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Showing posts for "Yanzhong Huang"

Off-Label Use of Drugs and Access to Medicines for All: A Thailand Example

by Yanzhong Huang
A worker makes his way on a bridge at Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche plant. Roche is the manufacturer of Avastin, a cancer medication used for off-label treatment for macular disease in place of the more expensive Lucentis. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)

Several years ago an Indonesian girl named Widya posted a message on my blog. She asked where she could obtain the drug Sorafenib for her father, who was terminally ill with liver cancer. Her family had already spent a significant sum on her father’s healthcare and could not afford further treatment. I forwarded the message to a pharmaceutical executive in Jakarta, who responded that Sorafenib was available in Indonesia but a month’s dosage would cost around $4,500 (the average monthly salary in Jakarta is about $1,180). “I hope the patient has health insurance coverage, otherwise the family will have to pay out of pocket,” he said.

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Tu Youyou: An Outlier of China’s Scientific and Technological System

by Yanzhong Huang
Tu Youyou, 84, has become the first Chinese woman to win a Nobel Prize, for her work in helping to create an anti-malaria medicine. (Flickr)

On October 5, a native Chinese scientist, Tu Youyou, won the Nobel Prize in medicine for her role in developing an antimalarial drug that saves millions of lives in Africa and Asia. The award is considered a milestone in China’s history of science and technology as Tu is not only the first Chinese citizen but also the first Chinese-trained scientist ever to be awarded the most prestigious award in science. In fact, unlike other Chinese Nobel laureates in science, all of whom had overseas training, Tu had neither study nor research experience abroad. The most important research that led to the discovery of the medicine for which she was awarded the prize, artemisinin, was conducted in China. Surprised but exalted, many Chinese have attributed this prize to China’s scientific and technological (S&T) regime. Already, social media in China is flooded with discussions on who will be the next Chinese scientist to win the prize. Read more »

China’s Think-Tank Great Leap Forward

by Yanzhong Huang
Released balloons are pictured near a Chinese flag during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters)

China is experiencing a think-tank great leap forward. Governments, universities, and non-governmental actors have all jumped on the bandwagon of growing and creating think tanks. In responding to the government’s call to build fifty to a hundred high-end think tanks “with Chinese characteristics,” existing think tanks were quick to release reform and rebuilding plans, while new think tanks mushroomed in China. Just this month, at least ten new think tanks were reported to have been launched. In addition to those housed by universities, many are affiliated with government agencies (e.g., China National Tourism Administration) or media groups (e.g., Phoenix media group). As Professor Yan Xuetong of Tsinghua University observed, nowadays “each unit is building a think tank, and all universities are building think tanks.” It was reported that even some academic institutions focusing on studying history and archaeology have sought to transform themselves into think tanks. Read more »

The Rising Anti-Intellectualism in China: Part II

by Yanzhong Huang
Graduates dressed up as red guards, wait for their picture to be taken, in front of a statue of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at a university in Shanghai, June 19, 2015. (Reuters/Aly Song)

In my last blog post, I examined the rise of anti-intellectualism in China from a historical perspective. As if to corroborate my argument, last week police in China’s Jiangxi province detained Wang Lin, a semi-illiterate qigong (a Chinese spiritual martial art) mystic, for his role in the alleged kidnapping and murder of one of his former “disciples.” What dragged Wang into the limelight was not the incident itself, but the laundry list of his followers and clients exposed after Wang’s fall. They included Jack Ma, Jet Li, and a number of other celebrities and high-profile businessmen. Chinese websites also circulated photos showing Wang with high-ranking government officials, including several former Politburo Standing Committee members and at least four former central government ministers. Among them was the now disgraced railway minister Liu Zhijun, to whom Wang promised to set up a magic stone in his office so that he would never fall from power. Read more »

The Rising Anti-Intellectualism in China: Part I

by Yanzhong Huang
Graduates, in academic dress, pose for pictures in front of a statue of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong at a university in Shanghai, June 19, 2015. (Reuters/Aly Song)

On June 10, a blogger named Zhou Xiaoping was elected to head the newly established China Online Writers Association in Sichuan Province. He thus followed the career path of another popular blogger, Hua Qianfang, who was elected the Vice Chairman of the Writers Association of Fushun City in Liaoning Province in November 2014, an honor that is usually reserved for professional writers whose achievements in literature are well recognized. While both of them received only secondary school education, Zhou and Hua were invited to join the seventy most famous writers and artists in attending a symposium on art and literature in Beijing last year.  Read more »

Does MERS Pose a Serious Threat to China?

by Yanzhong Huang
A health worker with protective suits sitting with people who came into close contact with the Korean MERS patient arrive at Lady MacLehose Holiday Village in Sai Kung, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine, in Hong Kong, China May 30, 2015. China said on Friday a 44-year-old South Korean man had tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), China's first confirmed case, but that it had not found any symptoms in 38 people who had been in close contact with him. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

Last Friday, China confirmed its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Guangdong province. The now-confirmed South Korean MERS patient, who ignored travel warnings and lied about his conditions when flying to China, had been in close contact with seventy-seven people in the province. As of June 1, sixty-four have been quarantined while the thirteen others remain to be found. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Environmental Health Crisis – Challenges and Politics

by Yanzhong Huang
Women wear face masks on the Bund in front of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower during a hazy day in downtown Shanghai January 26, 2015. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

After more than three decades of rapid industrialization and modernization, China is on the cusp of potentially becoming the world’s largest economy. Yet China’s economic miracle has imposed tremendous costs on the environment and public health. Topping this list is extensive air pollution, water pollution, and soil contamination—outdoor air pollution, for example, has been linked to 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The result, as shown in the recent viral documentary “Under the Dome,” has been an environmental health crisis that has profound economic, social, and political ramifications. The ascending popularity of the documentary, followed by its quick disappearance from all major websites in China, beget a series of questions on China’s environmental health crisis: What is the nature and magnitude of the crisis? What are its causes and consequences?  What is the response of the Chinese government to the crisis and is this response sufficient to the challenges at hand? Read more »

The Anti-Corruption Drive and Risk of Policy Paralysis in China

by Yanzhong Huang
China's Politburo Standing Committee members (2nd row from bottom, L to R) Wang Qishan, Zhang Dejiang, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Yu Zhengsheng (bottom row, 2nd R) sing Chinese national anthem at the closing session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 13, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Courtesy: Reuters)

Like it or not, President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign is extremely popular among Chinese people. According to an online survey, “combating corruption” trails “income distribution” as the top two concerns of the Chinese public. There are already reports suggesting that the campaign has helped reduce the transaction cost for ordinary people to get things done in China. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part III

by Yanzhong Huang
A Ministry of Public Health official holds blood test slides taken from children, who live in the Thai-Myanmar border, at a malaria clinic in the Sai Yoke district, Kanchanaburi Province October 26, 2012. Globally, 3.3 billion people are at risk of malaria infection. While Africa has the highest malaria burden, most the 46,000 deaths outside Africa occurred in Asia Pacific. There are also concerns over a growing parasite resistance. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the previous blog post, I discussed how China’s efforts to promote its artemisinin-based drugs in the global market have ended up placing their pharmaceutical firms at the lower end of the supply chain. Not all Chinese pharmaceutical companies were content with this arrangement. In 1994, Beijing Holley-Cotec became the first Chinese manufacturer to export dihydroartemisinin (“Cotecxin”), one of the artemisinin derivatives that the company developed with an original Chinese brand. Read more »

Artemisinin’s Rocky Road to Globalization: Part II

by Yanzhong Huang
A health worker checks a blood sample for malaria in the only hospital in Pailin in western Cambodia January 28, 2010. Bordering with Thailand, this former Khmer Rouge stronghold and dusty gem mining town is now better known for a malarial parasite that is worrying health experts in the region. Studies and research show artemisinin-based therapies - currently the most effective treatment against malaria - are taking longer to cure some of the patients. (Damir Sagolj/ Courtesy: Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I described how artemisinin-based drugs were discovered in China in the 1970s and 1980s. Given their potency for the treatment of malaria, one would expect that Chinese made artemisinin-based drugs quickly became the first choice medicine in the global fight against malaria. Much to the chagrin of Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization (WHO) did not list a single one of China’s antimalarial drugs on its procurement list until 2007.

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