Zika epidemic uncovers Brazil’s hidden birth-defect problem

Alex Cuadros – Washington Post, 03/01/2016

As researchers race to establish a link between the Zika virus and a birth defect known as microcephaly, one of their biggest obstacles is the lack of reliable health data in Brazil, where the epidemic broke out there last year.

Since October, Brazil’s Health Ministry has received reports of about 5,600 suspected cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads. Many cases have been thrown out, and many more are still being investigated, but given that the country previously reported 150 such cases per year, the number would still seem to indicate a massive jump.

Many doctors, though, say that the jump is largely illusory — based on massive underreporting of microcephaly and other birth defects in Brazil. What’s more, this poor record-keeping reflects much larger public health problems here: poor prenatal care and woefully inadequate services for children with disabilities. Until the Zika epidemic, these issues were mostly swept under the rug.

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DS Healthcare Expands Distribution Channels in Brazil Through Leading Rio de Janeiro Pharmacy Chain

Market Watch, 8/6/2014

DS Healthcare Group, Inc. DSKX -3.91% , a leading developer of personal care products and specialty pharmaceuticals, announced today it has signed a distribution agreement with Drogaria Venancio , a leading Rio de Janerio-based pharmacy chain. Drogaria Venancio will sell DS Healthcare’s clinically proven personal care products including its Revita and Spectral hair re-growth and hair care products. DS Laboratories, its flagship line can already be found on retail shelves throughout Rio de Janeiro. Drogaria Venancio operates wholesale distribution centers and premium retail pharmacy locations. Founded in 1979, the pharmacy chain employs 1600 people.

This marks DS Healthcare’s third distribution agreement in Brazil and it’s second in Rio de Janeiro. DS Healthcare’s have already been selling through CSB Drogaria which has two retail pharmacy chains with 85 stores in Rio de Janeiro, as well as in Sao Paulo through the Drogaria Iguatemi pharmacy chain. Retail sales are also growing through DS Healthcare’ Brazilian ecommerce site . According to market research firm Euromonitor, the Brazilian beauty industry generated $42 billion in sales in 2012.

“We are experiencing extremely robust sales growth in Brazil while building strong brand recognition and loyalty for our products. While we are successfully achieving market penetration into two of Brazil’s largest cities, we also intend to expand distribution beyond these metropolitan areas into other regions of the country. In addition, we’ve seen our e-commerce platform that services customers in regions where we have yet to be present, do extremely well, further endorsing our belief that Brazil will be one of our key markets worldwide” stated DS Healthcare President and CEO Daniel Khesin.”

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Health screenings, blood drives prove popular at Brazil’s World Cup

Amanda Woerner – Fox News, 6/24/2014

As the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil progresses towards the round of 16, it’s not only the health of the players that is getting attention. The health of tournament volunteers – and the surrounding community in Brazil – is also getting special treatment.

Notably, more than 14,000 volunteers at the tournament – those in charge of directing fans within the stadiums – are being treated to free health screenings, courtesy of the official health care sponsor of the World Cup, Johnson & Johnson.

“For this group, it’s a relatively younger group, so we’re focusing on healthy engagement, health and wellness at an early age,” Dr. Joseph Ferro, worldwide corporate medical director at Johnson & Johnson, told FoxNews.com. “So they’re less likely to have illness later on, it’s [focused on] preventative behaviors, healthy behavior and lifestyle.”

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What’s holding back Brazil?

Otaviano Canuto – Project Syndicate, 2/21/2014

One often hears that Brazil’s economy is stuck in the “middle-income trap.” Since the debt crisis of the 1980’s, Brazil has failed to revive the structural transformation and per capita income growth that had characterized the previous three decades. But, with the right mix of policies, it could finally change its fortunes.

The prevailing explanation for Brazil’s failure to achieve high-income status lumps the country together with other middle-income economies, all of which transferred unskilled workers from labor-intensive occupations to more modern manufacturing or service industries. While these new jobs did not require significant upgrading of skills, they employed higher levels of embedded technology, imported from wealthier countries and adapted to local conditions. Together with urbanization, this boosted total factor productivity (TFP), leading to GDP growth far beyond what could be explained by the expansion of labor, capital, and other physical factors of production, thereby lifting the economy to the middle-income bracket.

Progressing to the next stage of economic development is more difficult, reflected in the fact that only 13 of 101 middle-income economies in 1960 reached high-income status by 2008. According to the dominant view, success hinges on an economy’s ability to continue raising TFP by moving up the manufacturing, service, or agriculture value chain toward higher-value-added activities that require more sophisticated technologies, higher-quality human capital, and intangible assets like design and organizational capabilities.

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Cuban doctor in Brazil triggers diplomatic tiff

Fernando Caulyt – Deutsche Welle, 2/13/2014

Many Cuban doctors work in Brazil, but the lion’s share of their salaries are kept by Havana. Out of protest, one doctor has applied for asylum, putting Brazil in an embarrassing situation.

It is not exactly what Ramona Rodriguez had expected: In October of last year the Cuban doctor arrived in Brazil, a country with a severe shortage of physicians, to work in the far northeast state of Para, on the border to Suriname and Guyana.

There are very few doctors in this region of Brazil. Statistically, there is less than one physician for every 1,000 inhabitants. By comparison, Germany has a ratio of 1 to 233.

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Second Cuban doctor defects in Brazil

Loretta Chao & Paulo Trevisani – Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2014

A second Cuban doctor is confirmed to have defected from a controversial program to bring thousands of medical professionals to underserved regions of Brazil, according to Brazilian health officials.

“To all my friends on Facebook who sent me messages of concern about my absence, I thank you,” said a message posted to a Facebook profile under the doctor’s name, Ortelio Jaime Guerra.

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Cuban doctor defects in Brazil over pay, seeks asylum

Reuters, 2/5/2014

A Cuban doctor working in Brazil sought asylum on Wednesday complaining that Cuba’s communist government takes too big a slice of her pay, authorities said.

Ramona Rodriguez, 51, sought refuge on Tuesday in the office of Ronaldo Caiado, leader of the center-right Democratas party in the lower chamber of Brazil’s Congress, and slept the night on a sofa.

She is one of 7,378 Cubans who are in Brazil as part of a program that hires foreign doctors to tend the sick in slums and remote rural locations where there are no Brazilian physicians.

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Brazil’s president imports Cuban doctors to ease shortage

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 01/06/2014

Dr. Alberto Asael Reyes speaks Portuguese carefully when talking to his patients. He arrived in the Amazon region only recently from Cuba, and his accent remains strong. But in an area where there has long been no available physician, he often needs to introduce residents to new words and concepts.

“Rheu-ma-to-lo-gist,” Vinicius, a thin, shy 11-year-old, utters slowly after meeting with Reyes. Though Vinicius has had severe fevers and heart problems since birth, no one had told him he needed to see one.

“No one would come here,” says Maria Elena Brito da Silva, a teacher at the school down the road here in the outskirts of the city. “All the doctors stayed in their private practices in the city [center] making money.”

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The cost of corruption in Brazil could be up to $53 billion just this year alone

Anderson Antunes – Forbes, 11/28/2013

As many Brazilians are still watching incredulously the imprisonments of the principal figures in the Mensalão (“Big Monthly Payment”) scandal, the scheme in which public funds were used to buy political support for the then-Lula da Silva government and to pay off debts from election campaigns, one of the biggest questions surrounding the imbroglio is: how much money exactly was diverted into the pockets of corrupt officials and politicians?

According to the investigation initiated in 2005 and carried out by Brazil’s Public Ministry, the country’s Federal Police and the Brazilian Court of Audit, the huge cash-for-votes case involved some R$ 100 million ($43 million) siphoned from taxpayers’ money. No wonder why Brazil’s Attorney General Roberto Gurgel called it “the most daring and outrageous corruption scheme and embezzlement of public funds ever seen in Brazil.”

And that could just be the tip of the iceberg. A 2010 study by the FIESP (the Federation of Industries of Sao Paulo State, in its acronym in Portuguese), the average annual cost of corruption in Brazil is between 1.38% to 2.3% of the country’s total GDP. The World Bank lists Brazil in its database with a GDP of $2.253 trillion as of 2012, while the OECD expects Brazil to grow 2.5% this year.

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Cuban doctors tend to Brazil’s poor, giving Rousseff a boost

Anthony Boadle – Reuters, 12/01/2013

They were heckled and called slaves of a communist state when they first landed, but in the poorest corners of Brazil the arrival of 5,400 Cuban doctors is being welcomed as a godsend.

The program to fill gaps in the national health system with foreign doctors, mainly from Cuba, could become a big vote-winner for President Dilma Rousseff as she eyes a second term in next year’s election despite fierce opposition from Brazil’s medical class.

The move to tap Cuba’s doctors-for-export program begun by former leader Fidel Castro became a priority for Rousseff after massive protests against corruption and shoddy public transport, education and healthcare services rocked Brazil in June.

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