Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
The Loot That Passes for Medicine
“This is the latest whiz kid among cardiac stents. Nowhere else in the world you will have a stent like this. I have done 56 so far. No complications at all, affordable too.”
 
This is how a cardiologist starts his live streaming video at the National Interventional Council (NIC) conference in a five-star hotel in Delhi; the conference organisers received several crores of rupees for the extravaganza. Newspaper advertisements and TV serials are old hat now. Medical advertisements and publicity look like kindergarten stuff. Now live streaming of a flamboyant cardiologist in a so-called medical conference, where normally the science of medicine is debated, is the ‘in’ thing. Even the Chinese device-maker, whose stent has not been passed by the great Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is one of the sponsors and must have also paid crores of rupees. 
 
How much will this brand ambassador, the flamboyant cardiologist, get? Where is medical ethics? What is the Medical Council of India (MCI), the watchdog responsible for keeping an eye on medical ethics, doing, apart from twiddling its thumbs? What ethics does MCI follow for itself in regulating medical education? What have we come to and what about the safety of patients who go to the hospitals? Today, a case can be made out for angioplasty, for anyone of any age, who goes to the hospital, as coronary artery blocks (not coronary artery disease) can be demonstrated in anyone, including children. In this scenario who is safe?
 
Pharma companies plotted to destroy cancer drugs to drive up prices. After purchasing five different cancer drugs from GlaxoSmithKline, Aspen Pharmacare tried to sell them in Europe for up to 40 times their previous price. That’s another headline (Sunday Times, 15 April 2017). Busulfan is an old medication for treating leukaemia. It used to sell in England for £5.20 a couple of years ago and now sells at £65.20. While bargaining for the rise in price of cancer drugs in Spain, the company wanted to raise the price by 4,000 times! When the government did not agree, the company threatened to stop supply of the cancer drug in that country. In fact, it might have been a great boon for the Spaniards to live without the dangers of these anti-cancer drugs!
 
The Cover Story of Outlook magazine dated 17 April 2017 exposes something even worse. We have been fighting a losing battle against vaccinations for decades. Outlook writes, under the headline, “When a Baby Is a Business Opportunity”: “Scared middle class India buys unwanted vaccines, some15 of them, as big pharma— mostly foreign—helps doctors to rake in the moolah with 30%-300% mark-ups.”
 
The more dangerous trend is that the Indian Academy of Paediatricians (IAP), the apex body of child specialists in the country, has now been found to be a partner in this venal business. On 20 January2017, Dr Vipin Vashista, a former convener of IAP, was unceremoniously eased out for blowing the whistle on the big money nexus in IAP. The Union health ministry, I am told, is in the know of things, but prefers to do nothing.  Maybe the ministry is afraid of the bigwigs in the vaccine business.
 
Are we willing to bring forth a generation of Indians with crippled immune system, thanks to so many useless and dangerous vaccines administered to them when they are born? Parents are confused in the cacophony of vaccine threats and advertisements. Another good soul fighting for the voiceless infants is Dr Jacob Puliyal in Delhi.
 
We are already in the dark ages of money which James Kennedy, a journalist, calls ‘monetary fascism’. “Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics claimed to have refined and developed modern, scientific tools of ‘free market capitalism’; capable of unlocking ever greater rewards from Adam Smith’s simple, primitive concept of free markets… In truth, it was nothing more than a cloak of deception—providing cover for the unscrupulous behaviour of investment bankers, corporate raiders, speculators, off-shore corporation, debt mongers and bubble pushers (typically, one and the same). 

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COMMENTS

Chandramohan Navalekar

6 months ago

you are doing great work of exposing such practices, this keeps the hope of some ethical practices to come up in future.

bharati

6 months ago

How do we support brave Drs like Dr Vipin Vashista? The media could write about him regularly, interview him, etc.

Rahul Pande

6 months ago

Kudos to money life for raising relevant and pressing issues.I feel fighting a losing battle but keep trying.

PRAKASH D N

6 months ago

More such problems will come up as Govt. does not want to invest in public health, leaving it to private sector to loot the public. Agencies which are required to act like M C I blinks it's eye as those heading the MC I has questionable background. Only public outcry with the backing of learned people like Dr. Hedge can save

Ashok Visvanathan

6 months ago

Have sympathy for the French fathers. A rumour got started decades ago that a baby which only drank EVIAN water would be very healthy. All french mothers give only Evian water to their babies. Evian water bottle in India used to be Rs 250 a few years ago.
The Evian company has never bothered to contradict the rumour.

Parikshit Bhandari

6 months ago

Great article Sir People Like you are God Sent and thanks to Moneylife for Promoting Such Articles.

Ramesh Poapt

6 months ago

great, sir!

Simple Indian

6 months ago

Another fine article by Dr. Hegde. It's a pity, medical practice, once one of two most respected professions, has stooped to such levels. Apart from the greed of MNC pharma cos it's also our own flawed medical system which is to blame for the situation. Govts in India should setup more medical colleges and hospitals which should be the backbone of our healthcare system, instead of having to rely on private clinics and hospitals which fleece patients and leave their families bankrupt by the time their treatment is over. Medical education in private colleges is hugely expensive, leaving graduates with no choice but to take up lucrative ways to practice, even if it's against their 'Hippocratic Oath' or medical ethics. All this to 'recover' the expenses incurred by them for their medical degrees, be it MBBS or MD/MS. Unless such systemic flaws are corrected, people will continue to get fleeced by dishonest and greedy doctors/clinics/hospitals/path labs.

Joginder Singh

6 months ago

THE loot is more rampant in the pre birth stage. Don't know about other parts of India, but in Punjab, most expecting mothers are advised to go for regular health check to private doctors and most are advised complete bed rest for full term and are told some scary complication thereby suggesting weekly check ups and tests. There used to be no complications when there were not so many clinics around. Now all these clinics have to earn crores and crores of rupees and hence complications have to increase and have increased, Patients are even scammed into getting admitted for the last semester to sell their rooms and delivery packages are marketed in lac's of Rupees. Health Care industry becomes huge Health Scare industry. Clinics having Trauma Centers extract even last drop of money from the relatives wallets - whether it takes leaving the dead on Ventilator for inflating the bills or pretending to inject most pricey injections costing thousands of rupees.

6 months ago

Please update on readers views on this issue.

CHETAN BALWIR

6 months ago

Dear Doctor,
Many corporate institutions have a compulsory annual health check up for their employees. Can you please give us your views on this.

Ankur Bamne

6 months ago

Why doesn't moneylife promote ethical investing if pharma companies are such big crooks? There was a divis labs in this years super stock portfolio. Please do not have these double standards. You want the stock to outperform, but also complain about the prices in the next issue. Please stop this double talk, and decide which way of the fence you want to be.

The challenges of being a father in the scientific age (The Funny Side)
One of my children asked me whether ham came from hamsters. "Of course," I said. "Just like jelly comes from jellyfish." I added that our family's favourite dessert, Nutella mousse, was a gland secretion from "a brown elk from Canada called the chocolate moose".
 
Kids expect dads to be the font of all knowledge, and it's easy to rise to the challenge if you have a good imagination and a plausible manner.
 
But then came a harder question from the offspring: "If junk food is bad for kids, why do dads eat it all the time?
 
The real reason, of course, is that the main activity of fathers is telling off children for sins that we still do ourselves, right?
 
But instead I put on my Scientific Thinker persona and explained that foods have different effects on different people. Luckily there was a perfect example in the latest New Scientist magazine. Tribes who live in the Atacama Desert in Chile have evolved the ability to consume the deadly arsenic poison without harm, it said. "Kids there probably go to fast food shops and order poison and french fries," I explained. "Bit like everywhere else."
 
Seeking further examples of bizarre tribes eating weird things, I googled "Do Singaporeans really eat turtles?". Instead, I found a turtle-related newsflash from Science Alert: "Researchers in Korea are developing a technology that will allow humans to control turtles through thought alone." A human wears a helmet that beams brainwaves to an apparatus worn by the turtle.
 
Just imagine what unscrupulous Singaporeans could do with this. "Hello, turtles, we bought you some cute hats!" Later: "You are under my control. Lightly season yourselves with soy sauce and come to me."
 
What puzzles me is why the South Koreans have not made remote brain control devices for children. Or for wives to use on husbands. "You are under my control. Put down that beer, lightly season yourself with soy sauce and come to me."
 
The report said that the Turtle Brain Control System could "give the user a sense of oneness with the controlled animal". Who wants a feeling of oneness with a turtle? Be better to achieve oneness with the Buddha. Or maybe Scarlett Johansson.
 
But the most worrying recent report on the science page was the news that Facebook has a team of 60 people working on a device that reads your brainwaves and types out the words. When this gets launched, all males are going to be in deep trouble.
 
A colleague told me that academics from the University of Zurich have proposed the creation of a Mental Privacy law that makes it illegal to read someone's mind. It sounds good in theory, but a) we won't be able to tell, and b) who's going to confess? "Oops, sorry, I read your mind, you're one sick dude, arrest me now."
 
Incidentally, I do realise that one day my child will come home from school saying: "Dad, my teacher says ham does not come from hamsters. It comes from pigs." I have my response prepared: "Yes, I've heard that theory too, but fathers who are Scientific Thinkers always keep an open mind."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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COMMENTS

GP MURMU

2 months ago

I am investor of pancard club ltd. My maturity date was over last 2 years ago.How I will be return our money ?

Dhruvnesh Patel

2 months ago

I have invested in this scheme kindly add my number in WhatsApp group 9870668295

ashish chotpagar

3 months ago

Please add 9167582926 to whatsapp group..

Prakash Pandey

3 months ago

Dear sir we are invest rupees 50000in date 03/04/2014...In my brother name of mr.Shankar gajanan thakre...And my brothers death in road acccident...Date 29/08/2016.....This time our family going very hard condition....So..Pls we request u to return our amt...And suggest how can withrawan our amount

Hanumant Phadtare

6 months ago

Sebi should file fir against pcl and it's directors with acb, eow,etc so that matter get resolved earliest and also these people will not dare to start such cis again.

Hanumant Phadtare

6 months ago

Sebi should file fir against pcl and it's directors with acb, eow,etc so that matter get resolved earliest and also these people will not dare to start such cis again.

Robots are people too (The Funny Side)
Legislative officials in the European Union have been trying to decide whether robots are people or not. This is idiotic. Of course they are people. The little robot in my smartphone told me. (Not a joke. I asked Siri if she was human and she replied: "Close enough.")
 
One defines "people" as sentient beings with whom one can have intelligent conversations, right? So that must include Siri and her rivals, but exclude babies, household pets, Donald Trump and nationalist politicians in general.
 
I was thinking about this when someone sent me a video of a press conference at the White House. A reporter asked a long, rambling question and one of the nearby phones responded: "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you want me to change." Everyone laughed, since it was a straighter answer than officials usually give.
 
At the time of writing, Alexa is the hot new artificial assistant my early-adopter friends are buying. Although unattractive (she looks like a cylindrical crisp container) she exists in a permanent state of semi-sleep until she hears her name, her brain circuits clearly copied from married men, civil servants, students and the like.
 
The waking up bit creates problems, I'm told. TV news reports about Alexa ordering expensive stuff from Amazon.com causes Alexa robots near TVs to wake up and start doing the same. I heard news anchors pontificate about this as if it was a glitch, but since the machines come from Amazon.com, it sounds rather a profitable one.
 
My tech friend says the current trendy amusement is to gather several AI robots (such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Next) on to a table and get them talking to each other, no humans involved. Long conversations follow but it's incredibly creepy to hear so much chatter with no actual functioning human brain involved. It's exactly like being in a bar on a Friday night.
 
Anyway, my geek buddy thought watching machines converse was hilarious, but it annoyed me, forcing me to envision a grim future where we work for a living while our gadgets hang out chatting and joking. Wouldn't it be better the other way round? And what if the machines plot to take over the world? It happens in pretty much every robot movie, right?
 
He told me I was being ridiculous as the devices can't even move by themselves. But I told him that that was only a matter of time. "Alexa, can you close the curtains, please?" I asked. "Not yet," she replied (this is not a joke, you can try it yourself). Is that not clear proof of their ambition?
 
Anyway, this writer has decided against purchasing his own Alexa as his teenage daughter is called Lexi and confusion is likely. I already have an expensive, half-listening semi-sleeper of that name who orders stuff from the internet, and one is plenty.
 
Still technologists do create interesting stuff, although I worry deeply about their values and priorities.
 
Things That Make Me Angry: Scientists can fly people to the moon but can't find a way to transmit coffee through my phone. Come on, guys, get with the programme.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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