Giving African surgeons online health information; cancer in minority groups

Press Release from PLoS Medicine

The Ptolemy Project: Giving African Surgeons Online Health Information

"It is African doctors and researchers who know the right questions to ask in order to discover practicable solutions to the health problems of their regions," say Milliard Derbew (Addis Ababa University and University of Toronto) and colleagues. And giving African doctors and researchers better access to health information, they say, is a fundamental component in building a healthy African research culture.

Derbew and colleagues discuss an initiative called the Ptolemy Project, an electronic health information access tool designed to be effective and easy to use, and to satisfy the health information needs of surgeons in the developing world. "Research is unthinkable without access to scientific literature," they say, and electronic access to projects such as Ptolemy will help surgeons to deal with regional health problems.

Citation: Derbew M, Beveridge M, Howard A, Byrne N (2006) Building surgical research capacity in Africa: The Ptolemy Project. PLoS Med 3(7): e305.

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Miliard Derbew
Addis Ababa University
Pediatrics General Surgeon
Addis Ababa,
+1 416 480-5260
+1 416 480-5261 (fax)
[email protected]

Racial and Ethnic Minorities Face Barriers to Cancer Care and Information

Although minority groups in the US face a number of barriers to receiving cancer care and information, a team of researchers says that these barriers could be tackled by using "patient navigators"--people trained to help patients "navigate" through the complex health care system.

The research team, from the University of Texas and the National Cancer Institute, describe how the first patient navigator program at Harlem Hospital, New York, helped under-served patients to overcome barriers to obtaining prompt diagnostic and treatment services following abnormal or suspicious cancer screening tests.

In June 2005, the Patient Navigator Outreach and Chronic Disease Act of 2005 was enacted into public law in the United States, authorizing the Health Resources and Services Administration to administer a US$25 million program to provide patient navigator services with the goal of reducing barriers and improving health-care outcomes. Patient navigators will be recruited, trained, and employed to provide services to under-served populations.

Citation: Fowler T, Steakley C, Garcia AR, Kwok J, Bennett LM (2006) Reducing disparities in the burden of cancer: The role of patient navigators. PLoS Med 3(7): e193.

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L. Michelle Bennett
Center for Cancer Research
Associate Director for Science
NCI, NIH, DHHS, Building 31 Room 3A11,
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-2440 United States of America
(301) 496-4345
(301) 496-0775 (fax)
[email protected]

Researchers' Obligations to Patients Who Enroll in HIV Prevention Trials

Researchers around the world are currently working to develop microbicides, products that are applied topically (e.g. as a vaginal gel or cream) to try to prevent HIV infection. But what if a patient becomes infected with HIV during a microbicide trial? Do the researchers have an ethical duty to provide the patient with HIV drugs (antiretroviral therapy), which can be expensive and can add great costs to the trial?

Medical ethicists are divided on this question. Some argue that providing antiretroviral therapy is ethically obligatory. Others believe that such provision does not qualify as a mandatory ethical obligation but that it is "morally praiseworthy."

In an article in PLoS Medicine, Anna Forbes of the Global Campaign for Microbicides, an international coalition that works to accelerate microbicide development, outlines the campaign's consensus statement on providing antiretroviral therapy to patients who become infected during a microbicide trial. The campaign's position is that: "People who seroconvert [become HIV positive] during the course of a microbicide trial should be assured access to high quality HIV care, including antiretroviral treatment (ART) when it is needed."

Citation: Forbes A (2006) Moving toward assured access to treatment in microbicide trials. PLoS Med 3(7): e153.

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Anna Forbes
Global Campaign for Microbicides
Global North Programs Coordinator
1800 K Street, NW
Suite 800
Washington, DC 20006 United States of America
+1-202-457-1466 (fax)
[email protected]

Reducing the Influence of Drug Companies on Prescribing Patterns

"Over the last few years, one scandal after another has shown how drug company marketing can distort prescribing patterns," says Julio Sotelo (General Director, National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery of Mexico) in an essay in PLoS Medicine. Sotelo outlines a novel proposal to reduce the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on prescribing decisions.

"My proposal to realign the relationship between clinicians and drug companies is simple and is based on a single premise," he says. "I propose that a third party, appointed by academic institutions, must be compulsorily placed between clinical researchers and drug companies so that all dialogue (scientific and monetary) must be made through this third party." Sotelo calls this third party a Collegiate Research Council (CRC)--and proposes that it would be a committee jointly appointed by 1012 leading academic institutions.

Citation: Sotelo J (2006) Regulation of clinical research sponsored by pharmaceutical companies: A proposal. PLoS Med 3(7): e306.

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Julio Sotelo
National Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery of Mexico
General Director
Insurgentes Sur 3877
Mexico City, 14269 Mexico
52 55 5606-4782
52 55 5606-2282 (fax)
[email protected]

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Caption: "A third party--the CRC--should be placed between drug companies and clinical researchers (Illustration by Rusty Howson, sososo design)"


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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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