The controversy behind the distribution of phosphoethanolamine

Estadao, 10/19/2015

The distribution of a substance called synthetic phosphoethanolamine has divided expert opinions and created controversy between patients. The pill, which would work to combat cancer, was not approved by the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). Still, the Federal Supreme Tribunal authorized it for a patient in Rio de Janeiro on October 8th. The case gained repercussion and is feeding the debate over the bureaucracy and ethics involved in the development of medicine. Are there limits imposed on research for new drugs in Brazil? Felipe Ades, oncologist doctor at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo and Antonio Britto, chief executive of Interfarma (Association of the Pharmaceutical Research Industry), discuss the issue.

Behind ‘Ethics’, by Antonio Britto: 

Britto writes about the frustration and sadness of doctors in Brazil when the topic is clinical research. Unfortunately, public health experts argue that Brazil cannot support the dream of a universal system, free public health, able to offer treatments and therapies to all, unless it is capable of producing knowledge and innovation at home. The country must reduce its technological and commercial dependency.

Brazil currently holds a mediocre position in clinical research. Scientists write to the President for help in the area, while rich patients opt to go abroad to participate clinical studies elsewhere. With that, the country loses significant scientific and economic opportunities.

Recall that Brazil did put forth a control system for research, under the unforgettable Dr. Adib Jatene. He built a system that included a central unit, the CONEP, responsible for creating standards, accrediting, and overseeing the centers (CEPs), responsible for conducting clinical studies and reviewing decisions, with the main objective of protecting the participant’s interest at heart.

However, corporatism also made victims here. In just a couple years, the system began to generate repeated work, duplication of functions, bureaucracy, and waste of time. As a result, Brazil’s participation in clinical trials slowly began to be cancelled – after all, the world could not wait for Brazil to return to research.

It is a shame to see scientists who could have attended the best universities across the world, who could be leading major research worldwide, being submitted to a petty argument in which corporatism manipulates the idea of ethics to hide an uncomfortable truth, the maintenance power.

It’s sad, but true.

Read original article in Portuguese here.


Brazil to keep allowances for the poor

Rick Gladstone – The New York Times, 9/18/2015

Despite Brazil’s deepening economic travails and budget problems, there will be no cuts in a pioneering and widely admired program of monthly cash allowances to the poor, the official in charge of the effort said Friday.

The official, Tereza Campello, whose title is minister of social development and fight against hunger, said that the program, known as Bolsa Familia, had helped to improve the lives of millions of impoverished families and had directly contributed to significant, statistically validated advances in childhood nutrition, schooling and health care.

The program, which was started more than a decade ago, electronically transfers monthly cash allowances to bank cards that are entrusted to the heads of qualified households, but with conditions that include mandatory prenatal care, attendance at school and vaccinations. Failure to comply can lead to suspension or termination of the benefit.

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Rio triathlon overshadowed by doping and virus fears

Jonathan Watts – The Guardian, 8/2/2015

In the biggest test yet of preparations for the 2016 Games, hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls swam, cycled and ran under the limpid blue skies of Copacabana over the weekend, but the glorious scenes were partly overshadowed by fears about water quality and new revelations of industrial-scale doping in international sport.

The triathlon qualifiers, which saw podium finishes for two UK athletes, came at the start of a week of competition and celebration as Rio de Janeiro moved into the final year of its countdown towards the opening ceremony next 5 August at the Maracanã stadium.

The festivities, however, have been marred by an exposé last week of the contamination of water at several venues, and Sunday’s report that a third of Olympic and world championship medals for endurance events in recent years were won by athletes who recorded suspicious doping tests. This included 10 golds won at London 2012.

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Sailing Federation will test waters for viruses in Brazil’s Olympics venues

Bill Chappell – NPR, 8/1/2015

Saying that recent stories about raw sewage in Brazilian waterways that will serve as Olympics venues in 2016 helped “wake us up again and put this back on the agenda,” the head of sailing’s world governing body says his group will test for viruses and bacteria in the water.

The International Sailing Federation’s chief executive, Peter Sowrey, tells the AP that the move is prompted by concerns over athletes’ health and safety.

The news comes days after the AP published a report on pollution in Rio’s Guanabara Bay, the scene for sailing competitions in next summer’s Olympic Games, and Rodrigo de Freitas lake, which will host rowing and canoeing events.

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Brazil dengue outbreak exposes tough challenge for Rousseff

Brian Winter – Reuters, 5/12/2015

An epidemic of dengue fever is fanning public anger over what Brazilians say is President Dilma Rousseff’s biggest challenge – the sad state of the national healthcare system.

About 750,000 cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been confirmed this year in this country of 200 million people, leading to waits of four hours or longer at some hospitals.

The disease, which causes fever and joint pain, has killed 229 people so far this year – up 45 percent from the same period in 2014.

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Brazil faces surge in number of dengue fever cases

BBC News, 5/5/2015

Brazil has registered nearly 746,000 cases of the mosquito-borne disease dengue fever this year with nine states experiencing an epidemic, the health ministry has announced. At 368 cases per 100,000 residents it amounts to an epidemic by World Health Organisation standards, but officials say the outbreak is not nationwide.

Relaxed prevention and an increase in home water storage have been blamed. More than half of the cases were in Sao Paulo.

The number of cases there – the most populous state – has tripled since last year. Nationwide there have been 235% more cases than in the same period (from January to 18 April) last year.

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Brazil City Calls In Army to Fight Dengue

Rogerio Jelmayer and Jeffrey T. Lewis – The Wall Street Journal, 4/17/2015

Brazil’s biggest city has called in the army to help combat a deadly outbreak of dengue fever that has sickened hundreds of thousands of people nationwide.

Soldiers will next week begin going door-to-door in some of São Paulo’s hardest-hit neighborhoods to educate residents on fighting mosquitoes, Mayor Fernando Haddad said on Friday.

A severe drought in southeastern Brazil has spurred residents to hoard water, often in makeshift containers, providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread the disease whose symptoms can include intense muscle pain, convulsions and high fever.

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