Sunday, February 24, 2013

Australia readies for first plain-pack cigarettes

I still don't understand, whatever the packaging or form, there isn't any good thing coming from cigars and cigarettes... employment? taxation? And these matter more than people's health?

Posted: 30 November 2012

Cigarette butts on the road. File picture. (AFP/File - Joel Saget)
SYDNEY: All cigarettes sold in Australia will be in identical, plain packages from Saturday in a world first after the government overcame legal challenges from the tobacco industry.

Under new laws which come into effect on December 1, all tobacco products must be sold in drab, olive-brown packets with expanded graphic health warnings which feature images such as gangrenous feet and mouth cancer.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said the packets, which survived a constitutional challenge from major tobacco firms, were about making smoking less attractive.

"That's the aim of this exercise," she told reporters in Sydney.

"The challenge for us as a government is to make it (smoking) as unappealing as possible. If we can prevent young people from taking it up, that's a lifetime gift to them."

Tobacco companies had fought the change, but the High Court rejected their argument that the new law infringed their intellectual property rights by banning brands and trademarks from packets.

Plibersek said tobacco companies had reported no changes to their products, but there was a possible psychological effect of the new packages making them less attractive to some people.

"I have had a few letters... with smokers saying to me, 'Oh the cigarettes don't taste the same as they used to'," she said.

The minister said after World War II about 50 percent of Australians smoked but this had now dropped to 15 percent and the government was aiming to push it down to 10 percent by 2018.

The new legislation comes into force as a study conducted for the Cancer Council of Victoria found that one in four smokers believes the effects of tobacco on health are exaggerated.

The research looked at the impact of Australia's health warnings on cigarette packages, which for years have included graphic images depicting health issues arising from smoking.

Its study of 4,500 smokers in Victoria state from 2003 to 2011 found that about a quarter still believed the dangers of smoking had been exaggerated and one in 10 did not believe or were not sure that smoking caused illness.

"From tomorrow, the outside of cigarette packaging will finally reflect the ugliness of what's inside and leave no smoker in any doubt of how deadly cigarettes are," Quit Victoria executive director Fiona Sharkie said.

Sharkie said the graphic health warnings had already made a difference.

"While the main intent of plain packaging is to reduce the appeal of smoking among youth, we've already had several calls... from smokers who say the graphic health warnings have pushed them to quit," she said.

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease in Australians, killing an estimated 15,000 every year.

- AFP/ir

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Australia readies for first plain-pack cigarettes

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US unveils road map to AIDS-free generation

Posted: 30 November 2012

Test tubes
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled Thursday an ambitious US blueprint on how to realize the vision of an AIDS-free generation, aiming to see virtually no babies born with HIV by 2015.

"Scientific advances and their successful implementation have brought the world to a tipping point in the fight against AIDS," the 54-page document says.

Calling AIDS "one of the most complex global health issues in modern history," Clinton wrote in the foreword that challenges still exist, pointing to the 1.7 million people who die every year from AIDS-related illnesses.

But she stressed that, unlike a decade ago, developing AIDS after becoming infected with HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence, and major advances have been made in treatment and prevention.

Antiretroviral drugs have been hugely successful in cutting the rate of HIV transmission from pregnant women to their unborn babies or via breast-feeding, as well as in helping HIV-positive patients from developing AIDS.

In the vision of an AIDS-free generation, almost no child is born with the virus, as they grow up they are at lower risk of becoming infected, and if they do get HIV they have access to treatment to halt its progression towards AIDS.

US Global AIDS coordinator Eric Goosby told AFP that the 390,000 children currently born every year with HIV primarily lived in about 22 countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Taking a cocktail of three antiretroviral drugs cut the risk of a mother transmitting HIV to her baby to less than two percent, he said. It also allowed her to breast-feed and protected her in future pregnancies in countries where many women had between five to seven children.

"The idea is to strengthen our ability to identify and retain HIV-positive women at the earliest stages, initiating a three-drug antiretroviral therapy," he said.

"Now we will not get to zero," Goosby warned, saying many women in developing countries never enter prenatal care. There are also women such as sex workers or drug users "whose lifestyles are so chaotic that they only come in and out of care at extreme moments."

But he hoped by 2015 that the numbers of babies born with HIV would drop globally below 40,000, adding some countries were already further along towards achieving the goal than others.

New HIV infections among children and adults around the world have fallen by 19 percent over the past decade, and AIDS-related deaths by 26 percent since a peak in 2005.


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US unveils road map to AIDS-free generation

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Nestle ventures into traditional Chinese medicine

I think this is a major boost to Nestle, having been given a hand on traditional Chinese medicines... what could come out next? Medicines, I mean... or is there something else to expect?

Posted: 29 November 2012

File: logo of world's biggest food group Nestle (AFP/File - Fabrice Coffrini)
ZURICH: The world's biggest food group Nestle is moving into traditional Chinese medicine by joining forces with Chinese pharma group Chi-Med, the Swiss group said on Wednesday.

The new entity, called Nutrition Science Partners (NSP), is to be owned equally by the two parties, said Nestle in a statement, without revealing any of the financials behind the deal.

NSP will research, develop, make and sell nutritional and medicinal products derived from botanical plants, it said.

The joint venture will also hand Nestle's Health Science division, which is handling the deal, access to Chi-Med's traditional Chinese medicine library, which with more than 50,000 extracts from more than 1,200 different herbal plants is one of the world's largest, the statement said.

Initially, the product focus will be on gastro-intestinal health -- a market worth up to $6 billion (4.6 billion euros) according to Chi-Med -- but could in future expand into metabolic diseases and brain health, Nestle said.

For Chi-Med, the deal, which is still subject to regulatory approvals, will bring "a stream of novel botanical medicines and nutritional products to market and in so doing build significant value for patients and for our shareholders," company chief executive Christian Hogg said on a conference call.

"Botanical are in the forefront in our view in the search for new medicines," the Chi-Med chief said.

Traditional Chinese plant-based medicines represented between 30 percent and 40 percent of all pharma sales in China, he added.

"This joint venture provides Nestle's Health Science with an opportunity to develop and commercialise truly innovative and scientifically validated botanical-based nutrition for personalised healthcare in gastro-intestinal health," Nestle Health Science head Luis Cantarell said.

- AFP/sf

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Nestle ventures into traditional Chinese medicine

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S'pore, US researchers developing portable device for traumatic brain injury

Posted: 27 November 2012

A brain model
SINGAPORE: A portable diagnostic tool that can quickly detect traumatic brain injury (TBI) and improve treatment is being developed by researchers from Singapore and the United States.

The teams from Singapore's Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and SFC Fluidics, a US-based biomedical device development company, are working together to develop the device for TBI, a common cause of death and disability caused by blasts, falls, knocks, traffic accidents and assaults.

They want to produce a device that is fully-integrated and has automated biosensors.

All it will take is a drop of blood to detect up to three biomarkers released by the brain after sustaining injury.

These biomarker readings will be displayed on an easy-to-read screen.

An indicator will alert the caregivers on the severity of the injury and enable them to prevent the condition from worsening.

As the device is portable, it will be ideal for diagnosis at the scene of the accident.

Unlike conventional diagnostic tools such as neurological tests and computed tomography or CT scans, the biosensor device does not have to be handled by trained personnel.

The IME is a research institute of the Science and Engineering Research Council of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, which is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent in Singapore.

- CNA/il

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S'pore, US researchers developing portable device for traumatic brain injury

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Two new research programmes in stratified medicine and rare diseases launched

Posted: 09 November 2012

By Vimita Mohandas

Photo illustration shows a lab technician looking through a microscope. (AFP File/Getty Images - Joe Raedle)
SINGAPORE: Two new research programmes costing a combined S$32 million have been launched, one dealing in stratified medicine and the other in rare diseases.

The first, dealing with stratified medicine, would be headed by the Genome Institute of Singapore and will comprise a team of researchers from A*A*STAR, Singapore General Hospital, National Cancer Centre Singapore, Singapore National Eye Centre and the National University Health System.

The S$20 million research programme called POLARIS, or Personalised OMIC Lattice for Advanced Research and Improving Stratification, aims to identify new technologies that can predict how patients could better respond to medical treatment.

For instance, lung cancer patients may present similar clinical features but have different responses to the same drug.

With POLARIS, the researchers aim to match the right drug to the right patient.

"By accurately tailoring the patient to the right drug, we can spare patients the cost of the drug that doesn't work," said Professor Patrick Tan of the Genome Institute of Singapore.

"We can (also) spare patients the toxicities often associated with these drugs, and by treating the right disease with the right drug early on, we can prevent the disease from progressing further," he added.

The integrated programme involving scientists and clinicians will also enable collaborations with pharmaceutical companies to design clinical trials and develop products for Asian patients.

The second programme, dubbed the Genetic Orphan Diseases Programme, will study rare genetic diseases to get a better understanding of common diseases.

"Recently we discovered that rare diseases causing lesions on the palms and the soles and it affects very few people in the world," said Dr Bruno Reversade, senior principal investigator at A*STAR.

"But yet it relates to common warts that are seen through HPV (Human papillomavirus) infection. So understanding what the genetic predisposition in these people is would probably allow us to understand what the HPV virus uses to cause those lesions in normal people".

Citing another example, Dr Reversade explained that to understand ageing, researchers could study people who have genetic diseases which cause them to age much faster or age much slower, saying that these rare diseases will explain how people age in general.

The S$12 million study will bio-bank cells from patients with rare diseases and their unaffected relatives. Genes for the diseases can then be identified through next generation sequencing, a highly sensitive tool that detects differences in genes on a genome-wide scale.

Both programmes are funded by A*STAR's Strategic Positioning Fund and are two of eight projects announced at this year's Biomedical Sciences International Advisory Council meeting on Friday.

- CNA/jc

Taken from; source article is below:
Two new research programmes in stratified medicine and rare diseases launched

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