TAIPEI — The BioBusiness Asia (BBA) conference, one of the Bio Taiwan 2015 highlights, opened in Taipei Wednesday, attended by business, government and academic representatives in the bio technology sector from countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The two-day conference is focused on the topics of precision medicine and future healthcare, as well as biotech investment strategies, with the participants set to discuss the development of precision medicine, ways to establish innovative cooperation links with international pharmaceutical companies, and the sharing of successful commercial models.
The discussions will also touch on the business opportunities and market challenges facing the biotech industry and the sector’s future development, according to the organizer, the Taiwan Bio Industry Organization.
At the opening ceremony, Bio Taiwan 2015 Chairman Johnsee Lee said that U.S. President Barack Obama put forth the Precision Medicine Initiative early this year, raising heated debate globally on the subject. He believes that precision medicine is a necessary path for the world’s bio medical engineering industry, Lee said.
The goal of precision medicine is to seek more precise diagnosis methods and more effective drugs, and match them to develop the most economic and efficient medical therapies based on individual needs, Lee said.
Because different ethnic groups are endowed with different gene types, precision medicine is an industry that has different forms and needs in different areas. “This will be the advantage of Taiwan’s biotech industry,” Lee said.
He expressed hope that the BBA this year will help Taiwan to gain a competitive position and find its direction for future development in the Asia-Pacific market.
Lee also noted that a Greater China Opportunities Conference will begin July 24 on much-anticipated issues concerning how the two sides of the Taiwan Strait can jointly open the greater Asia market by integrating their resources and cooperating.
More than 300 bio-tech representatives in the industry, government and academic sectors attended the BBA July 22-23 at the CTBC Financial Park.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Health and Welfare Minister Chiang Been-huang said that under the government’s policy assistance, the biotech industry in Taiwan has achieved many innovations over the past few years.
One of the Six Emerging Industries
Since 2009, the government has included biotech in the country’s six emerging industries, providing them with assistance in the fields of manpower, policy, science parks, incubation and commercialization, according to Chiang.
Bio Taiwan, being held July 22-26 at the Nangang Exhibition Hall in Taipei, is one of the largest gatherings of its kind in Asia.
It combines five events — the investment-focused BioBusiness Asia conference, the Greater China Opportunities Forum, company presentations from Asia and around the world, one-on-one partnering, seminars and workshops, and the BioTaiwan Exhibition.
The exhibition, slated for July 23-26, features more than 200 booths manned by representatives from 600 companies, according to the organizer.
WASHINGTON – A new drug compound could lead to a breakthrough in the fight against bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the incurable brain-wasting disease also known as mad cow disease, researchers said Wednesday.
Scientists said the new anti-prion drug, known as polythiophene, has proven highly effective in mice in blocking toxic, misfolded prions.
Prions have been linked to dementia, personality shifts and other disorders, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — the human equivalent of mad cow disease.
At present, no medication has proven effective in preventing or curing those neurodegenerative ailments.
But research in the American journal Science Translational Medicine said the new anti-prion compound appears to be successful in locking infectious clumps of prions in place.
Researchers said infectious prions replicate by triggering normal forms of the protein to fold abnormally and cluster into long chains that are highly toxic to neurons.
Scientist Uli Herrmann and his research colleagues designed new polythiophenes with optimal ability to immobilize prions, the most promising of which prolonged survival of prion-infected mice and hamsters by more than 80 percent.
The mice and hamsters treated with the compound showed fewer prion clusters and less severe damage in the brain, the scientists said, suggesting that it stabilized small clusters of prions and locked them in place, preventing self-replication.
The encouraging results suggest that polythiophene could prove to be a potent future treatment for prion diseases, according to the study.
Mad cow disease can be fatal to humans who eat an infected cow’s meat.
Scientists believe the disease, including a major outbreak in Britain in the 1990s, was caused by using infected parts of cow to make feed for other cattle.
Experts believe eating meat from infected animals can trigger CJD, human variant of the fatal brain-wasting malady.
Hermann is affiliated with the Institute for Neurology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
Another key researcher on the study was Anja Boeckmann, at the Institute for Biology and Chemical Proteins at the University of Lyon in France.
More Informaiton: http://www.pss.org.sg/whats-happening/event-listing/18-august-2015-oncology-supportive-care#.VdLrEvmqqkq
The Star/Asia News Network
The Health Ministry’s Pharmacy Enforcement Division (PED) conducts interactive exhibitions and public lectures, and works closely with the Education Ministry to disseminate information to students on the health risks posed by unregistered health products.
“To combat the sale of counterfeit medicines in Malaysia, enforcement officers carry out routine and scheduled inspections, entry-point checking, market sampling, and conduct raids to seize and confiscate unregistered products,” says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
PED is involved in Operation Pangea, Interpol’s annual cooperative effort with law enforcement and customs agents from throughout the globe, which targets illicit drug trafficking through the Internet.
Last year, during Operation Pangea VII here, 295 websites and social networking sites were found selling unregistered medicines, adulterated health products and cosmetics. More than 45,000 parcels were seized with an estimated value of RM830,000.
There’s also the annual Operation Storm, targeted at South-East Asian countries. The purpose of the enforcement action is to protect consumers from sub-standard and dangerous medicinal products.
The fifth operation, Storm V, was conducted for a month last August. The result: 851,500 items valued at RM4.1mil were seized.
To curb the rise of counterfeit medicine, Dr Noor Hisham explains that pharmaceutical products must be registered with the National Pharmaceutical Control Bureau.
“To enhance security and combat counterfeiting; a hologram known as Meditag security label was made mandatory and required to be attached to each medical product. Despite these measures, counterfeiters have found ways to imitate this hologram and marketed their products as genuine ones,” he says.
Since then, the hologram features have been improved and enhanced to differentiate between genuine and fake ones. The government has also initiated the “Know Your Medicine” campaign to increase public awareness on the rational use of drugs.
The nationwide campaign focuses on educating the public on knowing the authenticity of drugs and obtaining medical products from a legal source.
Another massive personal information leakage in Korea has come to light, this time not by hackers but in a for-profit business deal.
A joint governmental investigation team announced on Thursday that it is prosecuting the president of the Korean branch of a multinational medical information processing company and 23 others for illegally circulating and profiting from more than 4.7 billion medical and prescription records of 44 million patients in Korea.
The company, which acts as a consultant to the health and pharmaceutical industries, is suspected to have bought the information from a software company and the Korea Pharmaceutical Information Center, according to prosecutors, and has profited from the information to the tune of 7 billion won ($6 million).
The software company provided hospitals with medical information programs. It is believed to have collected 720 million medical treatment records from 7,500 hospitals across the country without the consent of patients from March 2008 to last November. The software company allegedly sold 430 million records to the medical consulting company for 330 million won.
Investigators say the software company violated the personal information code because the records had patients’ names, birth dates and names of diseases and drugs, which infringes their privacy. The law requires the consent of patients for the circulation of such information.
The consulting company allegedly spent another 1.93 billion won to buy about 4.3 billion pharmaceutical compounding records from the Korea Pharmaceutical Information Center, which collected the information from 10,800 pharmacies from January 2011 to November 2014 through a program it distributed to them. The records also contain resident registration numbers of patients, diseases, compounds and doses of medicine. The investigators said the center did not explain that it was collecting the information through the program it gave to pharmacies.
The consulting company sent the 4.7 billion records of 44 million patients back to its headquarters in the United States, turned it into a database and earned about 7 billion won by selling it to domestic pharmaceutical companies, said the investigators. The pharmaceutical companies used it for marketing, which the investigators explained is not against the personal information security code.
The leaked data isn’t believed to have been used for other uses, such as voice phishing.
“The information leaked this time hasn’t been found to have been utilized for other uses,” the prosecution said. “[The consulting company] said the data sent to the headquarters in the U.S. is securely managed or discarded there.”
The investigators also discovered shady practices by one of the country’s mobile carriers, which allegedly received about 78 million prescriptions of patients without their consent from 23,060 hospitals and earned 3.6 billion won by providing them to pharmacies in its electronic prescription project from October 2011 to last March.
The mobile carrier’s project was a service for pharmacies, the investigators said, though the Ministry of Health and Welfare sees it as misconduct because the ministry did not approve of the service. Following the announcement on Thursday, the ministry also released details of a plan to strengthen personal information security in the medical field. It is planning to carry out qualification tests for medical information programs and requiring hospitals to use only qualified programs. Some 100 outside companies that provide such programs in Korea are also required to officially register them with the government. Additionally, programs that are used for personal information leakage will be suspended for three years.
Prime Minister John Key has conceded New Zealand will have to pay more for some medicines under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but he says patients will not be disadvantaged.
Mr Key said despite the probability that some medicines would cost more the deal was still in the country’s best interests.
Trade ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the TPP are meeting in Hawaii this week trying to put the finishing touches on the deal.
Mr Key rejected criticism the deal would be bad for New Zealand, saying by opening up other markets this country’s exporters would benefit.
But he said there was a high probability patents on medicines would be extended under the deal.
“That means the Government will have to pay for the original drug rather than the generic for a little bit longer.
“But for consumers that won’t make any difference because, you know, on subsidised drugs you pay $5 for your prescription so the Government may incur slightly more costs there.”
Mr Key rejected suggestions that if Pharmac was having to pay more for drugs it might delay bringing expensive drugs into the country.
“You’ve got to remember under the Pharmac model they always make sure that there are a variety of drugs and often not just one.
“I mean if you take, you know, drugs for a condition that’s quite common they often have about three on the list. They don’t just have one,” Mr Key said.
But Green Party co-leader James Shaw said extending patents and making medicines more expensive would have an impact in New Zealand.
“It means that we may have to wait longer. It means that there may be some medicines that simply aren’t available, that won’t become available or if they do become available that they’re available at the market prices which is eye-wateringly expensive,” Mr Shaw said.
Labour leader Andrew Little said his party would not support the deal if it did make medicines more expensive.
“Their right to charge a premium, for their drugs – for there to be no competitors for a longer period of time.
“That is going to make medicinal drugs more expensive, for a longer period of time.
“It is going to add costs to Pharmac, it’s going to add costs for the New Zealand taxpayer – that is unavoidable.”
He said it would breach Labour’s bottom line that the ability of Pharmac to buy drugs should not be undermined, and on that basis the party could not support the trade deal.
Ian Powell, executive director of senior doctors’ union the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, said any cost increases to drugs under the proposed TPP would be passed on to consumers.
Mr Powell said Mr Key’s admission was long overdue and confirmed drug prices would rise.
Mr Key had rejected suggestions that cost increases would be passed onto consumers but Mr Powell said the reality was it would impose extra costs on a cash-strapped health system that was struggling to make ends meet.
The association wanted the government to conduct a formal, independent assessment of the impact on health of the agreement.
All over New Zealand, people are disposing of surplus pills in ways they shouldn’t – and the impact on the environment may be far greater than we realise.
Official advice may be to drop surplus medicines back to the local pharmacy, but instead, pills are being thrown down the toilet or sink, put out with the rubbish, put in the fire or given away to other people.
One pharmacist labelled the country’s approach to dealing with medicines a national disaster, and the profession is calling for a New Zealand-wide policy so people know what to do with tablets they no longer need.
Palmerston North pharmacist Anthony Roberts said his colleagues could have ‘washing baskets’ full of unused drugs dumped on them.
“Basically, they end up being landed with piles of medicine, literally piles of medicine that they have no other option but to pay for the destruction of.
“Chances are it’s probably not come from them anyway, or if it has come from them it’s some time ago. And it needs to be taken care of properly”.
Some district health boards provide funding to pharmacists so they can pay to get the old pills removed. Others don’t, and the service is patchy.
If people are doing DIY medicine disposal, there can be serious consequences, said Lucy Shieffelbien, from the National Poisons Centre.
“These drugs can actually end up in waterways and into soil and ultimately leach from the soil … into water tables.
“We haven’t actually done any studies here in New Zealand to see what the long-term effects are, but there have certainly been studies overseas.
“We’ve seen issues with fish, for example, being exposed to high levels of human contraceptive. They disrupt the sex characteristics of the fish.”
Should drugs go into the landfill?
Even if the medicines are disposed of by the professionals, where do they go?
Bulls pharmacist Graham Platt said the approach to drug disposal was a “national disaster”.
He said a private firm took the medicines off the hands of hospitals and pharmacists.
“It goes to a company called Interwaste, and they dispose of it through treating it with steam sterilisation and then they go in the environment.
“The problem is that there is no incineration and it is very doubtful that steaming renders those drugs safe. And the concern is the ongoing is environmental damage”, said Mr Platt.
Interwaste said the products were steamed to a super-intense heat of 140°C before being put in the landfill, something that was considered safe.
A spokesperson said there was no incineration, and that the only hospital left with a permit to operate an incinerator was on the West Coast.
University of Otago environmental chemist Barrie Peake doubted steaming would inactivate all the pills.
“Incineration ensures that it’s completely inactivated. I’m not sure whether steaming would always achieve that to form a harmless compound of carbon dioxide, water and a few other minor inorganic materials”.
He said whatever route those drugs were taking to the landfill, health leaders needed to find out what effect they’re having.
“It’s not at all clear what happens to the rest of it. Whether it gets tipped down the sewerage or whether it gets put in the waste bin and then gets buried in the local landfill, which in time enter into the leach out”.