Weekly Asian Medical News Bulletin – 10 November 2023

monkeypox cases phuket sandbox

Medical Channel Asia presents the weekly Asian medical news bulletin, bringing you essential healthcare news from across the region.

This week’s bulletin covers hospitalisations linked to Modafinil in Singapore and monkeypox cases in Vietnam.


The “Safety Phuket Island Sandbox,” a pilot scheme by the Public Health Ministry to enhance health and safety for tourists, will launch officially on November 26 at Patong beach and Walking Street in Muang district. Designed to reinforce tourist confidence in local healthcare, the campaign is expected to positively impact the local economy by attracting more visitors. The scheme will be implemented in 13 tourist-heavy provinces, overseen by their respective health service provider boards.

Enhancements will be made to hospital facilities and medical care. Firstly, introducing a “sky doctor” medical response team and issuing Green Health certificates to health-focused hotels and attractions. A key focus will also be on food safety, particularly for street food vendors. The sandbox project in Phuket will feature emergency medical units on Patong beach, rabies prevention measures, complimentary influenza vaccines for 100,000 tourism workers, Street Food Good Health certification, the creation of a Travel Medicine Centre, and a new digital disease reporting platform.


The prevalence of diabetes among young people in Malaysia is posing a serious challenge to the country’s healthcare system, with increased cases of serious complications and a surge in demand for expensive treatments like dialysis. Health experts are calling for national education campaigns, lifestyle changes, and stricter policies to curb the consumption of sugary drinks. The Malaysian government has implemented a small tax increase on sugary drinks, but critics argue it’s not enough to deter consumption. Experts also stress the importance of early health screenings and the need for public awareness about the dangers of high sugar and carbohydrate intake. The increasing healthcare costs associated with diabetes and its complications are likely to consume a larger portion of the national health budget in the future.

Also reported this week:

Ventilator Conundrum: Malaysian Medical Association(MMA) Seeks Valid Explanation for 104 Faulty Ventilators

Sugar Reduction Advocacy Campaign 2023 : A National Movement Against Excessive Sugar Consumption


PhilHealth in the Philippines has raised the benefit payouts for high-risk pneumonia, ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke by up to 181%. They are also enhancing coverage for various health conditions, including cancer and malnutrition, and have added more medications to their outpatient drug benefit. The agency is focusing on reforms to increase transparency, streamline services, and expand access to care while recovering from past corruption issues. PhilHealth is the Philippines’ national health insurance program.

Also reported this week:

Fake News Report Used to Sell Unregistered ‘Eye Supplement’ in the Philippines
Advanced-Stage Breast Cancer Diagnoses Account for 65% of Breast Cancer Cases in the Philippines


The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) of Singapore issued a public alert against the unsupervised consumption of modafinil or armodafinil following the hospitalisation of three men in their 30s. These individuals suffered severe adverse reactions, including Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS). All three men consumed these drugs without a prescription, having acquired them through friends or illicit vendors. The HSA emphasised that while these drugs are prescription medicines in some countries for treating sleep disorders, they are not registered in Singapore and can cause serious side effects such as heart issues, hypertension, psychiatric disorders, and life-threatening skin conditions like SJS. Long-term effects of recovery from such adverse reactions may include skin scarring, hair loss, and visual impairment. The HSA warned against self-medication for enhancing alertness or cognitive functions. They also noted the potential for dependency due to their stimulant effects on the brain.

Also reported this week:

Singapore Tackles High Sodium Intake Amid Rising Health Concerns


An Indonesian court has convicted and sentenced four officials, including the CEO of Afi Farma, to two years in jail due to the production of cough syrup linked to over 200 children’s deaths. The company, accused of using ingredients with excessive toxic levels, failed to conduct proper testing, relying instead on supplier-provided certificates. The prosecutor demanded up to nine years of imprisonment, Meanwhile, the defence denies negligence and is contemplating an appeal. This case highlights global efforts to enhance drug supply chain regulations after several poisoning incidents due to contaminated cough syrups in various countries.


Vietnam’s Ministry of Health reports a total of 56 monkeypox cases as of October 31, with one death linked to immunosuppression. Ho Chi Minh City has the majority with 46 cases, and other cases are spread across several provinces. The median age of patients is 32. Most are male and many are co-infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. The Health Ministry warns of potential new cases, especially in major cities. They advise following healthcare guidance and infection prevention measures to mitigate complications. Patients typically recover in 10 to 14 days and cease being infectious after 21 days. However, those with compromised immune systems face higher risks.

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