Rising encephalitis death toll

While health authorities fight over chikungunya in Delhi, in Gorakhpur hundreds have been dying from acute encephalitis syndrome. Nine children at the city’s BRD Medical College died over two days last week taking the total death toll from the disease to 254 from January this year.

Acute encephalitis syndrome or AES is an inflammatory disease of the brain caused by a number of bacteria, viruses or fungi. The disease spreads in unhygienic conditions and contaminated drinking water. Japanese encephalitis is caused bya virus borne by mosquitos of the Culex species. AES outbreaks are common in eastern Uttar Pradesh in and around Gorakhpur every monsoon and more than 10,000 children had died of encephalitis in the last four decades at the BRD Medical College alone.

The many causes of AES have made it consistently difficult to diagnose. In the major encephalitis pockets - Uttar Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal and Bihar - the cause of illness is unknown in up to 70 per cent of the patients, says a Fountain Ink report on the repeated outbreaks of AES in Gorakhpur.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Kolkata are reporting encephalitis cases associated with dengue infections leaving patients with severe pain in the head, dim vision, vomiting and confusion. Doctors at the AMRI Hospital in Salt Lake are calling this the “deadliest viral attack” and have documented seven such cases since the beginning of August.

Newborn babies dying due to antibiotic resistance

A major study conducted in Delhi has found that thousands of babies have been dying of sepsis due to an “alarming degree” of antibiotic resistance that has rendered several medicines ineffectual, The Hindu reported.

The study published in the journal The Lancet tracked 88,636 infants for three years since July 2011. Of these newborns 13,530 were admitted to the ICU and most than half were found to have infections caused by three kinds of “superbugs”– Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, and E. coli. Fourteen percent of the babies were resistant to drugs and 26 percent died due formally curable diseases and causes associated with drug resistance.

UN call to improve access to drugs

The United Nations High-Level Panel in Access to Medicines has said that drug prices must be delinked from research and development costs, for human rights to be places above intellectual property in the development of medicines and for greater transparency in drug pricing.

In a landmark report, the panel outlines the global failure of the medical research system to develop medicines, vaccines and diagnostics, highlighted especially by the failures to contain the Ebola and Zika epidemics.

The agreement also urges all countries to freely use the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, to ensure access to affordable medicines. At the same time the panel has recommended that sanctions be placed on countries that threaten generic drug makers for exercising their TRIPS entitlements.

International medical non-profit Medecins Sans Frontieres has welcomed the report, saying that the “actionable recommendations to help overcome the challenges that our medical teams have faced for decades – being left essentially empty-handed when the medicines, vaccines and diagnostics we need for our patients don’t exist, or are too expensive.”

The case over expired medicine in Kohima

A salesman at a pharmacy at the Naga Hospital Authority Kohima was arrested for allegedly selling expired medicine to a patient last week. A minor who bought and consumed the medicine suffered severe vomiting after which the victim’s family filed an FIR against the salesman. The police also sealed the pharmacy while conducting investigations into the case.

The case was then settled out of court by the district administration, the hospital authority and the Angami Youth organization. But the Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organisation has expressed shock over a criminal case being settled outside the court. The organisation questioned the safety of medicines from other pharmacies when a pharmacy inside a government hospital building had violated consumer protection laws.