SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Heroin production in Afghanistan increased 40 times since NATO began its ‘War on Terror’ in 2001, the head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service stated, adding that more than 1million people have died from Afghan heroin since then.
“Afghan heroin has killed more than 1 million people worldwide since the ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ began and over a trillion dollars has been invested into transnational organized crime from drug sales,” Viktor Ivanov said at the conference on the drug situation in Afghanistan.
Ivanov stressed that the main factor of instability in the war-torn country remains the prosperous heroin industry.
"Any impartial observer must admit the sad fact that the international community has failed to curb heroin production in Afghanistan since the start of NATO’s operation.”
As the situation in Afghanistan changed with NATO withdrawing its troops, Russia along with Afghanistan and the international community must face the new reality and develop an efficient strategy to deal with the heroin problem, explained Ivanov.
Opium production has been central to Afghanistan’s economy ever since US and NATO forces invaded in October 2001. Just before the invasion Taliban had implemented a ban on poppy growing, declaring it to be anti-Islam, which lowered the overall production. But after the West’s involvement, production resumed and now the country produces some 90 per cent of the world’s opium, the great bulk of which ends up on the streets of Europe and Russia.
US and NATO officials have been stuck in a Catch-22 fight against Afghan opium. At the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March, Ivanov stated that on the one hand, they are attempting to win the hearts and minds of the local population, which increasingly depends on the cultivation of opium poppy for their livelihood. On the other, they need to cut off finances to the Taliban insurgency, which is fueled by the sale of opium poppy to foreign markets.
About 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s Gross National Product depends on drug-related exports, which amounts business worth US$2.4 billion a year, according to UN 2012 figures.
Spokesman for Afghanistan's Counternarcotic Ministry Qayum Samir told Radio Free Europe on Monday that 157,000 hectares are being planted with poppies this spring, which is up by an estimated 3,000 hectares since last year. Samir argued that lack of security, lack of governance and widespread poverty are the reasons behind the increase in heroin production.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A liver cancer treatment is off-limits in the NHS due to its unjustifiably high price tag, but in India the same treatment is available for less than £100 a month.
In this week's Scrubbing Up, Michelle Childs, of Medecins Sans Frontieres, questions why wealthy nations are not doing more to drive down medicine costs.
Sorafenib tosylate is a drug for liver cancer patented by German pharmaceutical company Bayer and marketed as Nexavar.
Bayer priced the drug at nearly £3,500 per month.
Until March last year, India - a country where half the population live on less than £1 per day - had no choice but to pay this sum for patented Nexavar.
But to ensure its citizens had affordable access, the country has since granted a compulsory licence clause that cuts the cost of the drug by allowing another company to manufacture the therapy, even though it is still under patent.
This has slashed the price of the drug by an astounding 97% - generic versions of sorafenib in India cost around £84 per month.
In the UK, where an affordable generic version isn't available, the price is around £3,000 per month, which drug regulators say is "simply too high" to justify making it available on the NHS.
Indeed, the watchdog NICE (National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence) rejected Nexavar for NHS use based on its cost-benefit calculation.
The reaction in the UK to this decision was swift and censorious. Health charities - including the heads of Macmillan Cancer Support and the British Liver Trust - cancer patients and their families all publicly slammed the decision, and some even went as far as to picket the NICE offices of CEO Andrew Dillon in protest. But the one place the anger wasn't directed was at the prices set by the pharmaceutical companies.
With health budgets that need to be controlled and the Cancer Drugs Fund in the UK under pressure, the elephant in the room is the cost of the drug in the first place.
Why did no-one question Bayer on the price tag of its drug? Instead of asking, "Why are we refusing to pay for these high drug prices?", people in the UK today should be asking, "Why are these drug prices so high?"
Bayer has said it will challenge India's decision to allow the production of a cheaper generic copy of its patented drug.
It justifies the higher price of sorafenib saying it needs the revenue to pay for future innovation. But Bayer has refused to provide details on how much it invested in Nexavar's research and development, the cost of which was partly subsidised by the US government.
The only figure Bayer was prepared to refer to was the $1 billion general R&D price tag that GSK Chief Andrew Witty recently called "one of the great myths of the industry".
It is true that innovative new drugs can change the way we treat people and we need more of them.
But innovation is of little use if people cannot access new treatments because they are so expensive.
This has long been recognised as an issue in the developing world. Increasingly though, those who cannot afford these prices are in developed countries like the UK. The innovation system is failing.
A new approach is needed.
We need to move to a system where new drugs are priced as close to the cost of production as possible - and where innovation is paid for and rewarded separately. We need innovation and affordable access.
This is the prescription to address the needs of developing countries suggested by experts at the World Health Organization.
But the UK, EU and other developed countries are blocking meaningful progress.
With the UK, the US and the EU facing ageing populations and health budget blowouts, now is the time for them to start siding with developing countries on affordable access.
It is in the interests of everyone's good health.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Africa, India and other developing countries are awash in fake or sub-standard drugs for tuberculosis, fuelling the rise of treatment-resistant strains of TB, according to a survey published on Tuesday.
Investigators in the United States asked local people in 19 cities in 17 countries to purchase isoniazid and rifampicin, the frontline antibiotics for TB, from a private-sector pharmacy.
The samples were then examined by chromatography, a technique that detects chemical signature, for their active ingredient.
They were also tested for disintegration, to see if they properly broke up in water at body temperature within 30 minutes.
Out of 713 samples, 9.1 percent failed these basic quality control tests, according to the probe, published in the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Around half of the failed samples had zero active ingredients, "making them likely to contribute to drug resistance," it said.
Resistance to TB drugs develops when treatment fails to kill the bacteria that causes it -- either because the patient fails to follow their prescribed dosages or, as in this case, the drug doesn't work.
It can also be contracted through rare forms of the disease that are directly transmissible from person to person.
Dud drugs were manufactured by legitimate companies and criminal fraudsters, said the report.
The pharmacies where the drugs were purchased were in Luanda, Angola; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Beijing, China; Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo; Cairo, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Accra, Ghana; Chennai, Delhi and Kolkata, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; Moscow, Russia; Kigali, Rwanda; Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Bangkok, Thailand; Istanbul, Turkey; Kampala, Uganda; and Lusaka, Zambia.
The failure rate was 16.6 percent in Africa, 10.1 percent in India and 3.9 percent in Brazil, China, Thailand, Turkey and Russia.
Nearly nine million people around the world have TB, including more than 400,000 with a multidrug-resistant form of the disease, according to estimates for 2011 compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
TB is one of the world's deadliest diseases. It is spread from person to person through the air and usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain and kidneys.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Mexican marines say they have detained an unlikely band of drug traffickers that includes 12 boys and a woman with a baby who possessed rifles, grenade launchers and drugs.
A navy statement issued Wednesday says the 18 people were caught on New Year's Eve in the town of La Estacion in the northern state of Zacatecas. It alleges they were carrying nine rifles, two pistols, two grenade launchers and packets of marijuana and cocaine.
The navy says the only woman in the group was carrying a baby girl. It doesn't say what authorities did with the baby.
Twelve of the 17 male suspects are said to be minors. Drug cartels often hire youths to work for them and many have been arrested since the government launched its offensive against traffickers.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)The number of drugs when mixed with grapefruit that can lead to serious health problems, including sudden death, has skyrocketed, warns a Canadian researcher who first discovered the toxic link. In an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, David Bailey, a scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, said more than 85 drugs, many of them highly prescribed for common medical conditions, are known to interact with the pink fruit. He first made the link 20 years ago. But the number of medications with the potential to interact with grapefruit and cause serious adverse health effects has jumped from 17 to 43 in the last four years, as new drugs have been rolled out, Bailey said. "How big a problem are such interactions? Unless health care professionals are aware of the possibility that the adverse event they are seeing might have an origin in the recent addition of grapefruit to the patient's diet, it is very unlikely that they will investigate it," Bailey said. Generally patients don't say they eat grapefruit and doctors don't ask, he lamented in the article. Grapefruit poses a risk when mixed with certain drugs because it inhibits an enzyme that metabolizes ingested drugs, resulting in the drugs entering the bloodstream at full force, which can lead to overdosing. Some of the drugs known to interact with grapefruit include anti-cancer agents, heart drugs, pain medications and drugs to treat schizophrenia. All of them are administered orally.
It doesn't take much grapefruit to have an effect. Drinking a single glass of grapefruit juice with medication can lead to serious side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure, breathing problems and sudden death. Other citrus fruits such as Seville oranges and limes can have similar effects. But they have been studied less.
Source : AFP
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) —Antiretroviral therapy, in the past considered a miracle only available to HIV patients in the West, is no longer scarce in many of the poorest parts of the world. Pills are cheaper and easier to access, and HIV is not the same killer that once left thousands of orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa.
But Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, remains a special case. Kept in the dark for so many decades by its reclusive ruling junta, this country of 60 million did not reap the same international aid as other needy nations. Heavy economic sanctions levied by countries such as the United States, along with virtually nonexistent government health funding, left an empty hole for medicine and services. Today, Myanmar ranks among the world's hardest places to get HIV care, and health experts warn it will take years to prop up a broken health system hobbled by decades of neglect.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — An Egyptian lawyer whose arrest in Saudi Arabia in April triggered a diplomatic spat between Cairo and Riyadh denied charges of drug smuggling at a court hearing on Wednesday, according to a lawyer who attended the session.
"Ahmed el-Gezawi represented himself... and denied all the charges against him of drug possession and smuggling," Sulaiman al-Hunaini, a Saudi lawyer, told Reuters.
Gezawi was arrested for alleged drug possession upon his arrival at Jeddah airport in April. That touched off angry protests outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo with almost 1,000 people hurling insults at the kingdom's rulers.
As a result, Riyadh recalled its ambassador on April 28 - a sign of Saudi anxiety about the future direction of a formerly close ally after last year's popular revolution that toppled autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.
The Saudi ambassador returned to Cairo a week later after high-level Egyptian delegations visited Riyadh to assure the Saudi authorities they were committed to good relations.
Saudi Arabia is a major donor of aid to Egypt and the two states were close, coordinating policy together with the United States on a range of issues during Mubarak's 30-year rule.
The Egyptian consulate in Jeddah has assigned a legal adviser to Gezawi's case and he attended Wednesday's session. The case was adjourned to September 26.
Gezawi's activist supporters in Cairo say he had helped Egyptians facing trial in the Saudi criminal justice system. International human rights groups say Saudi trials are frequently conducted unfairly, an accusation Riyadh denies.
Gezawi was charged with smuggling around 21,000 pills of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax into Saudi Arabia. His former lawyer - who quit the case because Gezawi failed to pay legal fees - has said the public prosecution is seeking the death penalty.
Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict reading of sharia (Islamic law), often executes convicted criminals - usually by public beheading - for a range of offences including murder, rape and drug smuggling.—www.shafaqna.com/English