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Global Collaborative Healthcare - In Brief

Summer 2014

In Brief

Date: June 20, 2014


A new venture in Saudi Arabia

Blueprint for Ending Drug Shortages

In countries around the world, shortages of life-saving drugs have created a “nightmarish scenario,” according to a group of prominent health care experts, including pharmacists, bioethicists, policymakers and cancer specialists. The good news? Concrete steps can be taken to prevent such shortages, rather than simply reacting to them after they occur. Writing in the March 14, 2014, Pediatrics, the Working Group on Chemotherapy Drug Shortages in Pediatric Oncology made recommendations on how to reduce and better manage chemotherapy drug shortages in pediatric oncology.

Their recommendations suggest several lessons for how health care institutions and industry can collaboratively prevent or more ethically manage drug shortages:

  1. Share inventories of scarce drugs.
  2. Do not give patients participating in research studies preferential access.
  3. Centralize and share information about drug production levels and potential shortages.
  4. Report and avoid “gray-market” suppliers that sell hard-to-find drugs at inflated prices.
  5. Refine protocols, employing an evidence-based approach, to more efficiently use inventories.

A New Venture in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Aramco, a world leader in energy, and Johns Hopkins Medicine joined forces earlier this year to expand health services for about 350,000 people in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare, which was inaugurated Feb. 1, will provide medical services to Saudi Aramco’s employees and dependents, education for its clinicians and other health care professionals, and opportunities for research collaborations. Johns Hopkins Medicine and Saudi Aramco will each have an indirect ownership interest in the Saudi-registered company.

For more than 80 years, Saudi Aramco—instrumental in building one of Saudi Arabia’s first hospitals—has provided a comprehensive health care delivery system to its employees and health care beneficiaries.

“This partnership will result in a comprehensive transformation to further enhance our health care standards and marks the beginning of a new level of care with new lines of treatment, new and enhanced specialties, and subspecialties. It will also enable new forays into research and medical education as well as create opportunities for education and training of medical staff,” says Abdulaziz Al-Khayyal, senior vice president of industrial relations at Saudi Aramco, who recently retired.

Experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine will consult in 14 clinical areas, including cardiac and minimally invasive surgery, occupational health and wellness, and primary care. Training programs will focus on nursing, quality and safety, research, and leadership development.

Broadening the Spectrum in India

In February, Indian technology company HCL Corporation announced its entry into the health care sector with the launch of HCL Healthcare. Its first subsidiary, HCL Avitas, is affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International and will create a network of outpatient clinics offering services focused on diseases such as diabetes, stomach and gastronomic problems, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Noting that primary medical care is critical to improving patient outcomes, reducing costs and addressing population-wide health issues, HCL Healthcare’s leaders say their vision is to provide a full spectrum of health services—from primary through tertiary care.

Not-So-Deep Pockets

In a review of health care systems in low- and middle-income countries that appeared in the Feb. 14, 2014, New England Journal of Medicine, Anne Mills, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, notes tremendous disparities in the percentage of expenses financed out-of-pocket. Those with the least means are expected to pay the most—sometimes more than half of the total cost for a prescription, appointment or procedure.

Curbing Diabetes in Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago, fear of having blood drawn is one big reason why people avoid being tested for diabetes, an illness that impacts some 13 percent of the population of this island nation. So researcher Andrew Dhanoo has come up with alternative, noninvasive ways to identify markers of diabetes. He presented his findings at the 59th annual scientific meeting of the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Caribbean Health Research Council in May. 

Dhanoo is one of three researchers trained and mentored through a Johns Hopkins Medicine-led program in Trinidad and Tobago that was launched in 2007. Led by Felicia Hill-Briggs, the program’s research arm was aimed at better understanding how diabetes affects the population and increasing capacity to measure intervention effectiveness.

Hill-Briggs also oversaw the clinical research visiting fellowship program that provided physicians Avery Hinds and Rishi Ramtahal of Trinidad and Tobago the chance to attend the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and then complete a research project under mentorship of faculty from Johns Hopkins’ Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research.

Overheard

"Global health security is a shared responsibility; no one country can achieve it alone." -- Kathleen Sebelius, former U.S. Health and Human Services secretary

Earlier this year, the United States joined 26 countries, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organisation for Animal Health, to accelerate progress toward a world that is safe and secure from the threat of infectious disease by committing to the goals of the Global Health Security agenda.

Over the next five years, the U.S. plans to work with at least 30 partner countries—collectively home to at least 4 billion people—to prevent, detect and effectively respond to infectious disease threats, whether naturally occurring or caused by accidental or intentional releases of dangerous pathogens.