Public Health

Is the Media ignoring Public Health?

Public health seems to be the last priority of media. Despite the importance of public health initiatives , media does not focus upon it as it does on health tragedies. A good case in point was the AMRI Hospital fire which was covered by the media.

Recently India went 11 months without a single new case of polio being declared. this was a hall mark achievement and a crowning success of the pulse polio initiative. But this went unreported.

Now the public health infrastructure has started focusing on eradicating Measles, but again the media has chosen to ignore it.

A similar analogy can be found in the great job being done by the NHS in the UK. Their public health and community dental programs are one of the best in the world. But again the British media often chooses to ignore it rather focusing on the changes and the mismanagement in NHS.

So clearly media is more focused upon reporting a health initiative gone wrong rather than focus on the initiatives that are doing well.

Why is that?

For one I think Media revenues are driven by advertising, which in turn depends on ratings. Ratings are generated by viewership and generally people like to watch sensational news. SO bad news sells while good news may not have the same impact.

A good analogy can be the coverage of the Hooch tragedy in West Bengal. Which has been widely covered by the media but not the success of the pulse polio program.

Secondly to attract audience there need to be some celebrities that focus on some public health initiatives. A good example was Indian super star Amitabh Bachchan who led the pulse polio campaign in India.

Similarly Lance Armstrong has led the campaign against Cancer and Michael J Fox for Parkinson’s disease.

But having celebrities can back fire as most of them have their own agenda’s and this might seriously hamper the message.

Third option could be to develop local champions against a particular disease or health condition. People are more likely to listen to their local community champions rather than some celebrity sitting far away. These champions would make the message more genuine and hence will be able to attract attention to the issue.

In conclusion media would cover public health if and only if it helps them boosts their ratings. Good options are to make the story more sell-able by focusing on the local issues and its impact. this would be definitely covered by the local media.

For national media I think associating public health initiatives with celebrities is the best option. But one has to be careful of the true intention of the celebrity.

Finally local issues even in public health are best pushed by local champions and then it becomes a public interest story.

In conclusion, the media is made up people from the same society that we will live. As long as they don’t feel for the issue, it is difficult for them to cover the issue.

Public Health

Is Pfizer’s patent loss Ranbaxy’s gain: The battle for Lipitor

(Image source:

Way back when I was in B school the burning question in the Indian pharmaceutical industry was the expiring patents of the global pharmaceutical companies. The top among the list was Lipitor the cholesterol lowering drug that was fuelling most of Pfizer’s revenues.

Lipitor was the first drug to exceed $10 billion a year in sales, and accounted for almost one-quarter of Pfizer’s revenue in the last decade. But all that has changed once Lipitor comes off the patent list on November 30th. This allows companies like Ranbaxy to launch the generic version of Lipitor with a 180 day exclusive window.

Not to be outdone Pfizer has been preparing for this eventuality for some time and has already taken a series of steps to protect its revenues and its margins

The most notable among them is the tie up with Pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies to pass on the discounts on to members of the pharmacy plans. The discounts are pretty significant and might lower the co- pay for members from $10 to $4. This might result in maintaining the current levels of subscription through the PBMs.

The other angle that Pfizer will do is to lower the price of the drug itself. This will help it compete against the prices set by the generic manufacturers Watson Pharmaceuticals and Ranbaxy.

Interestingly Watson has a licensing agreement with Pfizer under which Watson has to share profits from the sale of the generic version of Lipitor.

Ranbaxy has its own challenges and are currently under an FDA investigation.

The industry has been taking note of this issue. In September IBM came out with a life sciences study which indicated that the current challenges facing the global life sciences are here to stay unless the firms themselves change their model.

The study also indicates that firms might need to start viewing themselves as healthcare solutions providers and focus on health rather than on disease. For more on the study please visit

While the Lipitor issue might settle down in a few years, larger issues remain in the global pharmaceutical industry.

What are your views on the same? Can the current Pharma model sustain itself or will there be a seismic transformation. Please do let me know.

Healthcare Delivery Public Health

Is Pfizer’s loss is Ranbaxy’s gain: The Billion Dollar Lipitor question

Way back when I was in B school the burning question in the Indian pharmaceutical industry was the expiring patents of the global pharmaceutical companies. The top among the list was Lipitor the anti hypertensive drug that was fuelling most of Pfizer’s revenues.

Lipitor was the first drug to exceed $10 billion a year in sales, and accounted for almost one-quarter of Pfizer’s revenue in the last decade. But all that has changed once Lipitor comes off the paptent list on November 30th. This allows companies like Ranbaxy to launch the gheneric version of Lipitor with a

Healthcare Delivery Public Health

Healthcare Insurance in India: Cigna all set to enter the game

(Image source:

Healthcare Insurance sector in India is set for exciting times with the proposed entry of US based Healthcare giant Cigna. Cigna based in Bloomfield Connecticut has revenues of close to $19 billion globally. To enter India Cigna has formed a joint venture with India based TTK Healthcare which was founded in the 1920’s. TTK healthcare is already present in the Healthcare insurance as a third party administrator a business they would have to close down in order to formalize this JV.

Only 10% of Indians are covered by Insurance of any kind. Almost 2% are covered by private insurers and 8% through state and central government schemes. So there are almost 90% of the people without insurance in the Indians Healthcare market and they mostly pay for healthcare expenses from their private pockets.

For the US private healthcare insurers are sometimes blamed for the spiraling healthcare costs. But one has to wonder if the entry of private insurers in India will do the same?

Recently my wife availed her company sponsored private insurance for the birth of our first child. The total bill was more than that we would have to pay if we had paid from pocket.

So the question is does India need Private Healthcare Insurance ? Can we afford it?

Public Health

Malnutrition in India: One problem, many solutions

(Image source: Unicef)

After a recent grocery shopping experience I was wondering looking at the bill, how Indians from the lower economic strata were managing to buy food. My grocery bill has gone up since the birth of my baby daughter and I am sure members of the poorer sections of the society would have definitely felt the pinch if they had children.

As I check the economic figures for November, food inflation in India stands at 11.8 %. And this has resulted in a steep rise in cases of malnutrition in India.

The World Bank estimates that India is ranked 2nd in the world of the number of children suffering from malnutrition, after Bangladesh (in 1998), where 47% of the children exhibit a degree of malnutrition. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, and is nearly double that of Sub-Saharan Africa with dire consequences for mobility, mortality, productivity and economic growth.[1] The UN estimates that 2.1 million Indian children die before reaching the age of 5 every year – four every minute – mostly from preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea, typhoid, malaria, measles and pneumonia. Every day, 1,000 Indian children die because of diarrhoea alone. According to the 1991 census of India, it has around 150 million children, constituting 17.5% of India’s population, who are below the age of 6 years. (Source

Now these findings have some significance. Image being next to only Bangladesh, whom I am sure many Indians would consider a developing nation. But our own statistic is not very far behind. While many of our celebrities and film personalities focus on tackling HIV/AIDS, the real killer in India are diseases like Tuberculosis, which kills more people every year than the cumulative deaths due to HIV since 1984.

The main factor behind all this is the lack of proper nutrition. Most of us have read the balanced diet chart which includes carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, vitamins, fats and water. Indian diets for vast majority of children clearly lack that and this forms the root of the problem. Even if the children survive childhood, they would continue to suffer as they grow into adults leading to more diseases in adult life.

What can be done to reverse the situation?

Well the government has been tackling malnutrition at a national level and local and state governments are tackling the issue at the regional level. One of the best ways to fight malnutrition is to combine it with the large child development programs launched by the government. Former Tamilnadu chief minister MG Ramachandran had launched the mid day meal program to encourage children to come to school. This meal can be used to secure the right nutrients for the children especially proteins, Minerals and Vitamins. I think combining school and education is an excellent way of tackling the problem.

Secondly the government might have to step in to tackle food inflation. Many fruits are just beyond the reach of the middle class leave alone the poor. I cannot imagine while we have tones and tones of produce rotting in Food Corporation of India godowns, there are children dying due to malnutrition in the country. The problem is more in the rural areas than urban and more among girls than boys.

Finally as Individuals let us contribute to institutions those are trying to combat this issue. A good example is the Akshay Patra foundation. The Foundation feeds nearly 1.3 million children every day with part subsidies from the Government and the rest of the cost of every meal is generated from individuals, philanthropists and corporate entities. A contribution of Rs 675 is enough to feed a child for a year. The foundation also provides the break up cost for the same and is exempt from income tax for the Indian donors. Though I have been donating to the foundation, I personally am not a member there and this is just one of the many groups in India.

Finally I would like to conclude by saying a nation is only as strong as the health of its children, so let’s think about this very basic issue for once and come up with innovative solutions. I would like to hear from you as well, How do we tackle malnutrition?