Health & Life Sciences Update: Malaysia’s Draft Regulation on Halal Medical Devices

Health & Life Sciences Update | September 8, 2017
Authors: Shay Wester, Ying Hui Tng, Hai Pham, Natalie McDaniel, Hui Ying Lee
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

Sept 20: HLS Committee Quarterly Call All members are invited to join the HLS Committee Quarterly Call. Please click here to register for the call.

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Sept 26-28: Business Mission to ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting  The Council is now registering executives for its 2017 business mission to AMEM. Do note that the deadline for registration is September 12. Please click here to register. For more information, please contact Riley Smith at rsmith@usasean.org.

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Sept 28-29: Business Mission to ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry  The Council is now registering executives for its 2017 business mission to AMAF. Do note that the deadline for early-bird registration is September 15. Please click here to register. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.

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Oct 12-13 : ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting   An invitation with details will be disseminated in due course. For more information or questions, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.

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Oct 25-26: HLS Mission to Philippines  An invitation with details will be disseminated in due course. For more information or questions, please contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org.

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Dec 6-8: Business Mission to Myanmar  Please save the date for the US-ASEAN Business Council's annual business mission to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, Myanmar on December 6-8, 2017. Official invitation with registration details to follow. Requested meetings include: President U Htin Kyaw, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Key Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament including Speaker of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) U Win Myint, Myanmar Investment Comissioner and the UMFCCI. Please contact Jack Myint at jmyint@usasean.org for any questions or to express interest.

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Malaysia’s Department of Standards Draft Regulation on Halal Medical Devices

The Department of Standards of Malaysia has developed a draft on standards relating to the requirements in the manufacturing and handling of medical devices for the purpose of Halal certification. The draft (accessed here) is open for public comment from 1st August to 30th September. Members who are interested in USABC making a submission, please contact Ying Hui Tng at yhtng@usasean.org. For individual submissions, please follow the instructions on the Department of Standards’ Website here. The Department of Standards plan to meet members for further discussions after the comment period.

Vietnam plans to cut off-patent drug prices by 10-15 percent

In August, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue asked the Vietnam Social Security (VSS) to oversee the task of working with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health to come up with a bidding mechanism that would reduce prices of drugs covered by health insurance by 10-15 percent, especially for off-patent originator drugs. The Drug Administration of Vietnam said the Ministry of Health has already began negotiations with suppliers to carry out tendering for 100 generic drugs. The Government of Vietnam plans to roll out the bidding mechanism by 2018.

APEC Health Working Group Discusses Priorities and Health Financing
On August 21, the APEC Health Working Group met in Ho Chi Minh City as a part of APEC’s Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 3) to discuss the priorities and indicators of the “Healthy Asia Pacific 2020” plan. Members discussed a draft of the plan for the Leader’s Declaration and Joint Statement of Ministerial Meetings. The five priorities were first endorsed by the first APEC Health Working Group in late February and include: universal health coverage in APEC economies; strengthening of communicable disease control and antimicrobial resistance; an integrated approach to healthy aging and non-communicable diseases; sustainable healthcare financing; and multi-sectoral action to achieve health-related sustainable development goals by 2030. Part of the meeting’s agenda included discussion on how to best harness public and private innovations to expand across healthcare services. The APEC Health Working Group specifically addressed the health financing issues and need to strengthen health systems against growing epidemics such as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), which has become a growing concern in the region. Furthermore, it acknowledged the difficulties of raising sufficient public revenue for health care and the challenges of expanding universal health care to improve rates of care and reduce overall costs.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Implementing Regulations for Indonesia's Halal Product Assurance (HPA) Law
With the statutory implementation deadlines rapidly approaching, the Government of Indonesia is preparing to release a series of regulations to direct the implementation of Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 33 of 2014 Halal Product Assurance (HPA) Law. The process, however, has faced numerous challenges and may see further delays or changes. At the same time, the regulations will present new challenges for agriculture, food processing, consumer goods, and pharmaceutical companies. 

According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MORA), the law is the culmination of the House of Representative’s (DPR) and the government of Indonesia’s efforts to provide a guarantee of Halal foods for the Muslims of Indonesia. Deliberation took two parliamentary terms from 2004-2009 and 2010-2014 and was enacted on 17 October 2014. Implementing regulations are now under development and the Halal Product Assurance Organizing Agency (BPJPH), the body responsible for halal product assurance, has now been established. MORA has been leading the overall effort.

On August 3, the Council held a meeting with Prof. Sukoso, head of BPJPH, during our 2017 Indonesia Business Mission. Following that, we had more discussions with BPJPH to learn more about their plans. 

Please click here for a summary of the current situation, informed by meetings and other advocacy efforts supported by the Council.

Health and Life Sciences Mission to Myanmar
The Council's Health & Life Sciences Committee held a mission to Myanmar from Aug 15 - 17. During the mission, eight companies met with the Union Minister for Health and Sports, Union Minister for Education, Union Minister for Planning and Finance, Director-General for Social Security Board and the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. .

Key takeaways from the meeting with Ministry of Health and Sports are:

  • The Ministry is interested in raising the standards of nurses and midwives through capacity building, identifying shortages in its health system and improving nutrition nationwide. It is now important to understand what the international community is doing in Myanmar and identify shortages and gaps.
  • Myanmar has been developing essential health systems, but requires strong health information systems. The MOHS has requested assistance on a health inventory software system.

Please click here for the full report.

Indonesia’s Cap on Stent Prices

On July 20, the Health & Life Sciences Committee and Members of Indonesia’s Gakeslab met with Pak Andi Saguni, Director of Health Services from the Ministry of Health to discuss pricing and product registration issues in the e-catalogue. The topic of setting a cap on stent prices came up briefly, and members made the point that prices should reflect the differences between the technologies for health devices. The working group POKJA, consisting of staff from MOH and LKPP, has been tasked to review recommendations for a cap on stent prices. As a follow-up, members suggested to hold a knowledge-sharing workshop to educate POKJA on the price structure of high-technology devices. We are reviewing this suggestion and gathering interest from members, so if keen in participating and helping to shape the workshop, do let Ying Hui Tng (yhtng@usasean.org) and Shaveen Sharma (ssharma@usasean.org) know.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 

ASEAN
+ Health for all emphasized as WHO South-East Asia Region’s Health Ministers Meet Opens
+ ASEAN to work together towards one health community

+ Health standard for workers to be endorsed by ASEAN
+
Does ASEAN know how to tackle the Bird Flu outbreak?
+ Indonesia calls for stronger health cooperation within ASEAN


APEC
+
Producing a "Healthy Asia Pacific" by 2020: APEC Goal
+ APEC grapples with multidrug-resistant TB

Brunei
+ Minister of Health leads delegation to China’s health forum

Cambodia
+
Hun Sen Promises Free Hospital Treatment, Check-ups for Workers
+ NUS study: Deforestation in Cambodia linked to higher risk of ill health in young children
+ Manganese in Underground Drinking Water Is Cause for Concern
+ Permanent Ban on Commercial Surrogacy Planned

Indonesia
+
Childhood Obesity and Malnutrition: The Twin Dangers
+ Papua aims to cut transmission chain of HIV
+ Health-Conscious Indonesians on the Rise, Growth of Nutritious Products Expected: Report

Malaysia
+
Only 7,000 Specialists In Malaysia, We Need More Doctors To Specialise
+ Perak Sultan: Healthcare systems needs to evolve
+ MOH: “Problems faced by drug manufacturers” – part of the reason behind drug shortage at government hospitals
+ US firm expands Hepatitis C generic licensing agreement to Malaysia
+ No more lines at govt clinics

Myanmar
+
Myanmar’s Public Health System and Policy: Improving but Inequality Still Looms Large
+ H1N1 cases going down, says health officials
+ FDA seeks to regulate sale of EC pills
+ Dengue fever: Myanmar infections quadruple since 2016
+ China provides emergency aid of swine flu vaccine to Myanmar
+ 3 more die in 3 days in Myanmar due to swine flu
+ Nationwide nutrition survey in September

Philippines
+
SC: Ban on 2 implants may still be lifted
+ Alliance of Health Workers condemns DOH’s proposed budget for 2018
+ Restructured PhilHealth to ease burden of patients, says DOH
+ Dozens of Patients Test Negative for Bird Flu
+ UNAIDS: HIV in PH a 'fast-growing epidemic'
+ Philippines watching suspected bird flu cases in humans

Singapore
+
MOU inked to develop Singapore's pharma manufacturing sector
+ New centre in Singapore to conduct Asia's largest study on undernutrition among the elderly
+ More tech start-ups in healthcare springing up

Thailand
+
Inoculation against dengue fever urged

Vietnam
+
VN strives to reduce HIV infections despite funding shortage
+ Vietnam’s health ministry under scrutiny over cancer drug scam
+ CDC issues travel notice for Vietnam due to dengue outbreak
+ Dengue cases rise by a staggering 42% in Vietnam
+ Project enhances equality in reproductive health in Vietnam
+ Mutual recognition of test results of little benefit

 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 

ASEAN

Health for all emphasized as WHO South-East Asia Region’s Health Ministers Meet Opens ReliefWeb 6thSep 2017
World Health Organization emphasized the need to make health for all a top priority in WHO South-East Asia Region as health ministers, leaders and officials commenced a five-day meeting here today. “The challenges we all face are real and complex. We are committed to the achievement of universal health coverage. Every single country is making headway and we have powerful means to measure progress,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region, said at the inauguration of the Seventieth Regional Committee session of WHO South-East Asia, the governing body meeting of WHO in the Region.

ASEAN to work towards one healthy community ASEAN Secretariat News 6thSep 2017 ASEAN strives to provide universal health coverage to all people and would address the needs and concerns of vulnerable population guided by a rights-based approach. These are the focuses of the side events of the 13th ASEAN Health Ministers’ Meeting (AHMM) and Related Meetings which currently take place at the International Convention Centre, Bandar Seri Begawan.

Health standard for workers to be endorsed by ASEAN The Star Online 4th Sep 2017
ASEAN labour ministers are set to issue a joint statement endorsing efforts to provide a health standard with appropriate enforcement to protect workers. The Human Resources Ministry said the statement is expected to be issued at the three-day World Congress on Safety and Health at Work which began yesterday in Singapore.

Does ASEAN know how to tackle the Bird Flu outbreak? International Business Times 26th Aug 2017
The ASEAN secretariat announced that it is through a partnership with the private sector, pharmaceutical manufacturers and cooperation from sectors other than health and agriculture, the organisation is looking forward to creating public awareness about Bird Flu. It was also suggested that engaging the civil society is important because it requires the involvement of the grassroots communities to create effective containment measures to stop the spreading the disease.

Indonesia calls for stronger health cooperation within ASEAN Xinhua 24th Aug 2017
The health ministry of Indonesia on Thursday urged ASEAN member nations to step up cooperation in the health sector in a bid to prevent the spread of diseases in the region. Indonesian Health Minister Nila Moeloek said that countries in the Southeast Asia region have to be united to prevent viruses triggering diseases or outbreaks from moving from one nation to another.

APEC

Producing a "Healthy Asia Pacific" by 2020: APEC Goal Viet Nam News 31st Aug 2017
The health of all residents in the Asia-Pacific region is a critical component of economic and trade development, Lê Quang Cường, deputy minister of Health, said at an APEC Health Working Group meeting yesterday in HCM City. The meeting, held within the framework of APEC’s Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 3), discussed priorities and indicators of the “Healthy Asia Pacific 2020” plan. “Investment in health is the key to inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” Cường said, adding that better health leads to greater wealth.

APEC grapples with multidrug-resistant TB Viet Nam News 23rd Aug 2017
It is necessary to address health financing issues and strengthen health systems against the growing multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) epidemic, which has become a growing global concern, according to Việt Nam’s Ministry of Health. Opening the Policy Dialogue on “Accelerating action on TB and MDR-TB in the APEC Region” on Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Health Phạm Lê Tuấn said the significant healthcare costs for MDR TB treatment have had a serious economic impact on APEC members. “The health sector cannot address these issues and move forward to ending TB by itself, and require the involvement of the entire political system and multi-sectoral cooperation.”

Brunei

Minister of Health leads delegation to China’s health forum Borneo Bulletin Online 26th Aug 2017
The Minister of Health, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Zulkarnain bin Haji Hanafi, attended ‘The “Belt and Road” High Level Meeting For Health Cooperation: Towards A Health Silk Road’ in Beijing, China from August 18-20. The meeting themed ‘Build Health Belt and Road, Share Health Development’ is one of the agenda in the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiatives introduced by the President of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. The initiative brings together more than 60 countries from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Maritimes Silk Road (the ‘Belt and Road’), according to a press release.

Cambodia

Hun Sen Promises Free Hospital Treatment, Checkups for Workers The Cambodia Daily 28th Aug 2017
In yet another potentially major new benefit to Cambodian workers ahead of next year’s national election, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday announced that employees in some of the country’s key industries would soon be able to receive free checkups and treatment at state hospitals. The announcement came exactly a week after he showered a raft of new benefits on the country’s roughly 700,000 garment workers, in what many see as an unabashed bid for their votes in a coming election race expected to be closely run by the opposition CNRP, which pulled strong support from garment workers in 2013.

NUS study: Deforestation in Cambodia linked to higher risk of ill health in young children NUS News 28th Aug 2017
Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found that the loss of dense forest in Cambodia was associated with higher risk of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection, and fever – which are major sources of global childhood morbidity and mortality – in children younger than five years old. Led by Assistant Professor Roman Carrasco from the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS Faculty of Science, the team analysed health survey data from 35,547 households in 1,766 communities between 2005 and 2014, to investigate the relationship between child health and protected areas across different forest types in Cambodia. Mr Thomas Pienkowski, who is the first author of the study, said, “Currently, there are limited studies on the health benefits that forests may provide. Most research looking at the impact of deforestation on health focuses on single diseases, thus making it challenging to integrate into policy. Furthermore, it is unclear how these environmental threats can be mitigated, and if conservation tools such as protected areas can play a role.”

Manganese in Underground Drinking Water Is Cause for Concern Lab Manager 28th Aug 2017
Underground drinking water sources in parts of the U.S. and three Asian countries may not be as safe as previously thought due to high levels of manganese, especially at shallow depths, according to a study led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside. Manganese, a metal that is required by the body in tiny amounts, can be toxic at elevated levels, particularly in children. Samantha Ying, an assistant professor of environmental sciences in UCR's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, led the study, which was published recently in Environmental Science & Technology. The paper describes manganese levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in groundwater wells in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and the Glacial Aquifer, which spans 26 states in the northern U.S. and provides drinking water to more than 41 million Americans. Of the four regions, the Glacial Aquifer had the fewest contaminated wells.

Permanent Ban on Commercial Surrogacy Planned The Cambodia Daily 23rd Aug 2017
Commercial surrogacy in Cambodia will be permanently and completely banned if a long-awaited draft law is approved, according to an official on Tuesday at the Women’s Affairs Ministry, which began drafting the legislation nearly a year ago. “The main content of the law is that we absolutely ban commercial surrogacy, and any actions that get benefit or profit from surrogacy are completely banned,” ministry spokesman Phon Puthborey said on Tuesday. The government clamped down on the then-burgeoning and unregulated industry suddenly in October, announcing an emergency ban on the practice following similar bans in neighboring countries. Stephen Page, an Australian lawyer who specializes in surrogacy, said the ban had “long been predicted.”

Indonesia

Childhood Obesity and Malnutrition: The Twin Dangers Indonesia Expat 30th Aug 2017
Indonesian children face dual health issues which appear to be in contradiction of each other – the rise of obesity and continuing malnutrition. With widening income inequality, quality of life differs dramatically across the country and with that difference comes divergent health needs.

Papua aims to cut transmission chain of HIV The Jakarta Post 29th Aug 2017
The Papua administration is stepping up efforts to prevent the spread of HIV by providing antibody tests to pregnant women seeking healthcare services at hospitals or community health centers.

Health-Conscious Indonesians on the Rise, Growth of Nutritious Products Expected: Report Jakarta Globe 25th Aug 2017
Majority of Indonesian urbanites — or city dwellers — are eating healthier and exercising more this year, fueling the demand for high-protein foods and sports drinks in the country, according to report published by global marketing intelligence firm Mintel.

Malaysia

Only 7,000 Specialists In Malaysia, We Need More Doctors To Specialise Malaysian Digest 29th Aug 2017
It is hard to believe that we live in a country where heart disease is found to be the number one killer disease in the last 10 years, and the National Heart Institute revealed that it treats at least 150,000 heart patients per annum, yet we have roughly less than 500 cardiologists, amongst our population of 32 million people. But looking beyond cardiology, the situation is more worrying as a recent report from The Star revealed that Malaysia has approximately 7,000 specialists throughout the nation – which is regarded as insufficient – and there are too many General Practitioners (GPs). The article highlights we are severely lacking in five areas namely adolescent medicine, paediatric rheumatology, intensive care medicine, urogynaecology and forensic psychiatry.

Perak Sultan: Healthcare systems needs to evolve The Star Online 25th Aug 2017
Primary healthcare systems in Malaysia and across the region need to evolve to effectively respond to the growing epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), said Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah. Citing the World Health Organisation, Sultan Nazrin said South-East Asia now has the fastest rising rates of NCDs in the world including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and cancers.

MOH: “Problems faced by drug manufacturers” – part of the reason behind drug shortage at government hospitals MIMS News 24th Aug 2017
Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) admitted on 20 August that the shortage of drug supply for certain medications was due to problems being faced by drug manufacturers. The issue was further worsened by a hike in the number of patients going to the MOH’s facilities this year, remarked Health director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. “This year’s allocation for the procurement of the medicines is sufficient. The drugs were distributed to all hospitals based on the expenditure last year,” he explained. As such, Dr Noor Hisham said the situation has been monitored closely by the MOH, and “alternative sources for the medicines were being identified to ensure adequate supply.”

US firm expands Hepatitis C generic licensing agreement to Malaysia The Star Online 5th Sep 2017
More Hepatitis C patients will soon be able to afford treatment, thanks to the decision by a US pharmaceutical company to expand its generic licensing agreement to Malaysia.

No more lines at govt clinics The Star Online 31st Aug 2017
Queuing up to get a number to see a doctor at government health clinics is soon to be a thing of the past. Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said the ministry was in the midst of carrying out a pilot project for patients to use an online application to get their numbers for an appointment with doctors.He said currently in some clinics, patients could be seen lining up at 6am to get an early number.Dr Hilmi said the pilot project was expected to start at the Seri Kembangan government clinic soon, and if the project is a success, it would be implemented nationwide.“With the online application, people no longer need to wait at clinics early because with a mere click on their handphone, they will be able to get their numbers.“The application will also inform them about the current number being called, and therefore they are able to make adjustments to reach the clinic on time for their appointment,” he told reporters after handing out certificates of appreciation to 333 staff from the State Health Department who retired this year.

Myanmar

Myanmar’s Public Health System and Policy: Improving but Inequality Still Looms Large The Irrawaddy 1st Sep 2017
Myanmar’s entire health system has come a long way since the country’s democratic transition began in 2011. Yet much more still needs to be done. A core area of focus needs to be on addressing inequalities in access to health services across the country. In particular, bridging gaps in service delivery between urban and rural communities and for minority ethnic groups.

H1N1 cases going down, says health officials The Myanmar Times 1st Sep 2017
“The diagnosis of new cases is declining, and the number of deaths remains at 35,” said Dr Than Thun Aung, deputy director general of Department of Public Health. Health officials attributed the declining trend of H1N1 infections to the government’s acceleration of its prevention and response program since the first case was reported.

FDA seeks to regulate sale of EC pills The Myanmar Times 1st Sep 2017
“The emergency contraceptive (EC) oral pills are just for emergency situation. But people are using it easily and taking it frequently, and misusing it, said Dr Theingi Zin, director of Department of Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Since last year, we had been accelerating our efforts to control substandard and fake drugs. Moreover, unknown medicinal mixtures and prescriptions only medicines will be overseen as the next step to ensure the safety of the public,” Dr Theingi Zin added.

Dengue fever: Myanmar infections quadruple since 2016 Coconuts 29th Aug 2017
The number of dengue fever infections reported in Myanmar this year is four times last year’s number, according to the Public Health Department. There have been 21,288 infections this year up to August 19, while last year, there were just over 5,400 infections during the same period in 2016. Yangon Region has had the highest number of infections this year with a total of 4,519. There were also 2,805 cases in Ayeyawady, 2,259 in Rakhine State, 1,669 in Kayin State, 1,666 in Mon State, 1,665 in Bago Region, 1,500 in Kachin State, 1,148 in Mandalay Region, 787 in Taninthayi Region, 779 in Kayah State, 716 in Shan State, 665 in Sagaing Region, 654 in Magway Region, and 386 cases in Naypyidaw.

China provides emergency aid of swine flu vaccine to Myanmar Xinhua 24th Aug 2017
China provided emergency aid of vaccine against the swine flu to Myanmar on Thursday. The vaccine and other medical equipment worth of 25 million yuan (3.73 million U.S. dollars) was handed over to the Myanmar side at the Yangon International Airport. Speaking at the ceremony, Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang expressed his belief that the medical aid, extended on humanitarian ground, would help in treating the disease.

3 more die in 3 days in Myanmar due to swine flu Xinhua 24th Aug 2017
Three more people have died of seasonal influenza A/H1N1-2009, also known as swine flu, over the past three days, bringing the total death toll to 33 as of Wednesday, official media reported Thursday. More than 300 patients were confirmed for being infected with the virus across the country since the outbreak of the disease on July 21. However, more than 210 patients have already been discharged from hospital after treatment, the report said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Sports has sent rapid respond teams to the affected areas to control the spread of the virus.

Nationwide nutrition survey in September The Myanmar Times 23rd Aug 2017
The survey ‘Myanmar Micronutrient and Food Consumption Survey’ will be implemented in September, said Dr May Khin Than, Director of National Nutrition Center, Department of Public Health. She said, “The survey will take at least four months and it will start after the training program for health workers”. The government-run training program will equip healthcare workers with the skills and tools to gather crucial data on the status of nutrition among seven priority groups: children under five , school-aged children, adolescent girls, men and women between 15 and 49, pregnant women and lactating mothers. Dr Lwin Mar Hlaing, assistant director of National Nutrition Center, Department of Public Health, said that “the survey will analyse the food consumption habits of people and the nutritional problems, and testing for vitamins and minerals”.

Philippines

SC: Ban on 2 implants may still be lifted Inquirer 5th Sep 2017
The ban imposed by the Supreme Court on the purchase and distribution of two contraceptive implants may still be lifted upon the compliance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te clarified on Monday.

Alliance of Health Workers condemns DOH’s proposed budget for 2018 UNTV News 31st Aug 2017
A group of health workers argued that services for the poor will lessen once the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for 2018 gets approved. According to the Alliance of Health Workers, P1.5-billion has been cut from the proposed budget of the DOH, which was supposed to be allocated to the maintenance and other operating expenses or MOOE for 2018. The MOOE serves as the fund for public hospitals’ primary needs like medicines, IV fluids, and others. With the reduction in DOH’s budget, indigent patients will be left with no choice but to pay for other medical expenses.

Restructured PhilHealth to ease burden of patients, says DOH Davao Today 31st Aug 2017
A proposed revamp of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will pave way for the public to easily avail health care services in the country, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said on Wednesday, August 30. The proposal, which comes in form of a Senate bill, will also rename PhilHealth into Philippine Health Security Commission, said Ubial.

Dozens of Patients Test Negative for Bird Flu BenarNews 31st Aug 2017
The Philippines identified nearly three dozen suspect cases of humans infected with the H5N6 bird flu virus, but initial test results indicated they were free from the disease, according to health officials. So far, the flu outbreak has forced the government to order the slaughter of about 500,000 poultry in the northern provinces of Pampanga and Nueva Ecija. “Since the Department of Agriculture’s declaration of the bird flu outbreaks in early August, the (health department) was able to identify 34 suspect cases,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial said in a statement. “They were promptly placed in isolation as part of precautionary measures to avert any possible human-to-human transmission of infection.” The unidentified patients were given antiviral drugs as a precaution and as of Thursday, all tested negative for influenza.

UNAIDS: HIV in PH a 'fast-growing epidemic' CNN 30th Aug 2017
With the rising number of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the Philippines, a United Nations (UN) official said the country needs to change its approach on curbing the "epidemic." "(The Philippines is) slipping behind and that's a very fast growing epidemic and very quickly it's overtaking other countries in the region in terms of the number of new infections and that's quite a concern for the country," UN Programme on HIV/AIDS Regional Support Team for Asia Pacific Director Eammon Murphy said. The UNAIDS director said the government needs to "re-energize" its response to HIV. He also commented on the "old-school" way of testing in the country. "Testing now can be done much easier and faster but in the Philippines it can take 2-3 weeks to find out your HIV status after your test. That is old, that is very old school, so we need to change the community-based testing. You can even do self-testing at home," Murphy said.

Philippines watching suspected bird flu cases in humans Channel NewsAsia 25th Aug 2017
The Philippines started monitoring suspected bird flu cases in humans on Friday (Aug 25) after 34 farm workers in two towns north of the capital Manila developed flu-like symptoms after direct exposure to infected fowl.

Singapore

MOU inked to develop Singapore's pharma manufacturing sector Channel NewsAsia 5th Sep 2017
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), the National University of Singapore (NUS) and three pharmaceutical companies inked a Memorandum of Understanding on Tuesday (Sep 5) to mark the launch of an initiative to develop the country's pharma manufacturing sector.

New centre in Singapore to conduct Asia's largest study on undernutrition among the elderly The Straits Times 31st Aug 2017
Undernutrition in the elderly is a worldwide problem, but most of the available data is based on Western research, say experts. A new study in Singapore aims to gather more data on Asians, given the differences in body types and habits between Westerners and Asians. A new centre that was launched on Thursday (Aug 31) will manage the study. The Nutritional Health for the Elderly Reference Centre, launched at Changi General Hospital (CGH), has been set up to study nutrition issues facing elderly people in Asia.

More tech start-ups in healthcare springing up The Straits Times 28th Aug 2017
With connectivity at nearly everyone's fingertips, the tech-drive consumer healthcare industry is estimated to be worth billions of dollars today. Associate Professor Sarah Cheah, from the Department of Management and Organisation at the National University of Singapore Business School, told The Straits Times that close to 900 investors helped seal tech-health deals in 2015 in Asia, up 25 per cent from 2014. And the industry keeps growing. Prof Cheah said that given the factors of an ageing population, growing middle-class affluence and rising healthcare costs, more healthcare start-ups can be expected in areas such as chronic disease management and digital diagnostics as well as consumer health and wellness.

Thailand

Inoculation against dengue fever urged Bangkok Post 23rd Aug 2017
The public should get dengue vaccinations, which work better for those who have already been exposed to the virus, Assoc Prof Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, president of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of Thailand, has advised. Dr Tawee said dengue vaccinations, first introduced into private hospitals in Thailand last year, are crucial in curbing sickness and death in the country. The cost for one injection stands at 2,000 baht for the manufacturer, he said, adding the actual price per injection may differ depending on the hospital.

Vietnam

VN strives to reduce HIV infections despite funding shortage VietnamNet 31st Aug 2017
Viet Nam has been striving to reduce the number of HIV infections and prevent outbreaks in high-risk communities despite a decline in international funding, health officials say. According to the Viet Nam Administration of HIV/AIDS Control, the country began offering Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to people at high risk of contracting HIV, especially gays, in June 2017. Those who are at high risk of contracting the virus can take an antiretroviral (ARV) drug which contains tenofovir every day. When they are exposed to HIV through sex or recreational drug injections, the oral HIV PrEP can work to keep them from becoming infected. When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infections in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent. The pilot project providing PrEP is being implemented in HCM City until September 2018. Its results will be used to formulate national guidelines and financial mechanisms for PrEP provision in the coming time.

Vietnam’s health ministry under scrutiny over cancer drug scam VnExpress International 31st Aug 2017
Vietnam's government has ordered an investigation into the Ministry of Health's role in a headline-grabbing scandal that resulted in the former bosses of a pharmaceutical company going to jail last week for forging paperwork to distribute fake cancer drugs. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that government inspectors must take the issue “seriously” as it concerns public health. The Government Inspectorate has been asked to check how the ministry has registered new drugs and licensed importers. The case has caused the public to lose trust in the health care sector, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said Wednesday.

CDC issues travel notice for Vietnam due to dengue outbreak Outbreak News Today 27th Aug 2017
Vietnam has reported a large increase in dengue fever cases in 2017. As of last week, more than 90,000 cases have been reported, including two dozen deaths. The case count is up more than 60 percent compared to last year. The most affected areas include: An Giang, Binh Duong, Danang, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Khanh Hoa, Soc Trang, and Tien Giang. Dengue is spread through mosquito bites and can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and pain in the eyes, joints, and muscles. This has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a notice for travelers to the southeast Asian country.

Dengue cases rise by a staggering 42% in Vietnam MIMS News 25th Aug 2017
Vietnam is currently battling a furious dengue epidemic, witnessing more than 10,000 new cases (as of 18 August)—a staggering 42% hike in total of cases reported, over the same period last year. So far, a total of 90,626 people have been infected, of which 76,848 were hospitalised, while 24 people had died from the outbreak. Vietnam’s Ministry of Health expressed that it attributed the sudden rise in the number of dengue cases to the higher temperature and the higher frequency of rain. This is also worsened by the rapid pace of urbanisation, which promotes the breeding of the virus-carrying mosquitoes.

Project enhances equality in reproductive health in Vietnam Vietnam Plus 25th Aug 2017
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently approved a project on enhancing equality in sexual and reproductive health, family planning and medical response in Vietnam. The project, sponsored by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) with official development assistance worth over 5.5 million USD, will run from 2017 to 2021 in Hanoi.

Mutual recognition of test results of little benefit Viet Nam News 23rd Aug 2017
Test results at 38 central hospitals in Hà Nội have been mutually recognised since August 1, but the move seems to have done little to improve healthcare so far. Dương Đức Hùng, Head of Integrated Planning Department under Bạch Mai Hospital, said the hospital conducts millions of tests annually. The hospital is one of the 38 that is mutually recognizing tests, however only a few patient examinations and test results have been mutually recognised. “To use the same test results, hospitals need to share common test standards. In reality, there are many hospitals at the same level transferring patients to Bạch Mai Hospital without re-conducting tests as regulated by the Ministry of Health. This will help to save costs of treatment, transportation and even patients’ valuable time,” said Hùng. However, only some tests have stable results which do not require to be conducted again at other facilities. Complete blood count and liver enzymes, for example, are tests that need to be conducted before every medical examination. Doctors even need patients to retake blood tests, according to Hùng.