Health & Life Sciences Update: July 19, 2019

Health & Life Sciences Update | July 19, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham, Aishwarya Murthy and Rachel Forrest
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

July 26, Jakarta: Focus Group Discussion on Government Procurement for Healthcare in the Era of UHC
In order to gain clarity on the public procurement policy, particularly in the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors, EuroCham and the US-ASEAN Business Council will organize a Focus Group Discussions (FGD) on Government Procurement for Healthcare in the Era of UHC/JKN. This meeting will be an avenue for sharing insights as well as constructive dialogue between the relevant policy makers and the respective business representatives. To register for the event, please click here and to view the meeting agenda, please click here. If you have any questions, please contact contact Steven Gunawan at sgunawan@usasean.org or Ayu Nadia at anadia@usasean.org

July 30/31: 2019 Health & Life Sciences Committee Call
Please join us for the 2019 Health & Life Sciences Quarterly Committee Call to review the committee's recent programs, ongoing advocacy efforts, and upcoming priorities and initiatives. Call-in details and call agenda will be distributed to registrants prior to the call. To register for the call please click here. If you have questions, or to submit topics for discussion, please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org) and Hai Pham (hpham@usasean.org). 

August 26-30, Cambodia: 14th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting

October 28 – November 1, Thailand: 28th Pharmaceutical Product Working Group (PPWG) Meeting

November/December 2019: Joint Meeting between ASEAN Senior Officials’ on Youth and Senior Officials’ Meeting on Health Development

Others: 
The Council may conduct a Health & Life Sciences Mission to the Philippines in Q4 of 2019 and is currently gauging member interest in participating in this mission. If interested and for further information please contact Sunita Kapoor (skapoor@usasean.org).

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Bill Exempting Mental Health Medications from VAT Filed in Senate in Philippines
On July 1, Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. filed Senate Bill No.76, which seeks to amend the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 and exempt medicines prescribed for patients with mental health conditions from the imposition of the value-added tax (VAT). Filing the bill was one of his top priorities, and Senator Revilla made note of the enactment of the Republic Act No.11036 (or the Mental Health Act) to increase awareness on mental health and make mental health services more accessible to Filipinos. He said the passage of Republic Act 11036 in 2018 made health services more accessible but did not cover the cost of drugs and medicines prescribe to sustain the treatment and prevention of mental health conditions. In filling Senate Bill No.76, Revilla aims to make mental health care more accessible and sustainable for all by lowering the prices of medicines prescribed for mental conditions. The exemption will take effect on January 1, 2020. Under the bill, within 30 days of the Act going into effect, the Finance Secretary will, upon the recommendation of the Commission of Internal Revenue, promulgate the rules and regulations necessary for its effective implementation. The 18th Congress will open on July 22, where the bill shall be referred to the appropriate committee for discussions, after which, the committee shall recommend the bill for plenary debates before its approval.

Driving Comprehensive Healthcare Policy in ASEAN Economies
The EU-ASEAN Business Council recently launched its white paper on healthcare policy in the region: Driving Comprehensive Healthcare Policy in ASEAN. The report contextualizes the importance of the provision of affordable and universal healthcare in the era of changing economic and demographic dynamics in the region. The key challenge that ASEAN governments face is ensuring the accessibility and availability of healthcare to their entire populations, even those in the most remote locations, while maintaining it at an affordable price within manageable budgets. Despite the general perception that ASEAN has a youthful population, many countries in the region are facing a rapidly ageing demographic between now and 2050. With ageing populations and shifting demographics from rural to increasingly urban and middle-class societies come new healthcare challenges.

Market Access continues to be a key issue. As the demand for healthcare in the region continues to grow, companies are still challenged by the issue of varying market access. These issues impact companies' abilities to provide access to medicines, medical care and other healthcare related services, resulting in a barrier of patients’ access to appropriate treatments as needed. For many foreign companies, entering the ASEAN market is still a challenge as there are a significant amount of restrictions placed on their ability to enter freely and do business. While many national governments have introduced policies that are designed to attract foreign investment, ironically the same governments continue to restrict foreign companies in many industries. In most countries in the region, there are strict rules on foreign ownership and requirements for joint ventures, limiting a foreign company's willingness to enter into the market. Long and complex licensing regimes for the creation of new companies also prove to be a deterrent for many to enter. Moreover, regulatory challenges inhibit companies from operating at their maximum efficiency, further discouraging them. An example of this is localization requirements in Vietnam, which specifically mandates pharmaceutical companies to choose local national logistics services companies over experienced multi-national companies. This leads to safety concerns due to service quality challenges faced by these less-experienced entities, and result in medicines and devices either costing more, or becoming less readily available to those who require them.

The issue of Halal Certification is also a very sensitive subject for many in the ASEAN region. However, its potential introduction for some medical products and medicines does raise the risk of limiting access to medicines because they might become either unavailable or technically inappropriate for many citizens across the region. While recognizing and being sensitive to people's entitlement to protection and freedom of worship, most drugs are not intended to be consumed upon the free choice of consumers. In this particular context where the certification of halal is concerned, it is very important to distinguish between pharmaceuticals such as medicines and vaccines, and consumer goods such as food, beverages and cosmetics. By categorizing certain pharmaceutical products as non-halal, governments run the risk of countering public health objectives and possibly hindering a patient's access to optimal health treatment and disease prevention. Moreover, halal certification for biotechnology products, such as vaccines, risk to incite an aversion or reluctance among patients from seeking treatments, leading to the unintended consequence of harming public health.

Universal Health Care Law: No Grand Cure to What’s Ailing PHL Health Sector
Although Philippine President Duterte signed the Universal Health Care Act in March, labor groups are still waiting for the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) to be finalized within the 180-day deadline. Recent developments show that healthcare in the Philippines is becoming more expensive and may overtake Vietnam as the leader in medical and health costs within the region. Labor group shareholders and healthcare workers are especially anxious for the law’s IRR to be finalized to clarify the clause in Section 23, which provides that “all health professionals and health care workers shall be guaranteed permanent employment and competitive salaries to ensure continuity in the provision of health services.” The move to the regularization of workers has become a much anticipated and contentious part of the bill, with confusion over whether private healthcare employees will also receive the same benefits. The bill also encourages institutions to hire more healthcare workers, which may encourage progress towards more effective and substantive medical care that addresses the issue of limited numbers of health professionals. Once the IRR are finalized, citizens hope to experience benefits of the bill which include immediate eligibility and coverage for all Filipinos and free basic health service accommodations. These changes will be enacted in conjunction with PhilHealth becoming the national purchaser of health goods and services.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Brunei
Brunei, Indonesia sign ‘Plan of Action’ on health

Cambodia
Cambodia’s medical system is due for a check-up
Tobacco-related illnesses kill 15,000 in Cambodia per year: UN-led study

Indonesia
National Health Insurance covers over 222.5 million Indonesians
Jakarta Requests Artificial Rain to Tackle Pollution: BPPT

Laos
Health authorities redoubling efforts to limit dengue fever outbreak
Food fortification must improve Lao people’s health
World Population Day Celebrated, Tremendous Progress Recognised
Dengue Kills 25, Infects Over 10,000
International Conference Held On Health Strategy Transformation

Malaysia
Policy of decriminalising drug addiction commended
Rubber gloves sector under pressure due to oversupply, says research house
‘Too early to know impact of new sugar tax on manufacturers, consumers’

Myanmar
Villagers get diseases from waste-contaminated water
60 Yangon schools picked for health program
Red Cross aims to train five million to build resilient communities
Clinic closure marks milestone for HIV treatment in Myanmar
Research data in joint Myanmar government-USAID project helps health planning

Philippines
Universal Health Care law: No grand cure to what’s ailing PHL health sector
Morales eyes PhilHealth reorganization
Philippines healthcare unaffordable
PDEA starts medical marijuana research
Bill exempting mental health medications from VAT filed in Senate

Singapore
Healthcare Startup One BioMed closes US$5M Series A Funding Round
3D printing in APAC: Empowering yet challenging
Patent Term Extensions for Pharmaceutical Patents in Singapore

Thailand
'Ya ice' emerges as regional drug menace
First batch of medical marijuana oil on its way
Private hospitals' price deadline pushed back
Health dept chiefs take aim at haze
Department of Disease Control urges test to curb HIV spread

Vietnam
Dengue fever spreads across country
Study finds high rate of obesity among primary school students
Việt Nam’s research-based pharmaceutical industry expects high growth
Dengue fever kills five in HCM City
Thousands donate blood in HCM City campaign
Saigon becomes dengue fever hotspot
Dangerous weedkiller still used despite ban
New M&A boom in Vietnam's pharmaceutical sector
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Brunei

Brunei, Indonesia sign ‘Plan of Action’ on health Borneo Bulletin Online 10th Jul 2019
The 1st Joint Working Group (JWG) on Health Cooperation Meeting between Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of Indonesia concluded on a high note, with the signing of ‘Plan of Action’ on health focussing on seven main agendas for areas of cooperation in the field of health between both countries. The areas of cooperation are exchange of information on public health (disease control, environment health, occupational health and food safety); exchange of information on health promotion; exchange of information on traditional medicines; medicine products and health technology regulations; exchange of information on traditional and complementary medicines; identifying mutually agreed areas in the exchange of health and medical experts; developing exchange and internship programmes for health professionals in specific specialties; and joint research and development in the area of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The signing of the Plan of Action (PoA) on health is part of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on health cooperation between Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of Indonesia.

Cambodia

Cambodia’s medical system is due for a check-up Phnom Penh Post 10th Jul 2019
In Cambodia, many high-ranking government officials and public figures seek medical treatment abroad – including Prime Minister Hun Sen. With this in mind, it is not surprising that many locals also seem to often distrust local healthcare facilities. Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Last year, the country saw another year of seven per cent GDP growth, and such trends have led to an increase in national wealth and living standards. Despite this rapid development, more and more people are going abroad to access healthcare services. The number of outbound Cambodians travelling for medical purposes and holidays in general rose from 1.2 million in 2015 to 1.4 million in 2016, out of a population of 15.76 million. Between 24 and 30 per cent of Cambodian tourists travel to Vietnam and Thailand for such purposes. This is a concern, given the negative implications for the national healthcare system.

Tobacco-related illnesses kill 15,000 in Cambodia per year: UN-led study Xinhua 4th Jul 2019
PHNOM PENH, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Tobacco-related illnesses claimed about 15,000 lives in Cambodia a year, costing the country's economy 657 million U.S. dollars, or three percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), said a United Nations-led new study released on Thursday. "These costs are due to health care expenditures and 'hidden' productivity losses from premature mortality, disabilities and smoking breaks," said a joint statement publicized during the launching ceremony of a study report on health and economic costs of tobacco use in Cambodia. Other than the health and economic costs of tobacco use, the study also estimated the potential health and economic gains from scaled up implementation of evidence-based tobacco control measures, the statement said. Scaling up tobacco control measures would save 57,000 Cambodian lives and avert 1.9 billion dollars in health costs and economic losses by 2033, it said, adding that this would translate into 3,815 lives saved annually. "The investment case study clearly shows that tobacco is harming our people and our economy," Cambodian Health Ministry Secretary of State Oeurn Borarorth said during the launching ceremony. "The government is committed to implementing the necessary measures to better the health of all, save lives and improve the economic well-being of the country and the people," he said. As a party to the world's tobacco control international treaty -- the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), Cambodia has taken important steps to reduce tobacco use, the statement said.

Indonesia

National Health Insurance covers over 222.5 million Indonesians Antara News 4th Jul 2019
As of June 21, 2019, the exact number of Indonesians covered by the National Health Insurance-Healthy Indonesia Cards was 222,547,316. Manado, North Sulawesi (ANTARA) - Some 222.5 million Indonesians are covered by National Health Insurance-Healthy Indonesia Cards, according to Dr. Anurman Huda, Deputy Director of the Health-Social Insurance Office (BJS) for North Sulawesi, Central Sulawesi, Gorontanto and North Maluku (Sulutenggomalut). As of June 21, 2019, the exact number of Indonesians covered by the National Health Insurance-Healthy Indonesia Cards was 222,547,316. At the beginning of the program in 2014, 121.6 million people or 49 percent of the population, were members of the national health insurance program, Dr. Huda said here Thursday, while speaking at a workshop on the National Social Insurance System-Bappenas (National Development Planning Agency). The members' satisfaction index is 75 percent, while the satisfaction index for the medical facility is 65 percent, he added. The Indonesian National Health Care Insurance (BPJS Health) has been managed transparently, efficiently, and all have been accounted for, he noted.

Jakarta Requests Artificial Rain to Tackle Pollution: BPPT Tempo 5th Jul 2019
The Jakarta provincial administration has asked the Assessment and Application of Technology Agency (BPPT) to start implementing a weather modification project between July 10-15 in a bid to reduce air pollution. The agency’s Weather Modification Technology Center (BBTMC) head, Tri Handoko Seto, said that the two parties had agreed on the implementation of the project.

Laos

Health authorities redoubling efforts to limit dengue fever outbreak Vientiane Times 8th Jul 2019
Health officials and medical staff at hospitals across the country, including the capital, are endeavouring to combat the increasing number of dengue fever cases this year. Many hospitals in the capital have converted corridors and meeting rooms into wards due to a lack of space to treat patients, and some facilities have even requested additional beds from the public to handle the growing number of dengue patients. As of July 3, a total of 10,778 people had been diagnosed with dengue fever nationwide, and 25 have died, according to a report by the Ministry of Health’s Communicable Disease Control Department. Deputy Director General of Setthathirath Hospital, Dr Khamla Choumlivong told Lao media yesterday health authorities acknowledged that the dengue fever outbreak is higher this year and increased numbers of patients were receiving treatment for the potentially fatal virus. “Health authorities have admitted their concerns about the higher rate of dengue fever cases this year and Laos still faces challenges in preventing the disease,” she said. The mosquitoes responsible for transmission are the Aedesaegypti and Aedesalbopictus species. The Ministry of Health, under orders of Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, recently called on health officials and local authorities across the country to closely monitor their areas in the fight against dengue, hoping to reduce the number of cases, according to the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology.

Food fortification must improve Lao people’s health Vientiane Times 4th Jul 2019
The level of chronic malnutrition in Laos has decreased from 44 percent in 2012 to 33 percent in 2017. However, the country still has the highest rate of malnutrition in the South East Asian region making the population’s intake of quality nutrients a challenge. This was the key message delivered at a technical workshop on reviewing the current status of food fortification and focusing on the initial steps of setting standards for food fortification in Laos. The National Nutrition Committee Secretariat organised a technical workshop in Vientiane this week, with technical assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and input of experts from the German chemical company  BASF. The workshop was chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health, Associate Professor Dr Phouthone Muongpak, with the cochair WFP Deputy Country Director and Representative of the United Nations World Food Programme Mr Hakan Tongul. Associate Professor Dr Phouthone said, “The government has successfully implemented mandatory saltiodisation to prevent Iodine Deficiency Disorders. The opportunity to fortify other foods such as rice, oil, noodles, soy sauce or dairy products must be seized and will require support from all stakeholders.” “The workshop is an important milestone, because it is the first step in setting standards for food fortification in Laos,” he added. Food fortification is one of the key priorities of the National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016-2020.

World Population Day Celebrated, Tremendous Progress Recognised KPL - Lao News Agency 11th Jul 2019
Maternal Deaths dropped more than five times, now there are almost 2,500 midwives and most of them are deployed in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Laos - tremendous progress we have seen since the 1st International Conference on Population and Development.

Dengue Kills 25, Infects Over 10,000 BruDirect 6th Jul 2019
Over 10,700 people across the country have been infected with dengue virus, with Champassak hard hit with 2,416 infection cases and five deaths reported since the beginning of January, according to the Ministry of Health. The number of dengue death toll in Savannakhet is higher than those reported in other provinces.

International Conference Held On Health Strategy Transformation Lao PDR News Gazette 3rd Jul 2019
The Fondation Pierre Fabre in cooperation with the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie(AUF) held its International Observatory Conference on Jul 1 to discuss the transformation of health strategies for the benefit of all, through the strengthening of digital health skills and the implementation of efficient health information systems (HIS).

Malaysia

Policy of decriminalising drug addiction commended The Sun Daily 14th Jul 2019
NILAI: The stand made by the government to decriminalise drug addiction is a clear policy on the issue, said associate researcher with the Malaysian Substance Abuse Council, Dr Farhana Sabri, in commending the move. She said for a very long time, Malaysia had been treating drug addicts as criminals by putting them in prison where there were limited intervention and treatment appropriate for drug addiction, let alone evidence-based treatment. “The Health Ministry (MOH) states that decriminalisation means the removal of criminal penalties for individuals who possess and use drugs in small amounts. This clearly does not include drug trafficking, which remains a crime. “This game-changer policy indicates that the government seriously acknowledges that drug addiction is a complex disease and it has to be treated as one. “The complexity of this disease is attributed to many factors that could result in someone’s drug addiction, may it be biological, physiological, psychological, socio-economic status and demographic differences. These factors demand a critical look in order to treat drug addiction holistically,” she told Bernama, here, today.

Rubber gloves sector under pressure due to oversupply, says research house www.thesundaily.my 10th Jul 2019
Malaysian rubber glove manufacturers’ selling prices and operating profit margins will come under pressure in the short term due to oversupply, according to AmResearch. “The expected robust growth is underpinned by an expanding global healthcare sector as well as increased awareness on the importance of hygienic practices throughout the industry, especially in emerging markets such as India and China,” it said. “Currently, glove consumption per capita in emerging markets such as India and China is still low at around two to six gloves as opposed to 100-280 gloves for developed countries.” In 2018, Malaysia’s rubber gloves export expanded 14% year-on-year (y-o-y), with natural rubber gloves recording a 7.6% increase and nitrile gloves 18.2% growth.

‘Too early to know impact of new sugar tax on manufacturers, consumers’ Borneo Post Online 2nd Jul 2019
It is too early to tell if the new tax on sugary drinks would affect both beverage manufacturers and consumers in the state, says Kuching Coffee Shop and Restaurant Owners Association chairman Teo Giat Liew. “If our association members feel that the tax is too heavy and they decide to pass the cost of the sugar tax to consumers, we cannot stop them from doing so,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday. “This move in the long run will definitely add cost to the current goods, but again it depends on the margin set by traders on whether it is under profiteering or vice versa,” Michael Tiong said.

Myanmar

Villagers get diseases from waste-contaminated water The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
Adults and children who rely on the river for bathing and household water because they can’t afford clean water are suffering from skin disease, according to some residents of Myo Pyin Gyi village in Amarapura township of Mandalay. “Many people are itching because of the wastewater. Those who have money can dig wells for household use and bathing, and buy drinking water, but poor people and those living along the river have to use the river water, and they are always itching,” said U Win Saung a 10-household leader in Myo Pyin Gyi. The village of more than 300 houses and about 1000 people is a half mile from the sewage pipe. In the past, residents used the river water for bathing and drinking, but the water has been undrinkable for about a decade, he said, and now two-thirds of the houses in the village have wells. The wastewater pipe goes through Nyaung Ni Bin village and discharges into the Dotehtawady above the villages of Myo Pyin Gyi, Myo Thit, Myit Nge, Nyaung Bin Sauk and Sar Toe. When the river level is low, the river gives off foul smells and there are more mosquitoes, some Myo Pyin Gyi villagers said.

60 Yangon schools picked for health program The Myanmar Times 10th Jul 2019
Yangon health authorities will work with 60 schools in the region on a health program to promote knowledge of health standards among students in the current academic year, a senior official of the Yangon Region Public Health Department has announced. “We need to accelerate the dissemination of this type of knowledge in schools. Awareness of health knowledge is very important,” Dr Daw Sandar, director of the department, said on Saturday at an advocacy meeting to strengthen promotion of health knowledge in schools. The program will focus on nine areas: health education, school environmental sanitation, school-based disease control, nutrition and food safety, medical examination, including primary oral care and dental examinations, community outreach, counselling and social support, training and research, and sports and physical activity.

Red Cross aims to train five million to build resilient communities The Myanmar Times 8th Jul 2019
The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) aims to get five million people from all over the country to participate in building “resilient communities” from this year to 2025, a senior official of the group said. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies defines resilience as the ability of people, communities, organisations or countries exposed to disasters, crises and vulnerabilities to anticipate, prepare for, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses, without compromising their long-term prospects.

Clinic closure marks milestone for HIV treatment in Myanmar Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International 8th Jul 2019
As part of a nationwide strategy to transfer HIV patients to Myanmar’s National AIDS Programme (NAP), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) closed our HIV clinic in Insein, Yangon in late June. The Insein clinic, which opened in 2014, was part of our larger Yangon project, which has been running since 2003. At its height, the project provided treatment to more than 17,000 people, many from outside Yangon. The closure represents a milestone both for MSF and for Myanmar, marking the country’s growing capacity to provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for people living with HIV.

Research data in joint Myanmar government-USAID project helps health planning Mizzima Myanmar News and Insight 6th Jul 2019
New analyses from the Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey have been released to help with the scaling up of health services in Myanmar. Professor Dr. Zaw Than Htun, Director General of Medical Research, Ministry of Health and Sports and Teresa McGhie, Mission Director, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened a day-long session during which 19 researchers shared new analyses of public health issues in Myanmar with donors and policymakers, according to a press release 5 July. 

Philippines

Universal Health Care law: No grand cure to what’s ailing PHL health sector BusinessMirror 11th Jul 2019
NEARLY 140 days after President Duterte signed into law the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act, its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) have yet to be finalized. And almost every stakeholder awaits this with bated breath. Labor groups are among these stakeholders as their demand for the regularization of thousands of contractual workers received an unexpected shot in the arm with the implementation of the UHC law, or Republic Act 11223. To note, the law and its IRR come at a time when a study released through Mercer (Philippines) Inc. believes medical and health care are becoming expensive, especially for poor Filipinos. Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) advocacy head Jillian T. Roque said they are now eagerly awaiting law’s IRR, particularly its provision on the regularization of medical workers. Roque is referring to Section 23 of UHC law, which states “to ensure continuity in the provision of health programs and services, all health professionals and health care workers shall be guaranteed permanent employment and competitive salaries.”

Morales eyes PhilHealth reorganization Philippine News Agency 9th Jul 2019
Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and chief executive officer Ricardo Morales is looking into the reorganization of PhilHealth to provide the public better health care services in line with the full implementation of the Universal Health Care law. “I’m thinking about the organizational chart, maybe we need to reorganize it, in order to deliver more responsive services,” Morales said in a press conference on Tuesday at the PhilHealth headquarters in Pasig City. Citing that there are about 20,000 cases on fraudulent claims filed since 2015, Morales said the PhilHealth has resolved around 6,000 cases to date. Morales added the reorganization would help the PhilHealth “manage the expectations of Filipinos when the Universal Health Care law comes into full swing”.

Philippines healthcare unaffordable PhilStar Global 5th Jul 2019
A study has just confirmed what we already know is true: many Filipinos cannot afford to pay their hospital bills. Nearly half of Filipinos are unsure if they can pay for their hospitalization if they get sick, according to the 2nd Philippine Wellness Index released last week. Initiated by PhilCare, the study found out that 40 percent of 1,350 respondents from various parts of the country expressed uncertainty on their capability of paying medical bills. The study revealed that 37 percent of respondents had to use their savings while 25 percent sought the help of their relatives to pay their medical bills. As reported by The Star, the study also showed that 30 percent of the respondents were not sure if they can afford the cost of regular medical checkups. Philippine Wellness Index chief researcher Fernando Paragas said Filipinos lack the confidence to address their medical needs. “We are at our weakest when it comes to medical and financial needs.”  A retired medical practitioner confirmed to me the existence of a serious problem. “Yes, Juan de la Cruz inherited a flawed ‘pay-as-you-go’ system. It is flawed in a first world economic setting. In a third world country, it is/can be a disaster due to lack of first world ‘filters’. Let me be clear - all classes are affected.” And things will not get any better in the foreseeable future. Government through the Department of Health is too busy trying to cope with a broken public health system that is also plagued with corruption. Our PhilHealth was defrauded by over P150 billion in fake claims.

PDEA starts medical marijuana research GMA News Online 4th Jul 2019
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Thursday has started a research on the proposed medical use of marijuana in the country. "This will be a basis ng ating mga mambabatas na in the future in case na ma-approve ito na magamit ang marijuana medically, magiging basis itong research and study na kino-conduct ng PDEA," PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino said in a report by Mark Salazar in GMA News TV's State of the Nation with Jessica Soho. The legalization of medical marijuana has been approved by the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress. This proposed measure seeks to allow the use of marijuana to treat chronic or debilitating medical conditions and establish Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers that will facilitate authorized selling of cannabis to qualified patients. A bill pushing for the legalization of medical marijuana was refiled at the Lower House at the 18th Congress on Monday. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, expressed last March that such legislation will not be enacted during his term. "Not in my time. Some other President maybe. I do not intend to legalize it. Ayaw ko. Gawain mo lang excuse ‘yan eh. Magtatanim ka ng iyo. Sabihin mo, 'Medicinal man kaya ‘to,'" Duterte said. — Dona Magsino/BAP, GMA News One of the Duterte administration's flagship campaigns is the so-called war against illegal drugs.

Bill exempting mental health medications from VAT filed in Senate GMA News Online 4th Jul 2019
A bill seeking to exempt drugs and medicines prescribed for mental health conditions from value-added tax has been filed in the Senate. Senate Bill 78, filed by Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., will amend Section 109 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 to include in the exemption drugs and medicines for mental health beginning January 1, 2020. Revilla, in the explanatory note, said the bill aims to make mental healthcare accessible and sustainable for all by lowering the cost of drugs and medicine. He said the passage of Republic Act 11036 or Mental Health Act in 2018 made health services more accessible but did not cover the cost of drugs and medicines prescribed to sustain the treatment and prevention of mental health conditions. Under the bill, within 30 days from effectivity of the Act, the Finance secretary shall, upon the recommendation of the Commission of Internal Revenue, promulgate the rules and regulations necessary for its effective implementation. — BM, GMA News

Singapore

Healthcare Startup One BioMed closes US$5M Series A Funding Round AsiaOne 14th Jul 2019
SINGAPORE, July 10, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- One BioMed Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based medical diagnostics company, announced today that it has closed a US$5 million Series A financing round, led by Singapore-based Biopath Ventures and US-based ARCH Venture Partners, with Enterprise Singapore's investment arm, SEEDS Capital, also participating. The company, a spin-off of A*STAR in 2016, is developing leading-edge platform technologies for diagnostics testing. One BioMed will use these funds to commercialise its first product, an automated sample preparation device for purification and isolation of nucleic acids from a wide variety of samples, required as a first step in many molecular biological and clinical diagnostic technologies. "We are delighted that such esteemed investors have endorsed our vision of how One BioMed technologies will change the healthcare landscape," said CEO and founder, Dr. Mi Kyoung Park, in a statement. "Reaching this stage of product development would not have been possible without the extensive support from Singapore's burgeoning science and technology ecosystem, including Accelerate Technologies, joint laboratories with the Genome Institute of Singapore and the Institute of Microelectronics, not to mention Enterprise Singapore."

3D printing in APAC: Empowering yet challenging BioSpectrum 14th Jul 2019
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing was first developed in 1983 when the father of 3D printing Chuck Hall manufactured the world’s first-ever 3D printer and used it to print a tiny eye wash cup. Today, that cup has paved the way for a quiet revolution that is changing the healthcare industry in dramatic ways. Since its introduction, 3D printing has been used in various areas in the medical field, for example building anatomical models, personalising medical devices and implants, aiding in precision medical interventions and the latest development, 3D bioprinting. The technology is expected to be worth no less than $3 billion by 2021 and looks set to disrupt the cost implications of several medical procedures. “The growth of 3D printing in the healthcare and medical industry is accelerating. According to a report from market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) released in 2019, healthcare providers are set to be the second largest industry that will spend on 3D printing this year, with a spending total of nearly $1.8 billion”, mentions Rob Mesaros, Vice President of 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing for Asia Pacific & Japan, HP Inc. Rising demand for implants customizations during surgical procedures coupled with growing R&D investments is driving the healthcare 3D printing market growth. Currently, North America is the leading contributor to the global healthcare 3D printing market. The North American healthcare 3D printing market is projected to expand at a CAGR of 22.7 per cent during 2019-2024, leading to a global revenue of $901.2 million by 2024. However, the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is anticipated to expand at the highest CAGR of 25.9 per cent between 2019 and 2024.

Patent Term Extensions for Pharmaceutical Patents in Singapore Singapore Patent Attorneys, Trade Mark Agents 14th Jul 2019
The Patents (Amendment) Act 2004 introduced patent term extensions to take into account delays in obtaining marketing approval for pharmaceutical products in Singapore. These are generally equivalent to Supplementary Protection Certificates (SPE) issued for pharmaceutical patents in Europe. Legislative Framework Subject of the Patent Term Extension Patent term extensions are granted to patents where the subject of the patent includes “any substance which is an active ingredient of any pharmaceutical product”. According to Section 36A(9), the protection conferred by the patent during the term of the extension only applies to the substance which is the active ingredient of the pharmaceutical product for which marketing approval was sought.

Thailand

'Ya ice' emerges as regional drug menace Bangkok Post 4th Jul 2019
'Ya ice' emerges as regional drug menace Methamphetamine remains a pressing problem for Thailand while in other Asean countries crystal meth, or ya ice, has become a major scourge, according to the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). The past three years have seen widespread abuse of meth pills in Thailand and ya ice in other countries in the region, said Weerawat Tengamnuay, the ONCB deputy secretary-general at the 8th Asean Drug Monitoring Network Operational Workshop in Bangkok. Representatives of 10 Asean members exchanged information about the drug abuse situation in their countries. The region is looking out for the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and opioids, a class of drugs which includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers, he said. Since the beginning of 2017, authorities in the region have determined that a growing number of people have received treatment for abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants combined with the use of cannabis and NPS.

First batch of medical marijuana oil on its way The Nation Thailand 9th Jul 2019
An initial batch of 15,000 doses of medical-cannabis oil will be ready for distribution among some registered people in need within the coming month, the Public Health Ministry announced on Tuesday. Minister Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) had begun harvesting medical-grade cannabis to use in producing cannabinoid medicines, so doses should be ready as early as the end of this month.

Private hospitals' price deadline pushed back Bangkok Post 6th Jul 2019
The Commerce Ministry will extend the submission deadline for 353 private hospitals to provide information about the actual costs of drugs, medical supplies and medical services to July 31, saying the decision is in line with a cabinet resolution on Tuesday. According to the Internal Trade Department, the latest cabinet meeting approved 54 products to go on the price control list, including drugs, supplies and related services. Whichai Phochanakij, the department's director-general, said the submission period should give the hospitals enough time. The department has received only 20 documents from private hospitals so far.

Health dept chiefs take aim at haze Bangkok Post 3rd Jul 2019
Health officials have renewed efforts to fight PM2.5 ultra-fine dust and other harmful air pollutants in order to meet a target of reducing illnesses caused by air pollution by 10% in two years. The goal was announced by Health Department chief Phanphimon Wipulakon yesterday ahead of Thai Environmental Health Day tomorrow. Dr Phanphimon said the amount of fine dust in the air in many provinces, including Bangkok, still exceeds acceptable levels.

Department of Disease Control urges test to curb HIV spread Bangkok Post 3rd Jul 2019
The Department of Disease Control is encouraging members of the public to get free HIV/Aids tests from state-run hospitals, after it found that at least 28,000 Thais are unaware that they have contracted the disease. The director-general of the DDC, Suwanchai Watthanatingcharoen said tests are provided free at state-run hospitals today to mark the Voluntary Counselling Testing (VCT) Day for HIV/Aids, which falls on July 1 each year.

Vietnam

Dengue fever spreads across country Voice of Vietnam 10th Jul 2019
Vietnam has seen a surge in dengue fever with about 71,000 cases recorded in the first half of 2019, rising more than three-fold year on year, according to the Ministry of Health. Of the cases, nearly 50,000 were reported in 20 provinces and cities in the southern region, 139 percent higher than in the same period last year. They included six deaths. Ho Chi Minh City had the biggest number of dengue fever cases, almost 24,770, up 176 percent year on year. Binh Phuoc province also witnessed a surge of 142 percent in the patient number to more than 1,700. In An Giang, another southern province, the number increased 28 percent to over 1,960. The Central Highlands province of Dak Lak saw more than 3,200 dengue fever cases in the six months, soaring seven-fold from a year earlier. Meanwhile, dengue fever has also shown signs of spreading in Hanoi, which reported 820 cases during the reviewed period.

Study finds high rate of obesity among primary school students VietNamNet 7th Jul 2019
A lack of physical activity and inappropriate diets are to blame for the high rate of obesity among primary school students, according to a new study by the National Institute of Nutrition. The study shows that the rate of overweight and obese primary school students is 29 percent, higher than that of secondary school students (19 percent)and high school students (9.5 percent). The study was conducted between 2017 and 2018 on 5,028 students aged 7 to 17 years old at 75 schools in Hanoi, HCM City and Thai Nguyen, Nghe An and Soc Trang provinces.It revealed shortcomings in the nutritional intake and physical activity of children of different ages. According to the study, primary school students’ dietary intake exceeds the recommended dietary allowance in terms of energy and protein. However, they have a low level of physical activity, leading to a high rate of obesity,especially in urban areas.

Việt Nam’s research-based pharmaceutical industry expects high growth Vietnam News Agency 9th Jul 2019
The European Chamber of Commerce in Việt Nam (Eurocham) highly values the potential of Việt Nam to become a centre for the research-based pharmaceutical industry including production, export and supplies of high quality healthcare services in the ASEAN region.Pharma Group (PG) – the Pharmaceutical Sector Committee of EuroCham, said Việt Nam has many advantages in the sector thanks to its population of 95 million, stable political climate and trained human resources. In addition, it is the gateway to ASEAN countries. Research from PG showed that Việt Nam has the ability to reach a higher position in the value chain of the science and life sector in comparison with other countries in the ASEAN region. To fully tap this potential, Eurocham suggested foreign companies operating in the sector receive support from the Government, the Ministry of Health and other relevant ministries.

Dengue fever kills five in HCM City Vietnam News Agency 9th Jul 2019
Five people died from dengue fever in HCM City in the first six months of the year, the municipal Preventive Medicine Centre said on Monday. A total of 4,768 dengue cases, up 176 per cent year-on-year, were recorded in the city during the period. The peak time for the disease in HCM City and the southern region usually starts in June as rains become more frequent, according to Nguyễn Trí Dũng, the centre's director. In June, the city reported nearly 2,330 dengue cases, a month-on-month surge of 40 per cent, he added.

Thousands donate blood in HCM City campaign VietNamNet 8th Jul 2019
More than 1,570 units of blood were collected from nearly 2,500 volunteers at HCM City as part of the national seventh blood-donation campaign Hành Trình Đỏ (Red Journey). The annual campaign came to HCM City on Saturday with blood donation festivals held at the District 10 Children’s House and Giác Ngộ Pagoda in District 10. In the last six years, about 170,000 blood units have been collected by the campaign. About 60,000 blood units are expected to be collected from volunteers this year. Montri Suwanposri, general director of C.P. Viet Nam Corporation, said the company’s employees always donated blood during the campaign. “This is a meaningful activity that helps save thousands of lives." A series of other voluntary blood donation campaigns will be held in the city throughout the year.

Saigon becomes dengue fever hotspot VnExpress International 5th Jul 2019
Saigon has reported 24,000 cases of dengue fever in the first six months, a 176 percent rise compared to the same period last year. Five people have died. Official statistics also show the number of cases has increased consistently since the first week of June, coinciding with the arrival of the rainy season in southern Vietnam. Scattered, continuous rains combined with warm weather create favorable conditions for mosquitoes to spread the fever, according to Dr Nguyen Tri Dung, director of the Ho Chi Minh City Preventive Medicine Center. Vietnam has been trying to find an effective way to tackle dengue, one of the biggest killers out of its 28 common infectious diseases. The only vaccine for it available globally is not recommended for people who have not had dengue before. The World Health Organization says vector control is the key strategy to prevent the transmission of the dengue virus.

Dangerous weedkiller still used despite ban Vietnam News Agency 4th Jul 2019
Despite its negative effects on human health and the environment and a Government ban from February, Paraquat is still being traded in Việt Nam, the Vietnam News Agency has reported. Paraquat, a chemical weedkiller, and 2,4-D, an organic compound, have been used to control weeds in Việt Nam since the 1990s. 2,4-D paraquat can be found in many commercial lawn herbicide mixtures. More than 1,500 herbicide products contain 2,4-D as an active ingredient. Breathing in Paraquat can cause lung damage and long-term exposure to Paraquat may cause pulmonary fibrosis. In February 2017, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a decree prohibiting the use of plant protection products containing paraquat and 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) in Việt Nam yet still allowed the trade and use of the products for two years starting from when the ban became effective, meaning this February.

New M&A boom in Vietnam's pharmaceutical sector VietNamNet 3rd Jul 2019
After two years of delay, Vinapharm resumed its plan to sell shares to attract capable investors. The Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to divest 35 percent of shares in 2019 and another 30 percent in 2020. The divestment of Vinapharm will be a great opportunity for foreign investors to penetrate the Vietnamese pharmaceutifical sector. Michal Jacob from KPMG Vietnam commented that the divestment will catch the attention of strategic investors with powerful financial capability who are seeking opportunities to approach the Vietnamese market. Vinapharm is one of the best pharmaceutical firms holding strategic positions in the market, with large distribution networks. It is one of very few Vietnamese companies carrying out R&D and it serves as the ‘backbone’ of the industry. Vinapharm is a large corporation with 23 subsidiaries and affiliates. It had an IPO in 2017.