Friday, March 23, 2007

It takes a community to successfully fight TB

Rolando Quimpo, a carpenter who sports a pony tail, wears earrings and a sleeveless shirt, is not shy to show his daily card checks that indicate how he religiously took his daily oral tuberculosis medication for eight months, two months longer than usual.

A recent sputum test, the golden standard of TB tests, gave the 50-year-old grandfather a clean bill of health. He has also distanced himself from cigarettes and alcohol. Now, if he could only get carpentry jobs more often.

Quimpo and his wife were running an almusalan (breakfast nook offering cheap porridge and noodles at P5 to P10 per serving) but they had to stop when Quimpo was found to have TB. With Quimpo cured, they are now back in business.

Joel Alluson, 37, a father of two who works as a "freelancer sa Banawe" (he does odd jobs on Banawe Avenue, a car parts retail strip) "graduated" in December 2006 from his six-month daily treatment and is now TB-free. But he still has to have his regular checkup. He first learned about the anti-TB treatment from a TV ad.

The Quimpos and Allusons live in the congested Tatalon area in Quezon City where most houses are cramped, with little breathing space. Infectious diseases like TB spread easily if a sick person remains untreated. A tracking and monitoring system is key. Tatalon barangay volunteer worker Iluminada Basilio does her rounds to check on patients.

By Ma. Ceres P. DoyoPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 03/23/2007
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See related story "World Stop TB Day" from WHO.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Drug Safety

A man wakes up in the middle of the night with diarrhea, gropes around and takes what he thinks are anti-diarrheal tablets. Next thing you know, he is trying to kill his wife.

Over in Cavite province, men have started making decoctions out of a popular ornamental called coral plant, supposedly to enhance their virility. Yet, as early as 1921, Leon Maria Guerrero, an authority on Philippine medicinal plants, already wrote about the plant being a dangerous cathartic, meaning it causes severe diarrhea. In another botany book, "Burkill's Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula," I found out that the plant was used for "criminal poisoning" in Latin America.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that there are some 2 million serious adverse drug reactions (ADRs) each year in the United States, leading to about 100,000 fatalities and making ADRs the fourth leading cause of death in the country.

We don't have estimates on such cases and fatalities in the Philippines, but I am certain they are quite high. There are probably cases where people die of the medicines they were taking, without the family ever realizing it. Many medicinal plants, for example, have low levels of the dangerous substances, but these can accumulate; so even the persons taking the decoctions may not know they are being slowly poisoned.

The causes of ADRs in the country include carelessness among health professionals, a lack of health literacy among Filipinos, inadequate instructions on drug products, and unclear advice from health providers. I'd say, even the barrage of drug advertising, by proclaiming particular medicines as safe­when in fact, no drug, not even your "ordinary" pain-killers, not even your medicinal plants, is truly safe­contributes to ADRs.

By Michael L. Tan, Pinoy Kasi colum in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 16, 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Int’l survey: Filipinos most aware of global warming

Filipinos with access to the Internet are among the people most aware of global warming, according to a survey by a multinational consumer research group.

The AC Nielsen “Online Consumer Opinion Survey,” conducted last November, covered 25,408 Internet users from 47 countries and territories in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

The survey found that 94 percent of the 503 respondents from the Philippines had heard or read about global warming.

Only 13 percent of the American respondents said they were aware of global warming.

Seventy-six percent of the Filipinos said they thought global warming was “a very serious problem.” It was the highest percentage of those who said so in the Asia Pacific region and the fifth in the world after the Brazilians, the French and the Portuguese.

Moreover, half of the Filipinos polled thought human activities were to blame while 4 percent attributed the problem to natural changes in climate.

Forty-six percent pointed to both human activities and natural factors. One percent said they did not know.

Read full text from the Philippine Daily Inqurer, March 7, 2007

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