Thursday, December 23, 2010

Miracle of birth

As we approach the date when all Christians spuriously celebrate Jesus' birthday (since no-one really know when that really was), here is an amazing MRI recently taken of a baby at the moment of birth!

Using a Phillips open high-field MRI scanner, the doctors at Berlin's Charité University Hospital, captured this amazing image.

Have a blessed Christmas, one and all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Struggling with mid life disillusionment...

As fellow blogger Singapore MD struggles with disillusionment, I came across this interesting article in The Economist entitled "The U-bend of life". The article is well worth a read.

Apparently, contrary to general perceptions, old people are happier, and get happier as they age.

"When people start out on adult life, they are, on average, pretty cheerful. Things go downhill from youth to middle age until they reach a nadir commonly known as the mid-life crisis. So far, so familiar. The surprising part happens after that. Although as people move towards old age they lose things they treasure—vitality, mental sharpness and looks—they also gain what people spend their lives pursuing: happiness."

So the bad news is if you are heading towards middle-age, things may get a whole lot worse before looking up again. The good news however, is that it will get better!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nigerian frauds and big pharma.....

One normally associates Nigerian frauds with those sob story emails that you get from time to time, but the recent Wikileaks exposés showed up another kind of fraud that happened some time ago in Nigeria.

Back in 1996, there was an epidemic of meningitis in Nigeria, and big pharma Pfizer, with a new antibiotic trovafloxacin (Trovan) in hand, seized the opportunity to conduct a clinical trial on Nigerian children who came down with symptoms of the disease. All well and good except that the study did not receive ethics approval as was legally required under Good Clinical Practice. Pfizer claimed the study received approval to proceed, and an approval letter was produced supposedly from the ethics committee. The trouble was that there was no such ethics committee at that time. The lead investigator of the trial, Dr. Abdulhamid Isa Dutse, subsequently admitted that the letter could have been drafted 1 year after the study started and then backdated.

If this is true, this is fraud, plain and simple. Clinical trials fraud. Pfizer has however denied culpability and Dr. Abdulhamid Isa Dutse apparently is now the Chief Medical Officer of the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.


The incident would have been consigned to the history books if not for the recent Wikileaks revelations, which pointed a finger at Pfizer trying to manipulate legal proceedings by uncovering unsavoury details about corrupted practices by Nigerian Federal Attorney General Michael Aondoakaa, so as to pressure him to drop the legal suits against the company.

If these revelations are true, they do show that even big companies who are supposed to be ethical are not above playing dirty. More recently, some more Wikileaks exposés, this time about New Zealand, show the shadowy hand of big pharma in trying to unseat Helen Clark who was Health Minister at that time.

I hope our Singapore government can keep big pharma at arms length. Sometimes I feel they have become to close to big pharma because of the need to cultivate their engagement in our attempts to grow the life sciences and biomedical industry. They have to be careful not to let big pharma have too big a voice in shaping our national strategies.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quote of the year

This is the first time I am posting a "quote of the year", but the opportunity is too good to pass.

" they say in the countryside, some people's cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet." Attributed to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.