Monday, March 14, 2011

#43. In the Wonderland of Medical Science and Pharmaceuticals s

In the Wonderland of Medical Science and Pharmaceuticals
I do not have an expert knowledge of medical science and the various games played by its practitioners. But I have seen and experienced some funny things, and read and heard about some funny stories. No doubt they are not many. But this is for a record that I am penning them down. Maybe the person who opens this blog finds it equally interesting, and maybe just a little wiser by these small tips.
Astrology and palmistry are not science, and if they are to be called so, they can only be very inexact science. My own feeling is that the same can be said about the medical science. It is inexact in the sense that the findings and opinions and recommendations keep on changing, and not marginally, but sometimes diametrically opposite to what was the belief and understanding upto that point. A very basic example. When I was a child, running a fever meant that the patient was kept away from all kinds of solid food. Rather one was on fast for the days the fever ran. What the patient was given was liquid food and fruits only. And even the fruits were of a special kind - not banana, mangoes, lichee, chikoo and the like, but apple, grapes, pomegranates etc. Sometimes one can even suspect that this was some sort of conspiracy between medical men and fruit importers form Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those days buying these exotic fruits meant that somebody was unwell at home. Those were the days when the Stokes family had not revolutionized apple cultivation in Himachal, and the sea change in the production volume of pomegranates by introduction of Ganesh pomegranates in Maharashtra, and grapes in Andhra and Maharashtra and yet to come which brought these fruits to the middle class in our country. And when at long last the fever was down, food was given in an elaborate series of actions. It had a special name also: pathya. The patient took bath, maybe after a week or so, and he was given light food like khichdi. Siesta was not allowed, though one would expect to have a doze of drowsiness after a regular meal after a week or so. Today you can eat , only that looking to your immobility, the food intake has to be less.
By the way, have you marked how easily any and all kinds of fever these days are dubbed as viral fever. How all-encompassing the word is! And as it is, there is no cure for a viral disease. One gets well in due course for milder forms. But still you get prescription drugs for it. So also for cold for which it is said that if you don’t take any medicine you get well in 7 days, and if you take medicine it takes a week for the viral to disappear.
Have you marked how there is a substantial difference between the prices of the same formulation made by different companies under different brands? Clopigrel, a popular blood thinning pill costs about Rs.16 per tablet. The same formulation under a different brand name (Clavix) costs Rs. 6 per tablet. Another brand is for Rs.8. Once I tried to find the reason from a medical representative. One was of course understandable. For a long time India went by process patents and not by products patent. The same medicine made by another process was not covered by patent laws. This was not fair, as the company who spent a of money, time and talent on research and development of the medicine was able to recover the cost and some, and huge margins were not possible to continue for a long time. Take the case of Viagra where the Indian clone is available for about quarter the price of the foreign brand. The other reason which was told to me that of purity, whether it is 90% ,95.5% or 99%. But come to think of it, does it really matter that much so as to justify the big price difference?
Come to diabetic pills. One very popular drug (rosiglutazone) which was really effective had to be banned, as it had so many side effects, one of them adding to your bulk. After taking the medicine for almost a year, suddenly I started gaining weight, so much so that I had to discard a number of my old pants and jackets which could not be brought to my present size by my tailor. This was ultimately diagnosed by the doctor who worked in the CGHS (Central Govt. Health Scheme). Some people say that the two points where allopathy scores over other systems of medicine are surgery and antibiotics, otherwise one system is as good as the other. Add to it the fact that surgery is not the monopoly of allopathy. Sushrut was from the Indian System of Medicine.
Come to dietetics. Sometime during my childhood days a big hullabaloo was made about how iron-studded spinach is. After a few years it was sheepishly admitted by the medical community that the original calculation had one decimal point wrongly placed, with the result that iron content was shown ten times what it actually is. Egg’s yellow portion was considered full of cholesterol, so much so that in one hospital of repute as a patient I got only the white of the boiled eggs in breadkfast. Only sometime back I read somewhere that latest research shows the egg yellow to be not so bad as had been made out. Earlier guava was considered to have no food value. Now it is considered to be full of Vitamin C.
Come to antibiotics. Gradually the bacteria keeps on getting immune from one particular antibiotic. And the pharmacy industry keeps on evolving newer and wider-spectrum antibiotic. Doctors blame self-medication and overprescription of antibiotics by their own colleagues. Have you seen how expensive the newer antibiotics are?

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