Category Archives: Pharmacy

Beware the ‘Silent Killer’

by Reggie Rullan
(Manila, Philippines)

Thursday, 19 July 2012 00:00 Published in Daily Tribune Life Style

The silent killer, unbeknownst to many, is a rotavirus infection that wraps its deadliness around children when left unchecked.

The common onset of loose or watery stools among children is dismissed by many parents and caregivers as part of childhood where children usually touch the floor or ground as they play and put dirty objects in their mouths. Some may think this kind of diarrhea is merely viral and will pass after a few days. The usual immediate and sole resort is to keep the child clean and hydrated.

The rotavirus infection, however, causes a severe form of diarrhea, which has been identified as the leading cause of death among children with diarrhea. As of January 2012, the 13th Asian Conference on Diarrheal Disease and Nutrition (ASCODD) released data that the rotavirus infection is responsible for over 600,000 childhood deaths per year globally. To put it more closely, every minute, one child dies due to rotavirus-related gastroenteritis (RVGE).

In Brazil, its national program reduced the mortality rate of children less than one year of age due to rotavirus by 48 percent. These results were presented in the 6th World Congress of the World Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (WSPID) in 2009. The main cause for the significant reduction of deaths was idenitifed as the initiative of the Brazilian government to nationalize vaccination against the rotavirus infection.

Gastroenteritis (GE)-related hospitalization in Brazil in children under five years of age was reduced by 31 percent after the implementation of the rotavirus vaccination, a testament to its effectiveness in reducing the incidents of the disease.

The Philippines follows its lead this year and at the helm of the initiative is the Department of Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona, who launched the public-private partnership and global collaboration to ensure that children all over the Philippines have access to the rotavirus vaccination.

In the Philippines, the recorded number of deaths per year due to rotavirus infection is 3,500. For all types of diarrhea, the total number of deaths per year is 89,000. While the oral rehydration therapy (ORT) helped scale down diarrhea as the number one cause to the seventh cause of death, it cannot be ignored that to date diarrhea is still in the top ten cause of disease related mortality.

As there is no cure for RVGE, the treatment option is to properly and effectively manage the symptoms of the disease. Thus, the effectiveness of vaccination in the incidence of severe RVGE becomes important in the fight against mortality rates among children due to this disease.

According to a booklet released by the Rotavirus Organization for Training and Advocacy in the Philippines, a child can easily get infected by contaminants in food, drinks and objects touched by the child. The rotavirus infection is highly contagious and even a small dose of infection can cause severe diabetes. The rotavirus infection has even been found in the secretions from the respiratory track of children, thus, raising the possibility that the infection may be transmitted through the air.

Worse, the infection when on the surface of a human body survives for hours on end and when on the surface of solid objects, survives for several days, making the incidence of contamination higher. The rotavirus infection has even been found to survive in a child’s stool for 21 days.

The ASCODD held recently in Tagaytay had representatives from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries and they focused in their mission to prevent and manage diarrhea, along with preventive nutrition interventions, in Southeast Asia and Asean countries.

“As it alarmingly causes a significant number of child deaths, as well as impacts child growth and development, RVGE must be urgently addressed by Asia-Pacific’s medical community. And taking off from the success of Brazil’s program, the Philippines, as announced by Sec. Ona, is pushing to be the first country to implement rotavirus vaccination all over the region to combat the scourge of the rotavirus,” says Dr. Lulu Bravo, conference chair of 13th Asian Conference on Diarrheal Disease and Nutrition.

Since the ASCODD’s launch in February 1981 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, it is being hosted every two years in an Asian country. Since then, eleven conferences were held in seven different Asian countries.

The vision of the 13th ASCODD Organizing Committee, which is composed of the Section of Infectious and Tropical Disease in Pediatrics (INTROP) and the Section of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, both from the Department of Pediatrics at the Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines Manila and the International Society of Tropical Pediatrics-Philippines (ISTP-Philippines), is to provide a platform for global collaboration and knowledge sharing to address the urgency of the incidence of deaths due to the rotavirus infection.

The ASCODD Secretariat is located in ICDDR, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Currently, the ASCODD international officials are Dr. N.K. Ganguly (president); Dr. Yati Soenarto (immediate past president); and Dr. K.M.S. Aziz (secretary general). Advisors for ASCODD XIII are Dr. Alejandro Cravioto (ICDDR, B), Prof. Yushifumi Takeda (Japan), Dr. B.K. Nair (NICED, India), Prof. Zulfiqar Bhutta (Pakistan), and Dr. Nils-Kare Barkeland (Bergen University, Norway).

Allergic to allergies

by Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
July 30, 2011

Anyone beset with food allergies at an early age, who beget children with asthma, allergic rhinitis, ear allergies and the like tell the same story of how each generation suffers a lifetime of allergy symptoms -— sneezing, ear irritations, rashes, swelling of body parts, and other allergic reaction horror incidences, some of them fatal.

Even with the advances in medicine, there is still no universally accepted cure for allergies. The genetic link between allergies and its inter-generational occurrence tells us that one might actually pass it on to one’s kids via heredity.

According to recent studies, the more family members with an allergy, the worse is the risk for their kids as hereditary factors increase an infant’s risk of getting food allergies. In addition to the genetic factor, the parents’ lifestyle choices have also increased the risk of contracting allergies for children.

In a seminar held in Thailand entitled “Power to Protect — Clinically Proven Long-Term Allergy Prevention,” led by Dr. Ralf Heine, senior allergologist at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, it was noted that there is an exponential increase of allergic disorders in the Asia-Pacific region. The greatest increase of allergic disorders “occurred in food allergy and atopic dermatitis in infants and young children.”

How does an allergic reaction take place? A class of anti-bodies react when a person is exposed to an allergen and the body mistakenly thinks it is faced with an intruder it should fight off, causing the antibodies to produce a varied assortment of symptoms. These allergies are of serious consequence and once a person develops a particular allergy, it becomes a lifetime condition that progresses from one body part to another. It may increase or decrease in intensity, but will remain difficult to manage unless
preventive measures are taken early on.

Children with allergies are left out from everyday activities that most kids enjoy. In school, asthma attacks may prevent a child from entering any sports-related activities. Allergies also affect a child’s sleeping pattern. Children who have their symptoms attack during the night tend to lose sleep, hence the low energy level to participate in activities the following morning.

Even common allergies in the form of rashes, asthma, or flaking of the scalp can have adverse effects on the physiological social and emotional well-being of a person. A child, who has a severe case of rashes, tends to be shy as he grows and loses confidence because of the red marks on his skin. During and after an attack, a child will tend to decrease his productivity in school as compared to his performance on days with no allergy attacks.

The US National Institute of Health in its National Library, published that while “asthma and allergic diseases are examples of disorders having an unmistakable genetic predisposition, xxx these disorders require the presence of appropriate environmental triggers for their expression.”

Thus, food intake and environmental triggers are matters that we cannot take out of the allergy equation in a person with a genetic disposition to allergies. In the past decade, the number of Filipino children with food allergies has grown to as much as 30 percent. Thus, the growing incidence of allergies equates with a higher intake of allergy medicines.

In celebration of World Allergy Day last July 8, Prof. Sibylle Koletzko, head of the Division of Paediactic Gastroentology and Hepatology at Ludgwig Maximilians University Munich, Germany, visited the Philippines to share the results of studies conducted by her university on the importance of allergy screening measures to help reduce or even prevent the risk food allergies in children.

Prof. Koletzko enlightened us that while persons with identified and specific allergies to food cannot risk intake of the food allergens, recent studies by the Ludgwig Maximilians University Munich have shown that a balanced diet and a normal level of hygiene may decrease the risk of exposure to food allergens as opposed to an allergen free diet like a pure organic diet; a no alcohol diet; a no fat diet; a preservative process free diet; among many other health diets touted to rid the body of allergies and other diseases.

Their studies show that even a hyper hygienic practice where hand washing with anti-bacterial soap and a meticulous sanitation of the home, school or office have not shown to be a deterrent to the presence of allergies.

In fact, in a study where children who were raised in highly sanitized environments and where personal hygiene was a key part of everyday life, more allergic reactions were suffered as opposed to children who have less sanitation and who practiced a much lower level of personal hygiene. This vindicates the old wives’ tale that ultra cleanliness is not synonymous with health.

The expectation that a high level of personal and environmental sanitation does not diminish but rather increases the incidence of allergies is based on the body’s actually ability to strengthen its immune system when it is exposed early on in life to a variety of bacteria.

Even the mode of delivery that a child is born and the type of food it is fed can influence the ability of the newborn to develop the immune system. Normal delivery allows the baby to swallow the liquid in its mother’s gut system which is the natural course of delivery, thus, exposing the baby to a variety of bacterial flora at the onset of life outside the womb, which is a very sterile environment.

Children breastfed for the first six months of life then fed solid food also display a stronger immune system than those whose gut were exposed to formula milk and other baby foods within the same first six months. Another example is that among children, cow’s milk allergy counts as one of the most prevalent conditions, peaking between zero to six months of age, according to Dr. Koletzko.

“In face of the rising incidence of allergic diseases over the last decades, preventive measures are of increasing importance,” notes Dr. Koletzko. “Since it has been recognized that early contact to food allergens plays a major role in the development of both tolerance and sensitization to food antigens, prompt intervention strategies are vital to allergy prevention.”

The other recommendation of Prof. Koletzko is that children and adults without specific allergic reactions to food eat a balanced variety of foods and practice a regular hygiene regimen, as studies show that an extreme exclusion of food groups in a diet and ultra cleanliness has not shown to decrease the incidence of allergies.

A rational use of anti-allergy medication was also discussed by Prof. Koletzko after some mothers raised their fears about over medicating their children. Her rule of thumb is not to medicate without consulting a doctor before administering any medication to children. The adverse effects of medication are weighed by a doctor against the gravity of an allergic attack.

Following the doctor’s prescription is always advisable in case where an allergic attack is at hand or where maintenance medication has been advised as a medical necessity.

For those who have suffered allergic reactions and have not yet identified the allergens that specifically cause said reactions, an allergy screening may be a life-saving measure for a child or even for an adult. Knowing the risk is half the battle and checking one’s family’s allergy history can not only alleviate the symptoms of allergies, it may just save the life of another child.

Fresh infusion to Philippine health industry as Aspen, a multinational pharmaceutical company opens local subsidiary

by Geraldine Rullan_Borromeo
(Manila, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
May 6, 2012

Filipinos have long had to live with the social incongruity that quality medicines are not affordable medicines. Multinational pharmaceuticals have long lorded it over the health industry that Filipinos who chose quality medicines were obliged to fork over emergency savings to afford them.

The advent of generic medicines brought some relief to the hard-pressed public, but in particular cases where one feels that the illness calls for a branded medicine, the expense bore heavily on one’s budget.

Recently, Aspen Philippines, a local subsidiary of Aspen Pharmacare, opened at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. Aspen Pharmacare is a global pharmaceutical company that manufactures branded and generic medicines in cardiology, metabolism, neurology, dermatology and oncology.

It has 18 manufacturing facilities in 13 sites on five continents with more than 800 products that are available in
100 countries. Aspen’s strategic alliances with other pharmaceutical companies, particularly with Merck, GSK, Eli Lilly, Vifor, Abbott, Flen Pharma, Sanofi-Aventis, Actavis and Teva, allows it to market quality and affordable innovator brands of antibiotic, antihypertension, anti-gout, anti-platelet and anti-hypothyroidism medicines in the Philippines.

In addition, Aspen offers a range of generic medicines for said ailments. It claims that it is one of the leading generics companies worldwide as it is Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer and supplier to both the private and public sectors in South Africa.

With 18 manufacturing facilities at 13 manufacturing sites in six continents, Aspen’s generic medicine pipeline promises to deliver quality and affordable medicines backed up by its own research facilities and in collaboration with other global pharmaceutical brands.

Aspen is also the one of the largest manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and complementary medicines in Australia, providing manufacturing and technical services for leading multinational pharmaceutical companies. Its manufacturing facilities are fully licensed with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), offering the full range of pharmaceutical production and support services for liquids (syrups and suspension), creams and ointments; solid dose (tables and capsules); and packaging.

Aspen Pharmacare Australia also markets off-patent medicines or specialist medicines with a low volume of demand. “Some of these‘overlooked’ medicines are still effective and have modes of action not matched by newer products; they are also cost effective for governments and consumers. Doctors, who are preoccupied with their heavy daily workload, often need just a simple reminder about the existence of such medicines.

That’s where we come in,” said Greg Lan, chief executive officer(CEO), Aspen Pharmacare Australia. He added, “We are privileged to support efforts of the Philippine government and other stakeholders in improving Filipino patients’ access to quality, effective and safe medicines that are within the means of the general public.”

At the helm of Aspen Philippines is Ace Itchon, who, after acquiring a Bachelor of Science in Preparatory Medicine, went on to manage a project for Besins Healthcare (Bangkok). She then became the director of Brands Operations for Invida(Philippines). As regional head for the Asia Pacific for Invida (Singapore), she garnered recognition for operational excellence. She then moved on to
become the Sales Force and Marketing Effectiveness director and head of Pharmalink Academy of PL Asia Pacific.

Before she joined Aspen Philippines, she was the Business Unit head for Zuellig Pharma (Philippines), then was promoted to sales and marketing manager, national sales manager and product manager.

Stephen Saad, Aspen Group chief executive, says, “We take great pride in formally opening our office in the Philippines. This business initiative forms part of Aspen’s stated global expansion strategy into emerging and established markets, and we look forward to working closely with the Philippine government and local regulatory bodies in providing quality products to meet the healthcare needs
of the Filipino people.”

“Our product portfolio includes some of the most prescribed brands in Australia, South Africa, Middle East, North America, Germany and Canada. We want to bring to Asia affordable prescriptions with the Aspen stamp of quality,” adds Ziman, deputy CEO, Aspen Pharmacare Australia. “It is a thrill to change someone’s life through our medicines — this is the passion that drives us,” Ziman continues.

“Aspen products are renowned for their efficacy, quality and affordability. We look forward to working with Filipino healthcare professionals in improving access to Aspen’s medicines,” also adds Keith Kai Cheung Iu, director for Asian Markets, Aspen Asia Co. Ltd.

“As a trusted pharmaceutical company, Aspen is committed to
positively impacting people’s lives by providing Filipino healthcare providers and consumers with effective and safe medicines that are within the means of the ordinary Filipino,” Itchon ends.

For more information, contact Dr. Fernando de Castro, FPPS, Medical Director, Aspen Philippines Inc., Units 1001-1002 Trade and Financial Tower, 7th Avenue corner 32nd Street,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
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Four minutes, four moves

by Vince Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
September 24, 2011

At the recent Phiten event featuring the benefits of balancing the electrical charges in our bodies to enhance physical performance in sports, Jimbo “Coach Jim” Saret taught attendees how to jump start the body. Jump starting the body gets it going for the day, whether it be for sports activities or just a plain work day.

While balancing the negative and positive ions in the body by applying liquefied titanium through the use of bracelets, necklaces and even titanium-filled clothing apparel is a considerable aid in any physical activity, a consistent and a doable exercise program is needed to achieve optimum health for both athletes and non-athletes alike.

Coach Jim is a sports and fitness science specialist; Olympic
athletic trainer; performance enhancement specialist; speed,
agility and quickness coach; sports medicine specialist; fitness writer; sports, fitness radio and TV host and is a perfect fit for Phiten’s sports philosophy of enhancing physical performance.

The highlight of the event was Coach Jim’s gift of a four minute exercise module that can not only strengthen the body,
but contribute to weight loss and improved physical performance.

Four minutes!

As a fitness buff for over 30 years, this was almost too good to be true. But surely, anyone can find four minutes to work out! For most sedentary people, the lure of a four-minute workout may just get them off the couch or the office chair to exercise. Coach Jim said that if we study the physical makeup of the human body, with muscles and joints designed to move, we will discover that the less we move, the more our muscles will atrophy, become weaker and weaker until we have self-destructed and all the aches and
pains, at the least, and disease at the worst, begin to hamper how we work and how we play.

The four-minute exercise is also a four movement exercise that energizes the body and gets the metabolism going to keep the body burning calories for the whole day. If this is true, then four minutes and four moves will get anybody into better shape.

Coach Jim has previously shared this discovery on 99.5 RT radio show and he had a call-in listener who was a doctor. This doctor was challenged by this claim and faithfully exercised the four-minute, four-move exercise program. A month later, the doctor called in again to report to Coach Jim that the four-minute workout was successful in jump starting his metabolism and helping him lose weight.

Intrigued, this writer readily volunteered when Coach Jim asked who would want to try this new exercise. He then explained the four basic exercises: Jumping Jacks, squats, push-ups and lunges.

He explained that all you need to do is 10 moves of each kind of exercise in continuity. This means you will work out non-stop for 240 seconds straight, and after going through 10
repetitions of Jumping Jacks, squats, push-ups and lunges, go through the same routine until the four minutes are up.

While 240 seconds does not sound like too long a time, it can feel like an eternity if you are doing it non-stop. And so it was with relief that I heard Coach Jim say stop. Whoa! Phew! I was gasping for breath and was at a loss for words as I had to digest what the exercise did to my mind and my body.

I asked, “I felt like my body was jump started! Is this healthy?” As a traditional Chinese martial arts practitioner, particularly of Tai Chi and Choy Li Fut Kung Fu, where both systems espouse a slow and long warm-up in a standing meditation, a jump start was the opposite of what I had learned as beneficial to enhancing sports performance.

Coach Jim’s answer mystifyingly was the answer I expected. He succinctly answered: “The jump start is good for your body as the four exercises are basic warm-ups, which you will need to perform before you get into any physical activity!” The jump start was similar to the effect of Phiten, which I again volunteered for, to test the effect of the product on my muscles. I was asked to put my hands together and then turn to the left without pivoting my torso. The Phiten staff then marked how far the reach of my muscles went.

A Phiten titanium necklace was placed around my neck, then I was asked to twist left. Incredibly my reach was further than without the necklace. Even considering that maybe the second time with the necklace on, my body had warmed up to allow for a further reach, there was another significant differentiation between the two movements. Without the necklace, the muscles were stiffened, and there was a little pain when the twist put my muscles to its elastic limit. With the Phiten necklace, there was no
pain and I had a longer reach.

To further test the product, I was then asked to perform the twist without the product. And the third test made me a believer of how the alignment of negative and positive ions can increase physical performance. Without the necklace, the reach had once again shortened and the ease of the twist was no longer there.

Imagine the difference of jump starting your body or performing any other physical movement with the aid of titanium products!

To know more about Coach Jim’s athletic mentoring activities, visit his Web site at