Coronary bypass surgery in the US? $106,000 or more. In India, at Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City? How about $1,583

Devi Shetty is obsessed with making heart surgery affordable for millions of Indians. On his office desk are photographs of two of his heroes: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.

Shetty is not a public health official motivated by charity. He’s a heart surgeon turned businessman who has started a chain of 21 medical centers around India. By trimming costs with such measures as buying cheaper scrubs and spurning air-conditioning, he has cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to $1,583, half of what it was 20 years ago, and wants to get the price down to $800 within a decade. The same procedure costs $106,385 at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“It shows that costs can be substantially contained,” said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, of Shetty’s approach. “It’s possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost.”

Medical experts like Reddy are watching closely, eager to see if Shetty’s driven cost-cutting can point the way for hospitals to boost revenue on a wider scale by making life-saving heart operations more accessible to potentially millions of people in India and other developing countries.

“The current price of everything that you see in health care is predominantly opportunistic pricing and the outcome of inefficiency,” Shetty, 60, said in an interview in his office in Bangalore, where he started his chain of hospitals, with the opening of his flagship center, Narayana Hrudayalaya Health City, in 2001.

Cutting costs is especially vital in India, where more than two-thirds of the population lives on less than $2 a day and 86 percent of health care is paid out of pocket by individuals. A recent study by the Public Health Foundation of India and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that in India non-communicable ailments such as heart disease are now more common among the poor than the rich…

“There has been fast urbanization in India that’s brought with it a change in dietary patterns and lifestyle,” said Usha Shrivastava, head of public health at the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation. “It’s leading to this huge jump in cardiovascular disease…”

The biggest impediment for heart surgery in India is accessibility. Shetty aims to bridge that by building hospitals outside India’s main cities. He said he plans to add 30,000 beds over the next decade to the 6,000 the hospital chain has currently, and has identified 100 towns with populations of 500,000 to 1 million that have no heart hospital.

A 300-bed, pre-fabricated, single-story hospital in the city of Mysore cost $6 million and took six months for construction company Larsen & Toubro Ltd. to build, Shetty said. Only the hospital’s operating theaters and intensive-care units are air-conditioned, to reduce energy costs…

“Global health-care costs are rising rapidly and as countries move toward universal health coverage, they will have to face the challenge of providing health care at a fairly affordable cost,” said the World Heart Federation’s Reddy, a New Delhi-based cardiologist who is also president of the Public Health Foundation of India.

Anyone in the American Medical Association listening? I imagine the few progressive thinkers in Congress are – and no one else in that useless body of corporate pimps.

Actually, given where I live, I hope there are more Mexican doctors paying attention. There are beaucoup grayheads from my neck of the prairie who already make their way over the border for much of their medical care.

Spill from leaking pipeline reaches popular Thailand tourist beach

Koh Samet
What the beach looks like – minus oil

The oil spill from a leaked pipeline in Thailand has reached one of the country’s popular tourism islands, officials have said.

The authorities have warned tourists to avoid oil-slicked water on Koh Samet.

A pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical leaked on Saturday spilling an estimated 50,000 litres of oil.

Hundreds of people, including navy personnel, environment officials and villagers were battling to clean the oil from Samet’s beaches.

“The top priorities right now are to get rid of the oil on the sand and the seawaters, and to make sure the spill doesn’t spread to other shores,” said local deputy provincial governor Supeepat Chongpanish.

This is a very beautiful, white, sandy beach, so we want to make the spill go away as soon as possible.”

Some hotel guests were cutting their holiday short because of the oil spill.

“…It’s chaotic right now. Many people and officials are on the beach dealing with it,” a hotel worker told AFP news agency.

After the spill

Not so pretty for a spell. I don’t know anyone this side of Royal Dutch Shell who thinks the sight of oil on the water makes any place more attractive to tourists. Or to the folks who live there.

First new natural antibiotic in decades discovered in Pacific Ocean

A new antibiotic that is effective at killing anthrax and superbug MRSA bacteria could be a weapon in the fight against antibiotic resistance – and terrorism.

Anthracimycin, a chemical compound derived from the Steptomyces bacteria, was discovered in the ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara in California. Its unique chemical structure makes it a new addition to the antibiotic family that could pave the way for new drugs…

“The discovery of truly new antibiotic compounds is quite rare,” said William Fenical, Professor of Oceanography and Pharmaceutical Science at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, who led the research team.

“It’s not just one discovery,” he said. “It opens up the opportunity to develop analogues – potentially hundreds. Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin in the 1928 and from that more than 25 drugs were developed. When you find a new antibiotic structure, it goes beyond just one.”

The team has openly published their findings in the German applied chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie for pharmaceutical companies and governments that may be interested in starting research and development (RND) programmes.

RTFA not only for detail about this discovery. There is a chunk of interesting discussion about growing antibiotic resistance, the narrow approach to developing new products constraining big pharmaceutical corporations.

Thanks, Honeyman

French parliament lifts historic ban on insulting president

A change in French law means it has now become legal to insult the French president.

Parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech.

Previously, anyone tempted to offend the head of state risked a fine.

In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled France violated freedom of expression by fining a man for insulting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The abuse, repeating words that Mr Sarkozy himself had used previously, was a crude version of “get lost!”

The European Court said the man’s conviction and his 30-euro (£26) fine had been “disproportionate”.

The president would now need to prove there had been slander or defamation towards him.

Why am I not surprised the last presidential creep to use this law was Sarkozy?