Indian Pediatrics 2001; 38: 1201
News in Brief
Miles to go: Where have we come from and where do we go? This is what the spanking new national health policy unveiled by the health minister Dr. C.P. Thakur purports to do. The last policy was made 18 years ago and our current health scenario is dismal to say the least. Services, drugs and equipment in public hospitals are so poor that a mere 20% of the population uses their OPDs and 45% in-patient services. Goals of the policy include eradication of polio, yaws and leprosy by 2005, Kala Azar by 2010 and lymphatic filariasis by 2015. It aims to achieve zero tranmission of HIV by 2007 and half morta-lity from tuberculosis, malaria and water and vector borne illness by 2010. The document can be accessed at http://www.mohfw.nic.in/np2001.htm.
Pediatricians fight the government: Gandhi had fought for freedom from the British. Now yet another fight is on in South Africa-freedom from pediatric HIV. The controversy was that though antiretroviral therapy in the perinatal period has been clearly proven to reduce HIV transmission to babies, the health minister of South Aftrica has obstinately refused to provide these drugs. Now pediatri-cians (including Hoosen Coovadia), other doctors and nurses have filed a suit against the government. In the meanwhile, Boehringer Ingelheim has nearly agreed to provide nevirapine free to pregnant mothers in South Africa (eBMJ 1 September 2001).
Of embryos and ethics: Unlike many countries abortion is legal throughout the country in India and there is no major religious or national debate about its ethics. Hence India is a potential major source of human embryos for research and develop-ment of stem cell lines. Taking cognizance of this fact the Department of Biotechnology has put forward legally binding guidelines for embryo research. No embryos more than 14 days can be part of any research. Donors of embryos must give informed consent and receive a share of any commercial gain. All national and international projects must get the green signal from the National Bioethics Panel (eBMJ 8 September 2001).
To be or not TB: Last year the American Thoracic Society and the Centers for Disease Control had recommended 2 month Rifampi-cin and Pyrazinamide as one of the regi- mens for prophylaxis against tuberculosis in Mantoux positive patients or others with high risk for developing tuberculosis including HIV positive patients. But 23 patients receiv-ing this combination in a trial developed hepatitis of whom 6 died. Hence the current recommendation is a 9 month course of iso-niazid. If the RIF-PZA combination is used, extreme caution including 2 weekly liver enzymes is recommended (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 31, Aug 2001; 50: 733).