On 4 September 2023, the Pertubuhan Kumpulan Sokongan Ibu Bapa Dan Bayi Pramatang Malaysia (BPM) and the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy partnered to organize a media roundtable called Taking a Closer Look at RSV.
RSV is short for respiratory syncytial virus, one of the most prevalent viruses that infect the respiratory system of mostly children below 3.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR ADLI ALI
Head of Clinical Immunology
UKM Children’s Specialist Hospital
“RSV is a disease that has been around for a long time, yet the number of cases is still high. The actual burden of the disease is not known from the economic impact on the healthcare system which includes admission costs, utilization of respiratory supports, as well the economic and social impact on the family of patients. Therefore, prevention is very important in addressing the further progression of the disease in the country.”
FEATURED EXPERT AZRUL ABDUL KHALIB
Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy
“With the varied guidelines on prevention, we need to prioritize and respond with more urgency to RSV which can have a life-long impact. Parents, caregivers and the community at large need to understand the severity of the disease, how it can affect the future of our nation and what can be done to address them immediately.”
Azrul also called for more streamlined guidelines for RSV prevention and to ensure the channels for parents to seek support and financial aid for their children are made more accessible.
Furthermore, increased availability of preventive options would help reduce mortality and save children’s lives.
Parent Nur Suhana sharing her personal experience caring for her child Shafiq Rizqi who was born premature, and her experience in dealing with the RSV infection.
Parent Nursyahirah shared the challenges in caring for her child Wan Nur Afeeya who was born prematurely at 25 weeks.
Wan Nur Afeeya who was born prematurely at 25 weeks, was infected with RSV this year.
Norazleena Yaha, founder of Pertubuhan Kumpulan Sokongan Ibu Bapa Dan Bayi Pramatang Malaysia (BPM) spoke about how the organisation help parents access the available financial support to purchase the vaccines.
Associate Professor Dr. Adli Ali, Head of Immunology and Rheumatology Services, UKM Children's Specialist Hospital
Associate Professor Dr Choo Yao Mun, Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician, University of Malaya Medical Centre
Azrul Abdul Khalib, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy
On 17 August 2023, the Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Disease (MyICID), the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM), and the Malaysian Red Crescent (MRCS), in collaboration with Pfizer Malaysia, launched the MyPELINDUNG campaign.
It’s a public educational campaign aimed at mitigating the threat of COVID-19 in Malaysia by increasing the awareness levels of Malaysians on the importance of up-to-date vaccination and seeking of prompt COVID-19-specific treatment.
Group Photo On Stage
The Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Disease (MyICID)
Her Highness Dato' Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz & Tan Sri Dato Sri Michelle Yeoh
The MyPELINDUNG campaign is a testament to the power of collaboration
Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh returns home to support the MyPELINDUNG initiative
The event was witnessed by Her Highness Dato Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz
Among the luminaries gracing the launch were:
Her Highness Dato’ Seri DiRaja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz binti Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, Tunku Temenggong Kedah, who is the National Chairperson of the Malaysian Red Crescent
Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli, Deputy Director-General of Public Health, Ministry of Health
Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh, Oscar-winning actress
Dr Shaharudeen Bin Kamaludeen, the President of MyICID
Dato Dr. Saunthari Somasundaram, the President of NCSM
Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, the Chairman of Immunise4Life
Madam Luksanawan Thangpaibool, the Country Cluster Lead of Pfizer Malaysia, Pakistan and Brunei
A PRINCESS’S WORD OF WISDOM
“Just as it takes many drops to form an ocean, our shared actions—however small they may seem —can create significant impact in the fight against COVID-19,” says Yang Teramat Mulia Dato’ Seri Diraja Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz.
She adds: “It’s through initiatives like MyPELINDUNG that we can harness our collective strength to navigate this health issue. Together, with the strength of unity and shared responsibility, we can contribute to a healthier, safer nation for all Malaysians.”
WAIT, ISN’T COVID-19 OLD NEWS?
Not so! Yes, Malaysia has made significant strides but the virus responsible for COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities and can still lead to hospitalizations and even death, especially among high-risk groups.
Hence, the experts driving MyPELINDUNG advocates constant vigilance, updating of COVID-19 vaccinations, adherence to recommended health measures, and prompt seeking of COVID-19-specific treatment if one is tested positive.
VACCINATION IS KEY, EXPERTS SAY
MyPELINDUNG aims to reduce public hesitancy around the COVID-19 booster doses by disseminating scientifically-accurate information and addressing common concerns held by Malaysians about these boosters.
The campaign’s efforts will particularly focus on high-risk groups, as up-to-date vaccination (including booster doses) can reduce their risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Dr Shaharudeen Kamaludeen, President of MyICID, tells us: “It’s paramount that we understand the critical role vaccinations play in mitigating the severity of COVID-19. Vaccinations, including recommended booster doses, are our primary line of defence against this virus.”
He also adds that prompt medical consultation and treatment after a positive test for COVID-19 are equally vital.
Professor Datuk Dr Zulkifli Ismail, the Chairman of Immunise4Life, further emphasizes the importance of maintaining one’s up-to-date vaccination status.
“Full vaccination significantly reduces the risk of severe disease outcomes,” he says. “We urge everyone, particularly those in high-risk groups, to consider vaccinations as their personal shield against the virus, and to remember that this shield is most robust when all recommended doses, including boosters, have been administered.”
THE ACTRESS ADVOCATES
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh concurs with the experts, adding that she herself had 2 brushes with the COVID-19 vaccine.
She participated in an educational video for MyPELINDUNG, a video that she is very proud of, and will continue to commit to encouraging Malaysians to remain vigilant and take the appropriate protective steps against COVID-19.
“Trust the science,” she urges.
PROMPT & QUICK TREATMENT CAN SAVE LIVES
“The most important thing to remember about treatment for COVID-19 is that it should be started as soon as possible after diagnosis to be effective,” states Dato Dr Saunthari Somasundram. “If you test positive for COVID-19, treatments are available that can reduce the likelihood of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Please don’t delay because COVID-19 specific treatment must be started within days after you first develop symptoms to be effective.”
Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh concurs. “On screen, I’ve navigated flying stunts and leapt off moving vehicles, but life isn’t an action film, and we can’t afford to wait for the dramatic last-minute rescue. If you’re showing any symptoms, act fast, seek help at once.”
ABOUT THE DENGUE PREVENTION ADVOCACY MALAYSIA (DPAM) GROUP
DPAM is an independent advocacy group co-jointly led by the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA), the Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Disease (MyICID), the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases and Chemotherapy (MSIDC), and the Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association (PPPKAM).
DPAM collaborates with the Malaysian Society of Parasitology and Tropical Medicine (MSPTM), the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), Asia-Pacific Academic Consortium for Public Health Kuala Lumpur (APACPH-KL) and Rotary International District 3300.
DPAM is established to support the efforts of the Ministry of Health in strengthening dengue prevention, management, and control in Malaysia.
WHY DPAM IS NECESSARY: A POTENTIAL EMERGING DENGUE EMERGENCY
FEATURED EXPERT DR HUSNINA IBRAHIM
Deputy Director of Disease Control Division (Communicable Diseases)
Ministry of Health Malaysia
Malaysia had its worst dengue outbreak in 2019, over 130,000 cases and 182 deaths.
The numbers declined during the MCO a few years ago. During this new normal, however, dengue numbers are once again on the rise.
From January to epidemiology week-22 this year, there has been a 158% rise in dengue cases and 183% increase in the deaths compared with the same period last year.
Dr Husnina Ibrahim, the Deputy Director of Disease Control Division (Communicable Diseases), said: “As Malaysia typically experiences a surge in dengue cases every 4 to 5 years, it was projected that an outbreak is due around this or next year, with an estimated number of cases potentially surpassing the historic 2019 outbreak.”
RECENT ADVANCES YIELD POSITIVE RESULTS IN THE PREVENTION & CONTROL OF DENGUE
The introduction of Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes has significantly reduced dengue cases in 16 out of 19 localities, by 33% to 100%.
Wolbachia is a type of bacteria that can infect many species of invertebrates—organism with no backbone—including mosquitoes such as Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries and spreads the dengue viruses.
Male Aedes aegypti infected with Wolbachia will mate with female mosquitoes, but the resulting eggs will not hatch.
This reduces the number of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Implementation of comprehensive guidelines, proper training, and a critical review of dengue mortality
These efforts have reduced the case-fatality rate by 87.3% from 2000 to 2022.
SETTING TARGETS FOR FUTURE DENGUE PREVENTION & CONTROL EFFORTS
The Ministry of Health has in place the National Dengue Prevention and Control Strategic Plan 2022-2026, which aims to annually reduce the number of dengue cases by 5% while maintaining the proportion of deaths compared to the number of cases (case fatality rate or CFR) below 0.2%.
The Ministry aims to reduce the CFR to 0% by 2030—which is to say, there should be no deaths due to dengue by that year.
DPAM TO PLAY AN ACTIVE ROLE IN SUPPORTING THE EFFORTS OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH TO ACHIEVE THESE TARGETS
FEATURED EXPERT PROFESSOR DATUK DR ZULKIFLI ISMAIL
Consultant Paediatrician and Paediatric Cardiologist
Chairman of the Dengue Prevention Advocacy Malaysia (DPAM)
Professor Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Ismail expresses his optimism that the Ministry of Health’s aforementioned targets are achievable with the active involvement of key stakeholders such as the government, civil society, academia, private sector, media, and the community.
DPAM aims to synergize efforts by various of these stakeholders in assisting the Ministry of Health to achieve its national and global dengue targets through the strengthening of dengue prevention, management, and control in Malaysia.
He said, “DPAM will focus its efforts on healthcare professional and public education and communication, local research, guideline recommendations, as well as policy recommendations.”
To foster and strengthen regional collaborations, DPAM will work closely with the Asian Dengue Voice & Action (ADVA), a regional advocacy group. Their first collaborative initiative is the hosting of the 7th Asia Dengue Summit in Malaysia next year.
DPAM also released a Resolution Paper that contained key strategies for all relevant stakeholders to create a “whole of society” approach.
On 15 June 2023, the second phase of the nationwide #GiveBack campaign was launched to promote responsible disposal of medical waste.
#GiveBack is a nationwide Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) effort of GSK Malaysia in collaboration with pharmacy chains Alpro Pharmacy, AM PM Pharmacy, BIG Pharmacy, CARiNG Pharmacy Group, FirstCare Pharmacy, Health Lane Family Pharmacy, Mega Kulim Pharmacy, Park@city Pharmacy & Medical Supplies, Straits Pharmacy, and Sunway Multicare Pharmacy.
It is supported by the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS).
FEATURED EXPERT DR JONATHAN PAN
Vice President and General Manager
GSK Malaysia & Brunei
Dr Jonathan Pan, the Vice President and General Manager of GSK Malaysia & Brunei, says. “Our #GiveBack campaign supports these goals by offering the Malaysian public a convenient way to dispose of their used inhalers and leftover medicine blister packs responsibly, lessening their impact to our environment.”
In line with this goal, the campaign expanded its partnership with additional pharmacy partners and headthcare groups this year.
WHY #GIVEBACK IS IMPORTANT TO US
All around the world, healthcare systems contribute around 5.9 million tonnes of solid waste to landfills and over 4% of carbon emissions.
One significant issue is the disposal of pressurized asthma inhalers, as people often discard them before they are completely empty. As a result, the greenhouse gases in the propellants of these discarded inhalers are released into the environment, contributing to global warming.
Unfinished pills left in discarded blister packaging—the “packaging” of pills—can lead to leaching of chemicals into the ground or waterways, contaminating plants and animals and, eventually, people that consume these plants and animals.
FEATURED EXPERT PROFESSOR AMRAHI BUANG
Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS)
Professor Amrahi Buang, President of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) further adds, “GSK’s #GiveBack campaign is aligned with the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s ‘Returning Medicines’ campaign, and we urge all Malaysians to support this effort by bringing their used or unfinished asthma inhalers and blister packs to any of the collection points for proper disposal.”
MAKING AN ART OUT OF DISCARDED MEDICAL WASTE
During the launch, students from The Design School at Taylor’s University unveiled a sculpted art made of discarded blister packs and asthma inhalers.
This art serves to highlight the importance of proper medical waste disposal and its impact on the environment, while also providing an opportunity for the next generation to get involved in environmental advocacy.
The installation will be displayed during the GSK #GiveBack Roving Truck roadshow at high-traffic venues across the Klang Valley, stoking greater awareness and increased interest in sustainability.
HOW YOU CAN #GIVEBACK TO MOTHER EARTH
Any time of the year Drop off your used blister packs and asthma inhalers (make sure that they are empty) at any of the following pharmacy outlets:
AM PM Pharmacy
CARiNG Pharmacy Group
Health Lane Family Pharmacy
Mega Kulim Pharmacy
Park@city Pharmacy & Medical Supplies
Sunway Multicare Pharmacy
17 to 26 June 2023 Drop them off at the #GiveBack Roving Truck roadshow.
On 15 June 2023, the IMFeD for Growth programme inaugurated June as Growth Watch Month.
Growth Watch Month was jointly launched by the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA)—which also helmed the IMFeD for Growth programme—in partnership with the Malaysian Medical Association, the Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists’ Association, the Malaysian Association of Kindergartens, and the Malaysian Association of Registered Early Child Care and Development.
FEATURED EXPERT PROFESSOR DR LEE WAY SEAH
Senior Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist
Chairman of IMFeD for Growth Programme
WHAT THE GROWTH WATCH MONTH MEANS TO PARENTS
According to Professor Dr Lee Way Seah, Chairman of the IMFeD for Growth programme:
Growth Watch Month is largely dedicated to identifying children and adolescents that are either stunted or at risk of stunting.
The IMFeD for Growth programme organizers will organize avenues and activities that will provide advice to parents of these children and adolescents, so that they can avail themselves to appropriate nutritional interventions and support that can get their children’s growth back on track.
Professor Lee stresses that optimal growth can only be achieved when certain fundamentals are present, namely:
Good feeding practices
Adequate physical activity that are appropriate for age
Regular growth monitoring from young
Thus, he encourages parents of children between 1 and 17 years old to bring their children to an appropriate healthcare professional for growth check.
IS STUNTED GROWTH REALLY THAT A BIG DEAL?
The statistics from the 2022 National Health and Morbidity Survey indicates that there is a cause for concern.
21.2% or 1 out of 5 children have stunted growth by the age of 5.
6.8% of adolescents have stunted growth, falling behind 15 to 20% from their potential adult height.
Additionally, IMFeD for Growth reveals the key results of its screening campaigns from 2018 to 2021, which suggests that a considerable number of children between 1 to 5 years old are at risk of stunting or have stunted growth.
Professor Lee says that this stunting problem needs to be addressed before the number of children at risk of or are affected by stunted growth increases.
FEATURED EXPERT DR SELVA KUMAR SIVAPUNNIAM
Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist
President of the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA)
WHAT PARENTS CAN LOOK FORWARD TO IN GROWTH WATCH MONTH
Dr Selva Kumar Sivapunniam, the President of the Malaysian Paediatric Association (MPA) shares that the IMFeD for Growth programme will work with all relevant stakeholders to conduct educational activities geared at parents and their children.
Parents as well as other caregivers can look forward to media write-ups and interviews.
Parents Forums (June 25 onward)
From June 25 onward, IMFeD for Growth will host a series of Parents Forums, to be broadcast live over Zoom (click on the link to register), the MPA Facebook page, and their YouTube channel. All links open in new tabs.
Topics covered are:
Feeding, Nutrition and Growth for Tiny Tots (June 25)
Helping Children Shine in School
Nurturing Growth Through the Teenage Years
Parenting Tips for Healthy Children
Annual Screening Campaign (August to November 2023)
Dr Selva shares that the IMFeD For Growth Annual Screening Campaign happening from August to November 2023 in all IMFeD clinics.
Interested parents can click here to view the list of participating clinics in Malaysia (link opens in a new tab).
FEATURED EXPERT DATO’ DR AZMEE MOHD GHAZI
Consultant Cardiologist & Clinical Director
Heart Failure and Heart Transplant
National Heart Institute (IJN)
On May 8 this year, the National Heart Institute (IJN) and Pfizer Malaysia came together to promote greater awareness of transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy (often shortened to ATTR-CM), a rare, life-threatening disease.
WHAT IS TRANSTHYRETIN AMYLOID CARDIOMYOPATHY?
ATTR-CM is caused by unstable transthyretin proteins that misfold and aggregate into amyloid fibrils that build up in the heart and other parts of the body.
This build-up of amyloid then causes the heart muscle to stiffen over time, eventually leading to heart failure.
Treatment is available, but detection of this disease tends to occur only at advanced stages due to lack of awareness of the disease.
“Diagnosis of ATTR-CM was often delayed or underdiagnosed due to the lack of optimal diagnostic modalities,” says Dato’ Dr Azmee Mohd Ghazi, a consultant cardiologist.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ONE HAS ATTR-CM?
According to Dato’ Dr Azmee:
ATTR-CM can lead to progressive heart failure, arrhythmias, and conduction system diseases (diseases that affect the ability of the heart to transmit electrical signals that keep the heart beating), all of which can result in sudden cardiac death due to fatal arrhythmias or complete heart block.
Once diagnosed, the average life expectancy for people with ATTR-CM is about 2 to 3.5 years, depending on the sub-type, if left untreated.
“Given how similar ATTR-CM symptoms are to other diseases’ symptoms, getting an accurate diagnosis from the onset can be an uphill battle,” Dato’ Dr Azmee. “However, medical advancements ensure that there are multiple channels to diagnose ATTR-CM, including nuclear scintigraphy and echocardiography.”
He adds that studies have also found that a multidisciplinary approach, involving multiple health departments, works best to facilitate earlier diagnosis and management of the disease.
SYMPTOMS TO WATCH OUT FOR
Symptoms of ATTR-CM are not specific, and they are often similar to symptoms of other conditions such as an abnormal heart rhythm, muscle weakness, and bladder dysfunction.
Nonetheless, one should be alert for these symptoms and consult a doctor for confirmation, as early detection will improve the odds for a better treatment outcome.
In conjunction with International Women’s Day, the Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA) hosted a half-day event at Royale Chulan, The Curve (Kuala Lumpur) on March 11, 2023.
TRANSCENDING ALL BOUNDARIES: BE REVOLUTIONARY
The theme of International Women’s Day this year, ‘Transcending All Boundaries: Be Revolutionary’, calls for the championing of efforts that will empower women in spite of continuing challenges faced across many sectors of society.
The Founder and President of MIASA, Puan Anita Abu Bakar, outlines the different barriers faced by women due to various cultural and societal norms, which are further compounded and exacerbated for those who have a particular disability or struggles with their mental health.
“When women find it hard to talk about difficult feelings, they tend to internalize them,” she says. “This can lead to depression, eating disorders, and self-harm.”
She shares that past statistics indicated that around 1 in 5 women faces a mental health challenge such as depression and anxiety.
“So, today, we want to let every woman know that there is help, there is support, there is recovery when facing mental health issues. No one has to struggle alone. You don’t have to struggle alone,” she asserts.
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS ACROSS ALL GENDERS, BECAUSE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES DON’T DISCRIMINATE
While MIASA champions and supports the efforts to empower women across various social and political sectors of life in Malaysia, the association also is well aware that mental health issues do not discriminate based on one’s gender.
Hence, to achieve the goals and objectives of the association, Puan Anita highlights that broad discussions of gender stereotypes and gender equity should not be restricted to only barriers faced by women.
“In our work within the mental health field in particular, we have a front-row seat to witness the harmful effects gender stereotypes can have not only on women but men too, namely when it comes to expressing one’s feelings. For example, we know that many young boys are implicitly taught to believe that they need to ‘man up’ and that crying is a sign of weakness for example,” she explains.
“So let’s take this opportunity to acknowledge those barriers and boundaries as well, and ensure that all of us, man and woman alike, work harmoniously together to ensure gender equity from all sides,” she concludes.
LAUNCH OF YOUNG ADVOCATES FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMME TO ACHIEVE GENDER EQUITY THROUGH A ZERO-STIGMA GENERATION
This inaugural programme from MIASA will build on the importance of building a generation free of stigma and discrimination—the zero stigma generation.
The MIASA Young Advocates for Mental Health programme is a 6-month programme that provides a platform for young people to:
Learn about mental health and mental health conditions
Understand the stigma and discrimination around mental health
Acquire qualities and skills of an effective advocate
Receive access to the different resources that support people struggling with mental health issues.
“It is a programme that also goes beyond acquiring knowledge; it provides participants hands-on experience with mental health peers through the shadowing sessions,” Puan Anita further elaborates.
For more information on MIASA and its mental health services as well as programmes, you can visit their website by clicking here (link opens in a new tab).
As we welcomed 2023, China reported a huge spike in daily COVID-19 cases during the end of year holiday seasons 2022.
After a period of pandemic fatigue and indifference, the event sparked sudden and short-lived fear and caution among the global as well as Malaysian community.
The news triggered some Malaysians to be up in arms, calling for a ban on travelers from China and reinforcement of pandemic SOPs such as the mandatory wearing of mask in public areas.
Nonetheless, the interest soon died down as other headlines made their way in the news.
It appears that it is only when crises are about to hit our shores that we react.
In fact, as highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), we need to always be prepared and cannot afford to be reactive.
On January 27, 2023, it announced and reminded member countries that COVID-19 remains a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO compared 28-days data between Dec 5, 2022 to Jan 1, 2023 and Jan 2 to Jan 29, 2023.
It found that although the number of cases reported decreased by 78%, the number of deaths increased steeply by 65%.
This result is mainly due to the large wave of cases and deaths in the Western Pacific Region, especially in China.
WHO further states that the numbers may be an underestimation due to the reduction in testing and delay in reporting in many countries.
STAY VIGILANT & PROTECT THE VULNERABLE
3 years into the pandemic, Malaysia has reported more than 5 million cases and over 36,000 deaths.
In 2021, it became the main cause of death in Malaysia, overtaking heart disease.
The risk of death is higher among:
Those above 60 years
Individuals with underlying health conditions
According to MOH data between Jan 1, 2022 to July 31, 2022, 75% of COVID-19 deaths were among individuals 60 years and above, and 86% of deaths were among those with at least one underlying health condition .
Compared to the first year of pandemic, we are now more prepared to curb COVID-19 due to advancement in preventive measures, rapid diagnoses, and management tools such as vaccination, rapid test kits (RTK) as well as early treatment with antivirals.
These tools are important particularly to prevent severe COVID-19, keeping individuals especially those with risk factors away from hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and ultimately death.
Nonetheless, these tools will only be useful if they are being utilized optimally.
While Malaysians were quick on the uptake of primary COVID-19 vaccination doses, the uptake of booster doses are very poor with only 49.7% uptake of the 1st booster and a mere 1.6% of the 2nd booster (as of Feb 7, 2023) .
While no concrete data is available, there are good reasons to believe that due to pandemic fatigue, people are now less likely to test and seek treatment for COVID-19.
It is also important to note that antiviral treatment needs to be taken within the first 5 days of symptom onset. Thus, speed is of the essence.
We cannot risk another surge of COVID-19 globally or locally as it would put a toll on our healthcare system and risk overwhelming it.
As it stands, we are currently experiencing overcrowding in Emergency Departments.
Hence, it is crucial that we answer the calls of WHO and the Ministry of Health Malaysia to continue urging the public especially those who are in the high-risk groups (older persons, individuals with underlying medical conditions) to take precautions against COVID-19.
The Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases (MyICID) in collaboration with the Family Medicine Association Malaysia (FMSA) and Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) are organising an educational campaign themed COVID-19: QUICKLY TEST & TREAT.
This campaign aims to urge the public especially individuals who are at high-risk as well as their family members to continue protecting themselves and others from severe COVID-19 by:
Getting primary and booster doses
Testing immediately upon onset of symptoms
Seeking early treatment, within the first five days of symptoms
Our campaign’s panel of experts
Dr Alif Adlan Mohd Thabit Infectious disease physician
Dr Ang Peng Peng Infectious disease physician
Dr Suriani Sulaiman Family medicine specialist
Dr Balachandran S Krishnan General practitioner
THIS IS A PUBLIC COMMUNITY MESSAGE BROUGHT TO YOU BY
On January 17, 2023, Malaysian Osteoporosis Society (MOS), the Academy of Medicine Malaysia, and our Ministry of Health launched their jointly-published 3rd Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for the Management of Osteoporosis.
In the media briefing held in conjunction with this launch, our Director General of Health Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah shares that:
Malaysians are now growing older and living longer. As a result of this, many of us will be affected by age-related non-communicable diseases, which includes osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis results in bone fractures, which are associated with disability and premature death.
WHY IS OSTEOPOROSIS SUCH A CONCERN?
A 2020 study revealed that all people with hip fractures, upon treatment and discharge from the hospital, need walking aids.
6 months later, only 24% (that’s about 1 out of 4 people) regain their mobility and their ability to live independently.
Another 26% die within one year after the fracture.
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah voices his concern that osteoporosis is a serious disease that requires early detection, intervention, and management even at later stages.
This is especially relevant, as the incidence of hip fractures is projected to rise from 5,880 in 2018 to 20,893 in 2050, a 3.6-fold increase!
THE KEYSTONES TO IMPROVING THE AWARENESS OF & TREATMENT OUTCOME OF OSTEOPOROSIS
Dr Yeap Swan Sim, the current President of the Malaysian Osteoporosis Society, states that the cornerstone principles in ensuring that Malaysians can age healthily and gracefully while minimizing the threat of osteoporosis are:
Understanding the disease
Taking preventive measures
Good management of osteoporosis
Knowing the appropriate surgical options, should these options become necessary
FRACTURES & OSTEOPOROSIS ARE NOT “NATURAL” AGEING PROCESS, SO TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY!
Dr Terence Ong Ing Wei points out that osteoporosis usually happens in older people and is almost as common as diabetes. “Diabetes evokes fear and concern, yet most people wouldn’t give osteoporosis a second though,” he muses.
Many people often assume that bones weaken and falls and fractures become more common because all these are a ‘natural’ part of ageing.
Dr Terence disagrees, stating that there is nothing natural about osteoporisis.
In fact, it is actually a very complex condition influenced by many factors. “Some things that we do not think too much about in our everyday lives have a huge impact on our bone health. These include physical inactivity, fad diets, cigarette smoking, and age-related hormonal changes such as oestrogen in ageing women and testosterone in men. All these increase the rate of bone loss at a time when strong bones are most needed.”
DIAGNOSIS AT LATE STAGE OSTEOPOROSIS FORCES DOCTORS TO RULE OUT IDEAL TREATMENT OPTIONS
Dr Yeap says, “We usually only see osteoporosis at its late stages—after a fracture has occurred. By then, the patient would have incurred significant amounts of bone loss. At that stage, it is no longer possible to offer treatments to replace the lost bone, which is the ideal scenario. Instead, treatment options will instead attempt to minimize the detrimental effects of a fracture experienced by the patient.”
“Clearly, we should be giving more emphasis to screening and early detection, followed by suitable interventions so that we can protect the most vulnerable persons from this terrible illness,” she adds.
EARLY DETECTION CAN ALLOW FOR EARLY PREVENTIVE MEASURES
Professor Emerita Chan Siew Pheng concurs with the other experts. “This is because mainly because you don’t even realise osteoporosis is there until you suffer from a fracture. So, the only way to know if you have osteoporosis before a fracture occurs, is by going for a bone density scan, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, DEXA or DXA.”
More about bone density scan Prof Chan explains that the bone density scan is a quick and painless X-ray procedure that allows doctors to find out whether osteoporosis is present.
It also allows doctors to predict the risk of future fractures in order to provide timely and suitable treatment. “This would save you so much trouble in the future!” she says.
According to Prof Chan, women aged 65 years or older and men 70 years or older should have a DXA scan done every two years.
Younger individuals may also need to be screened if they have certain conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, nutritional malabsorption, eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, or are taking certain medications (like steroids) long term.
If you fall into any of these categories, you should consult your doctor for more information as to how you can benefit from a DXA scan.
With the right steps at the right time, osteoporosis can be effectively managed
Prof Chan explains: “There are effective medicines that can be tailored to suit all sorts of patients based on their disease stage and lifestyle. Moreover, whenever pharmacological treatment is necessary, the medications that are available in Malaysia can reduce the risk of fractures from 15% up to 70%!”
She adds that these anti-osteoporosis medicines are generally well-tolerated and effective.
THIRD-EDITION CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINES LAUNCHED TO IMPROVE SCREENING, DIAGNOSIS, & TREATMENT OF OSTEOPOROSIS
Dr Yeap Swan Sim shares that this clinical practice guidelines, meant for healthcare professionals in Malaysia, consists of evidence-based statements intended to assist healthcare providers in optimizing patient care.
“We must first recognize the fact that osteoporosis is a multi-factorial condition,” she says. “Nutrition, age, hormone, lifestyle and the presence of pre-existing disease are some of the aspects that can affect bone health. All these requires not only input from one profession but multiple of them in order to provide patients with proper and effective care.”
She adds: “As such, the clinical practice guidelines had to be written by a panel of experts from all the related disciplines, such as nutrition, geriatrics, endocrinology, orthopaedic surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, rheumatology, primary care and pharmacy. The wide variety of expertise involved in the writing of the clinical practice guidelines ensures extensive coverage so that the guidelines will be able to inform all types of healthcare professionals who would be involved in the screening, diagnosing and treatment of osteoporosis.”
The 3rd Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for the Management of Osteoporosis was the fruit of the labour of the CPG Working Group comprising:
Dr Yeap Swan Sim (Chairperson)
Dr Terence Ong Ing Wei (Co-chairperson)
Associate Professor Dr Lim Lee Ling (Co-chairperson)
Professor Emerita Dr Chan Siew Pheng
Professor Datuk Dr Sabarul A Mokhtar
Interested healthcare professionals can download the 3rd Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for the Management of Osteoporosis by clicking here. This link will open in a new tab.
Alpro Pharmacy hosted an industry roundtable, called Safe Medication Disposal Practices in Malaysia–Past, Present & Future, on 15th December 2022 at Monash University Malaysia.
THE NEED FOR PROPER DISPOSAL OF MEDICINES
According to Foon Hwei Foong from Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild, unwanted medications disposed into landfills are reabsorbed by water streams. This means that these medications eventually leads back to the water that we drink.
Dr Saw Pui San, a lecturer from Monash University Malaysia’s School of Pharmacy, cited how irresponsibly discarded contraceptive medicines ended up in our waterways and caused the sterilization of fishes.
Antibiotics are strictly regulated prescription medication, and many efforts were made to prevent antibiotic resistance. However, another often overlooked possible cause of antibiotic resistance is the leakage of improperly discarded antibiotics into our water systems.
THE POLICY IS THERE, BUT THE AWARENESS AMONG THE PUBLIC IS LACKING
Amrahi Buang, President of the Malaysian Pharmacists Society, stated that laws and policies are in place across all access points of medication distribution in this country, with the Malaysian National Medicines Policy (MNPP) clearly stating the measurements and governance in place for medication safety.
He opined that health and medication literacy is still lacking within the Malaysia public, hence the need for an pharmaceutical industry medium to act as an education platform for the public.
Furthermore, he stated that pharmacists are strongly encouraged to start working collaboratively with their colleagues as well as other key players in the pharmaceutical industry to educate on, implement, and practice safe medication disposal.
Ostwin Paw, the CEO of Alpro Foundation, called for leaders in the industry to kickstart the conversation on the impact and risks of unsafe medication disposal methods on the environment.
ALPRO PHARMACY HELPS TO LEAD THE WAY
Lim En Ni, the Chief Pharmacist of Alpro Pharmacy, shared that Alpro Pharmacy launched the Safe Medication Disposal campaign in 2021 in a joint effort with several key pharmaceutical companies in the country.
To date, the initiative has safely disposed more than 1,000 kg of medication waste as well as garnered more than 100,000 signatures from the community pledging their support within 3 months since July 2022.
One of the key initiatives of the Safe Medication Disposal campaign is the placement of dedicated medication disposal bins at all Alpro Pharmacy outlets nationwide to collect excess medicines for proper and ethical disposal. For more information on this as well as on proper medical disposal, click here to visit the Safe Medical Disposal Campaign webpage (link opens in a new tab).