with many experts saying the call for postponement or relocation is unjustified.

“We live in an incredibly interconnected world, global travel and trade are daily activities that offer Zika virus an opportunity to spread,” said Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the U.K.’s University of Nottingham.

“By comparison to these routine activities, the increased risk that the Olympics poses is a drop in the ocean.”

The WHO’s advice is that pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika virus transmission, including Rio de Janeiro. It also advises everyone to make all efforts to protect against mosquito bites and to practice safe sex.

Zika infection in pregnant women has been shown to be a cause of the birth defect microcephaly and other serious brain abnormalities in babies.

The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has confirmed more than 1,400 cases of microcephaly.

The International Olympic Committee jumped into the debate by saying the WHO’s response was not made in consultation with the Olympic body. It also denied there was a “secret” memorandum of understanding between the WHO and IOC.

“The IOC does not currently have a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Health Organisation,” a spokesman said.

The IOC has said it was monitoring the development of Zika through the WHO for up-to-date information and guidance but has repeatedly said the virus would not pose a threat to the Games.

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann in Berlin and Mary Milliken in New York; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Air pollution could cause over 5.5 lakh premature deaths in India: Report

Air pollution could lead to 570,000 premature deaths in India, according to a new report.For the new study, researchers at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research created computer simulations using 2011 data and found that air pollution could kill more than 570,000 people prematurely. Furthermore, the researchers say, the problem would likely cost the Indian economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Air pollution has been a public health concern in India for years. In February, a report by Greenpeace said it surpassed China in the quantity of fine particulate matter in the air. It found there were 128 micrograms of fine particulate matter in New Delhi’s air. By comparison, Washington, DC, had 12. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 10 micrograms. The report said the Indo-Gangetic region, the north of the country, had the most pollution.
ALSO READ No longer worst, but New Delhi’s air pollution level still grim: WHOMeanwhile, newly released figures by WHO are suggesting increasing pollution is claiming 7 million lives every year around the world. WHO Public Health Director Maria Neira says most of the deaths are being caused by simply breathing the air in polluted cities.Neira says based on their survey of some three thousand cities around the globe, the most polluted cities are still found in China and India.

Delhi’s first pasteurised human milk bank opened

The first pasteurised human milk bank in Delhi and National Capital Region was on Tuesday opened at Fortis La Femme in New Delhi.The ‘Amaara’ Milk Bank, set up in collaboration between Fortis La Femme, a specialised hospital for women and newborns in New Delhi, and non-profit organisation Breast Milk Foundation, will make pasteurised human milk available to infants.”India faces its own set of unique health challenges, one of them being the high vulnerability associated with pre-term babies who are significantly under-weight. Providing human breast milk to these fragile neonates can substantially cut the risk of infection and help save their lives.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Keeping in mind the physiological inability of the mother in many cases to breastfeed, human milk banks assume great importance,” Fortis Healthcare CEO Bhavdeep Singh said in a statement. Although human milk banking is a common practice globally, only 14 such banks exist in India, as per the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. This initiative is in line with the World Health Organization’s Millennium Development Goals to reduce the Infant Mortality Rate.

Maha-arti to be held at Azad Maidan on Mahavir Jayanti

On the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti on April 20, the city’s Jain community has organised a maha-arti ceremony at Azad Maidan. The event is scheduled to start at 7pm, and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has been invited as the chief guest, along with several other dignitaries.This event has been organised by the Jain International Organization (JIO). A meeting to discuss the arrangements was held at Shree Shankeshwar Pashwanath Jain Derasar, Gwalia Tank, where representatives of various Jain organisations were invited from across Mumbai and Mira-Bhayendar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the meeting, the community’s spiritual leader Nayapadma Sagar Ji Maharaj said, “We will have a 54ft palna (cradle), along with a 30ft replica of Meru Parbat (mountain). Along with this, we will also organise a maha-arti to offer prayers to Mahavir Swami.”This year, the group is expecting a participation of over 50,000 people. One of the main agendas of the event is to collect money for people in drought-hit areas.Sagar further said, “We are also going to start a census to count the number of Jains in the country, and are considering proposals to make Mahavir Jayanti the World Vegetarian Day or the World Forgiveness Day. One of our other agendas is to make the day an official government festival and holiday, like any other festival in the country.”In an appeal to the community members, Sagar added, “I hereby appeal to all the Jains to shut their shops on that day, and decorate their houses with torans, rangolis and diyas. I also appeal them to dress up for the ceremony.”Meanwhile, the four community members who were honoured with the Padma awards this year, will also be felicitated at the event. The group has organised a mass-mediclaim policy for the community as well. JIO director Virendra Shah said, “We have applied for the Guinness book of world records for the most number of medi-claim encashments at one point. We are hoping to get it.” Medi-claim will be available for the community members at a very special premium rate, which can be availed only on that day.

Mumbai school boy Kunaal Bhargava’s child labour project gets a national platform

It began as a school project, became a citywide campaign, and is now a national social media campaign aimed at getting communities to address child labour in India.Kunaal Bhargava, 17, a student at the American School in Mumbai, picked child labour for a classroom project. He approached Salaam Baalak Trust, a charity that works with street children, for help with material.The Mumbai police were so impressed with the poster campaign he created that it was adapted for billboards across the city earlier this year.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>This week, a citizen engagement platform LocalCircles, which connects its more than 1 million members in discussions on governance and other matters of public interest, created a discussion group on child labour to seek input on the issue.”Child labour is an issue I think about a lot, as these are kids as old as me, younger than me, working instead of going to school like me,” said Bhargava.”We encounter it every day, so getting the community involved is an effective way to check child labour,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.There are 5.7 million Indian child workers aged between five and 17, out of 168 million globally, according to the International Labour Organization.More than half are in agriculture, toiling in cotton, sugarcane and rice paddy fields, and over a quarter work in manufacturing, embroidering clothes, weaving carpets or making match sticks. Kids also work in restaurants and hotels, washing dishes and chopping vegetables, and in middle-class homes.The Indian government wants to amend a three-decade-old law which bans children under 14 from working in 18 hazardous occupations and 65 processes including mining, gem cutting, cement manufacture and hand looms.However, children who help their family or family businesses are permitted to work outside school hours, and those in entertainment or sports can also work, provided it does not affect their studies.Members of the LocalCircles group can, in addition to offering suggestions, post pictures and report instances of child labour that the police and NGOs can act on, said founder Sachin Taparia.”This platform is more effective than a hotline – how many people will actually remember the number or think to call when they see a child worker in a tea stall or begging on the street?” he said.”Whereas people are so comfortable taking pictures and posting on social media, and this facilitates that,” he said.Suggestions from the discussion group so far include stricter punishment for employers of child workers and training programmes for such children, so they can learn skills which could be used to earn an income when they are older.Poor reintegration of rescued child workers leaves them vulnerable to being trafficked and made to work again, a report by Harvard University’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights said last month.The LocalCircles group for child labour is managed by the Indian Police Foundation, a think tank comprising police officials, bureaucrats and civil society leaders.Community policing has already played a role in fighting child labour and human trafficking, Taparia said, citing police raids on illegal brothels in Delhi and Gurgaon as a result of information given by members of LocalCircles discussion groups.”The police, the NGOs – we are all doing our bit to check child labour, and having citizens involved will only help create more awareness and rescue more child workers,” said Pravin Patil, a deputy commissioner of police in Mumbai.

Ahead of PM Modi’s visit, Saudi Arabia to announce disruption of LeT, Al Qaeda, Taliban funding

In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia has joined hands with the US to disrupt the fundraising and support networks of LeT, al-Qaeda and the Taliban by imposing sanctions on four individuals and two organisations.Department of Treasury has designated James Alexander McLintock, Al-Rahmah Welfare Organization, Abdul Aziz Nuristani, the Jamia Asariya Madrassa, Naveed Qamar, and Muhammad Ijaz Safarash, as “Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs)”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As a result of yesterday’s action, any property or interest in the name of these designated individuals and entities subject to US jurisdiction is frozen.Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia also slapped sanctions against these individuals and entities. “From terrorising local populations to exploiting charities and religious institutions, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have a long history of inflicting violence on Americans and our allies throughout South Asia and the Middle East,” said Adam J Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.”Today’s action marks yet another step in Treasury’s efforts to financially cripple terrorist financiers and demonstrates the United States’ and Saudi Arabia’s shared resolve to target those who support terrorism,” he said. Saudi Arabia-based LeT member Muhammad Ijaz Safarash has funded and provided logistical support to LeT. Safarash has been an LeT operative for several years, acquiring travel documents and facilitating financial transfers in Saudi Arabia, the Treasury said.

DRDO building Star Wars-like laser weapon systems

The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is reportedly taking steps towards developing directed energy weapons (DEW) in an attempt to develop futuristic weapons. DRDO is in the process of developing a 10-kilowatt DEW against UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) like targets, with ‘the establishment of critical technologies of precision tracking/pointing and laser beam combination’, a report by a leading daily said. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The system has reportedly been tested up to a range of 800 metres at its Hyderabad-based Centre for High Energy Systems and Sciences (CHESS).However, the actual operational deployment of such directed energy weapons will still take some time, although the US, Russia, China and others are leagues ahead in the race, the report added.High-energy lasers have achieved much popularity in popular sci-fi movies like ‘Star Wars’.

Kejriwal named among world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine; shares space with Pope Francis, Angela Merkel

New York: Arvind Kejriwal has been named among the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine with the Delhi Chief Minister being the sole Indian leader on the list topped by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Fortune’s third annual ‘World’s 50 Greatest Leaders’ list features men and women from across the globe from the
fields of business, government, philanthropy and the arts who are “transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same.”

47-year-old Aam Aadmi Party chief is ranked 42nd on the list and is the sole leader from India.

However, South Carolina’s Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley is also on the list at 17th while another Indian-
American Resham Saujani is at the 20th spot.

Fortune credits Kejriwal for his efforts to curb pollution in New Delhi through the scheme of allowing vehicles of odd and even numbers on alternate days on the city’s roads.

“When Kejriwal unveiled a blueprint to tackle the smog in New Delhi — called the world’s most polluted city by the
World Health Organization — many were sceptical. A key component: an ‘odd-even’ pilot project in which vehicles were allowed on the roads only on alternate days.

A file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. AFPA file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

A file photo of Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

“The uplifting result of the pilot this January: roads were less clogged, hourly particulate air pollution concentrations dropped by 13 per cent, and citizens could breathe deep,” Fortune said.

It said leadership is not “demagoguery, pandering, even populism” but is defined by people across the world “you’ve never heard of who are rallying followers to make life better in ways you never imagined.”

“…the New Delhi ‘government official’ risking his career to fight pollution; the Italian mayor welcoming Middle
East migrants to his tiny town—improving its economy and brightening their prospects,” the US-based magazine said in a reference to Kejriwal and Domenico Lucano, the Mayor of the Italian town of Riace, who was ranked 40th on the list.

“The leaders you’ll meet here, known and new, will lift your mood and upgrade your assessment of the world’s future. Some may inspire you to join their followers. And those unheard-ofs, so seemingly ordinary, may even prompt you to rethink your own potential as an inspiring leader,” Fortune said.

Bezos, who topped the list this year, has been on the list all three times, along with Pope Francis who comes in at
the 4th position followed by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

The list includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2), Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at (3), US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko (22), IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde (36), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-chair and CEO Melinda Gates and Susan Desmond-Hellmann (41), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (48) and Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay (50).

Also on the list is Saujani, Founder and CEO of tech organization ‘Girls Who Code’.

Fortune lauded the 40-year old former Wall Street attorney for her message that girls should be taught to be
brave rather than perfect.

Her organization aims to get more women into computer science and by the end of this year, more than 40,000 girls
will have gone through its training and internship programmes, Fortune said.

Giving company to Kejriwal from South Asia is Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the number 10 spot.

Fortune said the 68-year -old politician, the only female leader among the Organization of Islamic Cooperation
member states, has “deftly navigated the competing demands of Islamic tradition and women’s rights”.

“She has committed Bangladesh, the nation with the world’s fourth-largest Muslim population, to securing legal
protections for women and helping them attain more education, financial freedom, and political power,” it said, adding that Bangladesh scores better on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index than any other South Asian country.

PTI

Development of Zika virus vaccine underway in India: WHO

India is among five countries where projects are underway to develop vaccines to fight the Zika virus currently circulating in 38 countries.The World Health Organization’s Director-General Margaret Chan said that in less than a year, the status of Zika has changed from “a mild medical curiosity” to a disease with severe public health implications, warning that “the more we know the worse things look.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At present, WHO says more than 30 companies are working on, or have developed, potential new diagnostic tests.
ALSO READ Researchers discover first case of Zika virus linked to paralysis For vaccines, 23 projects are being worked on by 14 vaccine developers in the US, France, Brazil, India and Austria, WHO said.Zika virus is posing severe public health implications and is linked to neonatal malformations and neurological disorders affecting newborns.
ALSO READ Study finds new range of serious fetal abnormalities linked to Zika virusThe WHO had in February declared the Zika virus outbreak as an “international public health emergency”.The virus is currently circulating in 38 countries and territories, Chan said in a statement as she warned that no one can predict whether the virus will spread to other parts of the world and cause a similar pattern of fetal malformations and neurological disorders.
ALSO READ How Zika Virus was discovered and spread across the world”If this pattern is confirmed beyond Latin America and the Caribbean, the world will face a severe public health crisis,” she said.Experts have agreed that a reliable, point-of-care diagnostic test is the most urgent priority.The United Nations health agency, however, estimated that at least some of the projects will move into clinical trials before the end of this year, but several years may be needed before a fully tested and licensed vaccine is ready for use.According to WHO, the world was alerted to the first appearance of Zika in the Western Hemisphere in May 2015, when Brazil confirmed that a “mysterious outbreak” of thousands of cases of mild disease with rash was caused by the Zika virus.In July, the country then reported an increase in cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), followed by an unusual increase in microcephaly among newborns in late October.”The possibility that a mosquito bite could be linked to severe fetal malformations alarmed the public and astonished scientists,” Chan said.”The association with Guillain-Barre syndrome and other severe disorders of the central nervous system has expanded the risk group well beyond women of child-bearing age. We now know that sexual transmission of the virus occurs,” Chan said.In the current outbreak, Brazil and Panama have reported microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than normal.Colombia is investigating several cases of microcephaly for a possible link to Zika.Chan said additional effects of the virus on the central nervous system have been documented, notably inflammation of the spinal cord and inflammation of the brain and its membranes.

Government to ink accord with WHO to popularise AYUSH globally

Pune: India’s AYUSH Minister Sripad Yesso Naik on Sunday said the ministry will ink an agreement with the World Health Organization to popularise AYUSH system of medicine at a global level.

AYUSH Minister2_380

He said the ministry had inked memorandums of understanding with several countries for cooperation in the field of traditional medicines.

“The National Health Policy will be reviewed in six months to incorporate this aspect of propagation of AYUSH in the wake of suggestions,” Naik said at the inauguration of a four-day National Arogya Fair here.

AYUSH stands for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy systems medicine and wellbeing.

Naik said India will partner with the USA for research in AYUSH to look for treatment of cancer.

The Arogya Fair aims to create public awareness on the efficiency of the AYUSH system, its cost-effectiveness and availability of herbs and plants used for prevention and treatment of common ailments.

IANS

Necklace aids child vaccination

In Rajasthan, a simple necklace which contains a child’s vaccination records helps boost the numbers protected against common diseases.

Air pollution is killing millions in India; premature deaths will climb, says US study

Washington: Air pollution kills more than 5.5 million people around the world each year, with over half of those deaths occurring in fast-growing China and India, researchers said Friday.

Delhi, through the smog. AFPDelhi, through the smog. AFP

Delhi, through the smog. AFP

And the number of premature deaths will continue to climb in the years ahead unless more aggressive measures against pollution are adopted, scientists warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in the US capital.

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada.

Air pollution ranks behind high blood pressure, diet and smoking as the fourth greatest risk factor for fatalities worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease study, done by the Institute for Health Metrics.

“Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population,” said Brauer.

China and India account for 55 percent of yearly global deaths from air pollution.

Some 1.6 million people died of air pollution in China in 2013, while India saw 1.4 million deaths.

In China, burning coal is the biggest contributor to poor air quality — and pollution from coal was found to have caused 366,000 deaths in 2013, said Qiao Ma, a PhD student at the School of Environment at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

She projected that air pollution will cause anywhere from 990,000 to 1.3 million premature deaths in 2030 unless more ambitious targets are introduced.

“Our study highlights the urgent need for even more aggressive strategies to reduce emissions from coal and from other sectors,” said Ma.

In India, the main culprit was burning wood, dung and biomass for cooking and heating.

“India needs a three-pronged mitigation approach to address industrial coal burning, open burning for agriculture, and household air pollution sources,” said Chandra Venkataraman, professor of Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai, India.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines, pollution should be restricted to a daily particulate matter of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

In February, Beijing and New Delhi typically see daily levels at or above 300 micrograms per cubic meter — or 1,200 percent higher than WHO guidelines, researchers said.

More than 85 percent of the global population lives in areas where the World Health Organization Air Quality Guideline is exceeded.

AFP

No need to worry: Govt on deworming tablet side effects

Seeking to play down reports of over 200 children falling sick after consuming deworming tablets, the government on Thursday said there is “no need to worry or panic” as the drug is WHO approved and has “mild side effects” on one to two per cent of the children for a short time.”Albendazole 400 mg is a safe and effective drug for the treatment of parasitic worms. It is approved by the World Health Organization for treatment of worms and used globally,” Health Minister J P Nadda told reporters at the launch of Malaria Elimination Framework.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The affected children were taken to hospitals in Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana and Chhattisgarh as they complained of uneasiness after being administered Albendazole tablets on the occasion of National Deworming Day on February 10.”A total of 236 among a target of 27 crore children have reported some mild adverse effects from states of Bihar, Chattisgarh, Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The children were hospitalised, kept under observation and discharged without any major or serious complication. This is as per our standard protocol,” the minister said.”The medicine sometimes causes mild side effects, particularly if it taken on empty stomach or the worm load is high among the children. Symptoms like vomiting or nausea may occur in one or two per cent cases. Care needs to be taken that the children are administered this drug in presence of teachers or guardians,” he said.It was the largest-ever single-day public health campaign in the world targeting approximately 27 crore children aged between one and 19 years throughout the country at risk of parasitic worm infection, through the platform of schools and anganwadi centres.”I want to assure the parents that there is no need to worry or panic. None of the cases reported was a serious one. All of them are being closely monitored. It was a huge programme where around 27 crore children were given deworming tablets,” he said.

dna Morning Must Reads: From Zika virus case in US to sexual assault complaint against Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh

Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh accused of sexual assault, police complaint filedIn what could become a massive controversy, Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh has been accused by his long-time girlfriend of ‘attempt to rape’ in a complaint filed at a police station in Ludhiana. Read more here <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>First US Zika virus transmission reported in Texas, attributed to sexThe first known case of Zika virus transmission in the United States was reported in Texas on Tuesday by local health officials, who said it likely was contracted through sex and not a mosquito bite, a day after the World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency. Read more hereI still don’t have a bikini body, says Parineeti ChopraThe actress talks about the kind of role she is waiting for, why she isn’t averse to doing regional cinema or her condition for donning a bikini in a film. Read more here Mehbooba Mufti puts conditions for government formation, BJP wants PDP to take first stepFor the first time since the demise of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, PDP president spoke publicly and cleared the stand on the alliance with BJP and the government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Read more hereNo excuses, banks need to clean up balance-sheets: Raghuram RajanRaghuram Rajan, governor of RBI, said in a post policy press conference that the central bank is giving banks various powers to deal with stressed their assets. Read more here

dna Morning Must Reads: From WHO declaring an emergency on Zika virus to Shivnarine Chanderpaul on his retirement

1. Zika virus outbreak: WHO declares an international public health emergencyThe World Health Organization on Monday declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus an international public health emergency due to its link to thousands of birth defects in Brazil, as the UN agency sought to build a global response to the threat. Read more here<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. LGBT community waits with bated breath as SC takes up plea on section 377 todayOn Tuesday, as the Supreme Court takes up a curative petition on section 377 filed by the Naz Foundation and a body of queer activists against its December 2013 decision upholding the colonial law, it is important to look at whether culturally we allow homosexual reference in our popular culture. Read more here3. Pentagon to hike spending request to fund fight against Islamic StatePresident Barack Obama’s administration will seek a significant increase in funding for the fight against Islamic State as part of its 2017 defense budget request, US officials say, in another possible sign of US efforts to intensify the campaign. Read more here4. I feel I should have been treated well: Shivnarine ChanderpaulRecently-retired West Indies batsman feels he deserved one last opportunity against Australia last year to sign off on a high. Read more here5. My take on love is never going to change: Katrina KaifKatrina Kaif on life, love and everything in between. Read more here

Syed Akbaruddin presents his UN ambassador credentials

Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, presented his credentials to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN Headquarters here on Monday.Receiving his credentials, the UN Secretary General welcomed his appointment and appreciated the significant role that India plays at the United Nations as a long trusted partner of the multilateral system.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Akbaruddin reiterated India’s strong commitment to the United Nations and assured him of his full support in helping the UN achieve its ideals and fulfilling the priorities the UN Secretary General had set out at for the year 2016 including that of Agenda 2030 and the quest for peaceful political solutions for all the problems.Akbaruddin, who is the former high-profile spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs, had previously served at the Indian Mission to the UN as First Secretary during 1995-98 and focused on UN Security Council Reform and Peace-Keeping.Prior to his UN assignment, Akbaruddin was the Chief Coordinator of the India-Africa Forum Summit held in October 2015 in New Delhi. All 54 African States who are members of the United Nations participated along with the Organization of African Unity in this milestone event.He also served as an international civil-servant at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna from 2006-2011.

Sushma Swaraj’s diplomacy will be on test during Israel, Palestine visit

Diplomatic skills of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be under test, when she undertakes one of her difficult assignments, by travelling to Israel and Palestine from Saturday. The visit, ostensibly to prepare an outline for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed tour of Israel, is part of a strategy to provide “visibility” to India-Israel relations, but at the same time treading a fine balance to keep Arab nations as well as Iran in good humour.India tested providing “visibility” to Israel ties, after keeping political content under wraps over past 10 years, by sending President Pranab Mukherjee to visit Tel Aviv last October. He also visited Jordan and Palestine.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>National security adviser Ajit Doval is also believed to have made secret trips to Israel and Iran in August last year to balance ties with the two rivals. He is also stated to have visited Israel’s biggest nuclear facility. Swaraj will visit Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, on January 17. Soon after trip to two waring nations, Swaraj will fly out to Bahrain to attend the India-Arab League meeting of foreign ministers during January 23-24, to assess the fallout of Iran-Saudi hostilities on India.Sensitiveness of this trip could be gauged that Israeli ambassador to India Daniel Carmon didn’t mince words, when asked about India’s growing relations with Tehran. “Iran is on our borders. It is fomenting instability in the region. It is also engaged in state-sponsored terrorism, by helping Hamas and Hizbollah to target Israel. When we talk about there are no good or bad terrorists, those targeting our country should be also taken as terrorists,” he said. The envoy also said Israel is reeling under a new form of terrorism, where Palestine youth stab Israeli nationals using knives. “Since last September, 28 Israelis have been killed and 100 injured,” he said, pointing out when New Delhi takes about terrorism has no colours, we need to combat all forms of terrorism.Briefing about the visit, he said while cooperation in defence, counter-terrorism and agriculture has been a hallmark of relations, a new element to be included in the bilateral cooperation will be water management. He said Israeli defence manufacturing companies were interested in India’s ‘Make in India” campaign. As for cooperation in counter-terrorism activities, he said: “We should do more and go beyond the established fields.” Last year Israel Aerospace Industries and the Indian state-owned Defense Research and Development Organization began collaborating on a jointly developed surface-to-air missile system for the Indian Army. India uses Israel-made unmanned drones for surveilance and military purposes, and during 2015 ordered 16 drones and well as buying 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles from the Israeli military.Swaraj had visited Israel in 2008 as the leader of the Parliamentary delegation of MPs. Keen to balance tense ties in West Asia, Swaraj on Wednesday hosted the Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Moallem in Delhi. In Tel Aviv, Ms Swaraj will have meetings with President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon, Minister of National Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz and Israeli legislators. She will also interact with the Indian community during her visit to the jewish nation.”The visit will augment India’s bilateral relations with Israel and further strengthen the linkages between the two sides,” said the MEA spokesperson. On Swaraj’s visit to Palestine, he said,”This is the first visit of external affairs minister to West Asia region and Palestine is the first destination in the region which in itself reflects the importance India holds for Palestine in its engagement with the countries of the region.” The visit will also reaffirm India’s continued political, diplomatic and developmental support to Palestine. The external affairs minister will also inaugurate the Palestine Digital Learning and Innovation Centre in Ramallah.

Rahul Gandhi to be made Congress president after return from Europe?

The organizational polls held after five years culminate in the election of the new party president. Sonia, who took over as Congress chief in May 1998, is already the longest serving president of the 129-year-old party. Rahul Gandhi became Vice President in the Organization in January 2013.

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