We look at the top 5 most popular medical news stories across Southeast Asia this week!
#1 – Indonesia starts e-cigarettes tax
Starting January 1, 2024, Indonesia will implement a tax on electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) at 10 percent of the current excise rate to discourage vaping, according to Finance Ministry’s spokesperson Deni Surjantoro. The decision is part of a broader health initiative to address concerns raised by the Indonesian Medical Association and the World Health Organization about the risks associated with e-cigarettes. These risks include heart and lung diseases, nicotine addiction, and potential harm to brain development in youths and fetuses. The new tax aligns with the country’s regulations to curb the use of vaping products due to their health implications.
#2 – Doctor punches patient during surgery
A Chinese eye doctor has been suspended and is under investigation after it emerged he punched an 82-year-old female patient during cataract surgery in 2019 to prevent her from moving. The incident, which occurred at AIER Eye Hospital in Guigang, Guangxi, was brought to public attention after a viral social media post. The doctor, Feng, claimed he intended no harm when the patient, under local anesthesia, began moving uncomfortably. Despite the hospital’s statement that the doctor’s actions did not cause the patient harm, his conduct has sparked widespread outrage and an official probe into medical malpractice. The incident has led to the dismissal of the hospital’s CEO and an ongoing investigation by health authorities.
#3 – Misuse of Vitamin D supplements lead to hip damage
A 48-year-old man in Taichung, Taiwan, suffered severe kidney damage after self-medicating with three vitamin D tablets daily instead of the recommended one, in an attempt to improve his hip osteonecrosis condition. The man, a heavy drinker with a history of femoral head avascular necrosis leading to hip replacements, was misled by a friend’s advice on the benefits of vitamin D for bones. After two months on this regimen, he experienced symptoms like drowsiness, constipation, and abnormal urination, eventually losing consciousness due to severe hypercalcemia and reduced kidney function. Hospital treatment discontinued the excessive vitamin D intake and recommended hydration, leading to his recovery. Doctors emphasized that vitamin D should ideally be obtained through diet or sunlight and cautioned against the unregulated use of supplements, especially active vitamin D, which is typically used for specific medical conditions under professional guidance.
#4 – Singapore extends ‘Nutri-Grade’ labelling
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has extended the ‘Nutri-Grade labelling and advertising prohibition measures’ to freshly prepared beverages, including bubble tea and coffee, starting December 30. This move aims to provide consumers with information about the sugar and saturated fat content in drinks, encouraging the selection of healthier options labelled A or B under the Nutri-Grade system. The initiative is part of Singapore’s ongoing ‘War on Diabetes,’ responding to alarming statistics that project a significant rise in diabetes cases by 2050. Under the new rules, high-sugar drinks graded C and D are discouraged, and advertising for D-graded drinks is prohibited, with fines imposed for non-compliance. This measure is an extension of the efforts that began with pre-packed beverages last year and is a continued push towards reducing the national intake of sugar, which significantly contributes to the risk of obesity, diabetes, and related health issues like kidney failure.
#5 -Thailand offers telemedicine for Thais abroad
Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has expanded its free telemedicine service to include Thais living or travelling abroad, in accordance with Article 5 of the National Health Act BE 2550 (2007), which ensures universal healthcare coverage for all Thais, regardless of their location. This program offers medical advice for common illnesses to Thai nationals abroad, starting January 15, via approved apps such as Saluber MD, Clicknic, Mordee, or Totale Telemed. However, unlike the comprehensive services provided within Thailand, the overseas telemedicine service does not include access to medication. The expansion aligns with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s digital health service enhancement policy and aims to assist Thai expats and travellers, particularly those facing language barriers in foreign countries. Eligible individuals can verify their healthcare rights through the National Health Security Office’s website or its Line account.