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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Pharmaceutical PPPs and China’s Contribution to Global Health Security

by Yanzhong Huang
Shelves displaying medicines are seen at a pharmacy in Shanghai, China, November 27, 2015. China may more actively participate in global health innovation if it takes up more pharmaceutical public-private partnerships. Picture taken November 27, 2015. (Aly Song/Reuters) Shelves displaying medicines are seen at a pharmacy in Shanghai, China, November 27, 2015. China may more actively participate in global health innovation if it takes up more pharmaceutical public-private partnerships. Picture taken November 27, 2015. (Aly Song/Reuters)

One of the major challenges in developing new medical countermeasures against threats to global health security—be it a new flu pandemic or rapid spread of a neglected disease—is the lack of an underlying commercial market to support the financial investment needed for expeditious drug development and scale-up. This challenge was demonstrated at the outset of the 2014 Ebola outbreak: even though the lethal virus was known for nearly forty years, there was no cure or vaccine on the market. Paradoxically, while political attention to global health issues has revved up since the Ebola outbreak, funding is as short as ever when it comes to research and development (R&D) to address novel or neglected diseases. The funding shortage could be exacerbated by competing global challenges such as the need to raise money for funding the initiatives of the COP21 and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of March 11, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Modi-Make-in-India Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the inauguration ceremony of the “Make In India” week in Mumbai, India, February 13, 2016. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indian Prime Minister Modi earns points for his “Make in India” campaign. Attesting to the increasing vitality and quality of India’s automobile industry, Maruti Suzuki, a special joint venture set up in 1983 between India’s Maruti Udyog and Japan’s Suzuki, began exporting to Japan its new hatchback automobile, the Baleno. Although Suzuki has been operating with Maruti in India for decades, this is the first time an Indian-made car is available for export to the Japanese market. Read more »

Thailand’s Universal Eye Screening in Action

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
Three elementary school girls at a primary school in Samutprakan, Thailand. This school was one of the pilot sites for the HITAP program for refractive eye screening. (Courtesy: Ariella Rotenberg) Three elementary school girls at a primary school in Samutprakan, Thailand. This school was one of the pilot sites for the HITAP program for refractive eye screening. (Courtesy: Ariella Rotenberg)

Ariella Rotenberg is a research associate in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As of January 9, 2016, Thailand has implemented refractive error eye screening in first-grade classrooms nationwide. Additionally, any student that is identified with vision impairment through the refractive error screening, is guaranteed to be seen at the local hospital by an ophthalmologist and provided with glasses to correct for their impaired vision. Under this policy, it is estimated that 260,000 Thai children will be able to access spectacles that they need but may not have otherwise received. With the exceptions of South Korea and Iran, Thailand stands way ahead of the pack among Asian countries in having universal eye screening for children. Last September, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a meeting focused on promoting universal eye health across the Western Pacific region specifically because the region lags in providing universal vision care.

Read more »

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) 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.

Read more »

India Says: Bring Us Your Sick

by Guest blogger for Alyssa Ayres
"Cathlab (Angiogram & Angioplasty)," February 25, 2013. Photo by Hmhedp licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Cathlab (Angiogram & Angioplasty)," February 25, 2013. Photo by Hmhedp licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

Kermit Jones, MD, JD, is a physician and former White House Fellow based in Chicago. His research focuses on intellectual property and health information technology use in medicine; he recently returned from a medical observership at Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad, India. Follow him on Twitter: @duniyakermit Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Afghan-protests - 11-13-15 Men carry one of the coffins for the seven people who were killed by unknown militants, during a protest procession in Kabul, Afghanistan, November 10, 2015. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Afghans protest beheadings. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday following the beheading of seven Afghans in the southern state of Zabul. The individuals were taken hostage in the central city of Ghazni and relocated as many as fifty-six times before being killed with razor wire. An affiliate of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan is believed to have conducted the beheadings, although it has not yet taken responsibility. Read more »

Pakistan Is Failing Its Citizens, and Washington Offers Fighter Jets

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 22, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 22, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is in Washington for long-awaited consultations with U.S. President Barack Obama. Press reports in the week preceding the visit flagged the possibility of a limited “civil nuclear deal” under discussion as a gambit to persuade Pakistan to stop developing battlefield tactical nuclear weapons, but that conversation ended when Pakistani officials told the media that “Islamabad will not accept limits on its use of small tactical nuclear weapons.” The strategic transaction from the Sharif-Obama meeting now appears, echoing the hoary past, to be another tranche of F16 fighter jets, only the latest in a long cascade of questionable hardware sales with unclear counterterror utility. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-fires Residents carry water as they try to extinguish fires near their homes at Pal 7 village in Ogan Ilir district, Indonesia's South Sumatra province, September 3, 2015. (Nova Wahyudi/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Raging flames in Indonesia. Intense forest fires have been burning for the past few months on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, blanketing vast areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand with smoke. Annual but illegal slash-and-burn agricultural practices that spiraled out of control caused the blazes, now amounting to more than 1,000 fire clusters on the islands. Read more »

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) 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 »

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: An Opportunity for Niche Diplomacy by Middle-Power Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Brendan Howe is a professor at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of International Studies.

From September 25 to 27, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be attending the United Nations (UN) Development Summit in New York, where she will be giving the keynote address. Much of the summit will focus on the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDGs are a set of proposals that look to build on two high profile international governance agendas: [1] international development cooperation, dominated since 2000 by the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of 2015; and [2] twenty years of environmental cooperation since the landmark United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Read more »