Beirut’s Clemenceau in world’s top 10 for medical tourism

Beirut-based Clemenceau Medical Center (CMC), an affiliate of Johns Hopkins International, was ranked one of the world’s top ten best hospitals for medical tourism in 2010 by the Medical Travel Quality Alliance (MTQUA). CMC was the only healthcare facility in the Arab world and Middle East region that made the list.

The MTQUA assessment was based on strict criteria including patient safety and security, medical quality and outcomes and international patient management.

CMC has continued to promote medical tourism in Lebanon and the Middle East through its participation in key international medical tourism conferences in Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia, the United States and other countries.

The hospital’s JCI accreditation in 2009 has also contributed to enhancing its position on the medical tourism world map.

“While CMC took part in medical tourism conferences, the establishment of an International Patient Services Department at CMC was essential to manage and facilitate the provision of services to international patients,” said Dr Mounes Kalaawi, Chief Executive Officer of CMC hospital. “With that service at hand, we were able to manage 4,000 International patients in 2009.”

Alkhurma virus cases reported in Saudi

According to a ProMed Mail report (2 February 2010) – – the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health confirmed 7 cases of the Alkhurma hemorrhagic virus in Makkah and Najran. The Health Minister Dr Abdullah Al-Rabeah was quoted as saying this was not cause for alarm, and added there was a there was a high rate of recovery from the virus.

He said that joint committees and working teams consisting of experts from the Kingdom and abroad have been formed to develop a national plan for countering the Alkhurma hemorrhagic virus. The teams would determine the epidemiological characteristics of the disease, the way it is transmitted, and develop methods of combating and controlling the disease and preventing it from spreading.

The Alkhurma virus is passed on to humans by ticks that live on animals such as sheep, goats, and camels. Pets such as cats and rabbits can also carry the ticks.

Opening of Cairo office a high point for ClinTec

ClinTec International, a leading contract research organisation (CRO), which has achieved 45% growth in global sales revenues over the past year, says the opening of an office in Cairo in October last year was one of the highlights of the year.

The company has a presence in 40 countries worldwide. ClinTec manages clinical trials in all major therapeutic areas, including oncology, neurology, gastroenterology, as well as cardiovascular, respiratory medicine. Dr Rabinder Buttar, the company’s founder, President and CEO, said: “The launch of our Cairo office in October was one of the high points of the year.

Apart from providing our global pharmaceutical associates with access to new patient populations, ClinTec Cairo cements our reputation as the major CRO in the Middle East and North Africa region. “ClinTec International excels at opening up new and emerging markets. Our unrivalled knowledge of different regulatory requirements and cultures is our strength.”

Virgin cord blood bank and Al-Ahli form partnership

Al-Ahli Hospital in Doha and Virgin Health Bank (VHB) QSTP have signed an agreement creating a partnership that looks set to promote the development of cord blood stem cell banking in Qatar.

The collaboration will give mothers delivering newborns at Al-Ahli the opportunity to store the umbilical cord blood stem cells of their newborn babies at VHB. Following an agreement with Qatar Foundation, VHB moved its headquarters from the United Kingdom to the Qatar Science and Technology Park outside Doha and started offering their services to the people of Qatar and the region last year.

VHB QSTP recently completed a week long training programme for the obstetrics and midwifery teams at Al-Ahli in support of this initiative. Al-Ahli Hospital’s maternity unit is the largest among the private healthcare providers in Qatar. Dr Zeenat Rizvi, clinical director at Al-Ahli, explained that cord blood stem cell banking “provides families with the opportunity to store the stem cells of their newborn babies.

These cells may be used to treat the child, or provided there is a tissue match, another member of their family. “Developments in this area of medicine are progressing rapidly,” he added. “Today cord blood stem cells are used to treat blood cancers including leukaemia’s and blood disorders such as thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia. In the future they are expected to become the basis for advances in the field of regenerative medicine.”

China-based Neusoft opens office in Dubai

China-based Neusoft Medical Systems has opened an office in Dubai to headquarter its Middle East subsidiary.

Neusoft is a market leader in the provision of imaging equipment and medical IT solutions in China and has more than 5,000 customers in more than 60 countries and regions around the world.

Its products include CT, MRI, X-ray, ultrasound and a range of medical IT packages including miniPACS, mammoCAD and OsteoCARE. The company says that the opening of the Dubai office is a major milestone in its global expansion and will enable it to establish a stronger foothold in the Middle East where it already has a number of customers.

“The subsidiary will provide a wide range of high-quality medical products and timely services to local customers, and enhance the company’s competitiveness in this market,” the company said in a statement.

Cosmetic surgery hospital at DHCC gets JCI accreditation

The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital (AACSH) located at Dubai Healthcare City has been granted the prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation.

Dr Jeehan Abdul Qader, Executive Director of AACSH, said: “The JCI accreditation that confirms our commitment to the highest standards of medical services. Our wide portfolio of reconstructive surgeries and elective lifestyle cosmetic surgeries continues to ensure a steady stream of overseas patients.”

AACSH offers expertise in pre and post-surgical psychotherapy, nutrition, cosmetic dentistry and has a maxillofacial unit, as well as a beauty club for pre and post surgical rehabilitation. Other facilities at AACSH include five fully-equipped modern operating theatres, post surgical private recovery rooms with deluxe presidential and royal suites.

DHA and GSK set up asthma management initiative

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and drug company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have signed an MoU to set up the Asthma Management Partnership Initiative.

The joint initiative will seek to establish Dubai as a centre for excellence in respiratory care. The partnership follows a recent study sponsored by GSK, which showed the UAE to have one of the highest rates of asthma, with rates of diagnosis as high as 13%.

The initiative aims to improve effective asthma diagnosis, care and manage ment with the training and support of respiratory nurse specialists. Management guidelines will follow the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) <>.

The project will also seek to reinforce asthma management plans to ensure patient compliance and benchmark the indictors of asthma care to allow continuous improvement. The project will rely on the partnership between doctors and respiratory nurse specialists in order to provide a multidisciplinary approach to the management of asthma.

Dr Bassam Mahboub, head of the Pulmonology Department at the DHA and project leader of the Asthma Management Partnership Initiative, commented: “Poor asthma management is a major cost to any economy and its healthcare system, not to mention a danger to life and lifestyle.

Therefore we believe that educating and training our primary healthcare practitioners like our nurses will lead to substantial improvement in asthma management.

Introducing specialist asthma teams across our polyclinics will most certainly help diagnose asthma at an early stage and provide effective treatment for our patients.”

First phase of regional atrial fibrillation survey launched

The first phase of Gulf SAFE (Gulf ‘Survey of Atrial Fibrillation Events) was launched in Dubai in January.

The survey, a joint initiative between the Gulf Heart Association and drug company Sanofi-aventis Gulf, will look at the prevalence of atrial fibrillation in the region.

The launch of the first phase follows the completion of a pilot project launched in May last year in five GCC countries as well as Yemen.

The pilot phase saw doctors in emergency departments in these countries entering the records of 2,000 patients into a web database to create the necessary base-line data to be used for all future follow-ups.

Professor Mohammed Zubaid, Head of Cardiology, Mubarak Al Kabeer Hospital, Professor of Medicine, Kuwait University and Principal Investigator of Gulf SAFE, commented: “The pilot phase means that the base foundation of the survey has been set.

We have never had any figures on the prevalence of this condition in this region, and now we have our foot in the door. The pilot phase served to check the readiness of more than 20 hospitals in 5 GCC countries plus Yemen to conduct the survey.”

The first phase, or implementation phase, expected to run until June this year, will see findings from the pilot phase put into action. Highly-regulated attendance procedures will ensure that all atrial fibrillation patients visiting the participating hospitals will be included in the electronic data base and will be followed up consistently throughout the course.

Dr Wael Almahmeed, Head of Emirates Cardiac Society and Head of Cardiology Department, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, Abu Dhabi, UAE, pointed out that atrial fibrillation is usually asymptomatic and known to be one of the leading misdiagnosed cardiac conditions worldwide.

“We are very happy with the success of the pilot phase. We know that the disease incidence is high, but now with the distribution of our disease registry software across hospitals in the region, we will have an idea of the true burden of the disease in each country,” he said.

40 Gulf specialists to get grants for advanced diabetes course

The drug company Sanofiaventus will provide complimentary educational grants to 40 Gulf specialists to undertake an advanced course in diabetes.

The Post Graduate Diabetes Diploma offered by Cardiff University in the UK is a twoyear part-time, distance learning course. The course is organised and led by the Diabetes Research Unit at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, with the leadership of Professor David R Owens, Professor of Diabetes Medicine, Cardiff University.

Prof Owens is also the Director of the Diabetes Research Unit at Llandough Hospital in Cardiff, and has been involved in diabetes research for more than 30 years. The initiative is a joint collaboration between Sanofiaventis pharmaceuticals and the Emirates Diabetes Society (EDS), Kuwait Diabetes Society (KDS) and Qatar Diabetes Association (QDA) as well as various health authorities in the UAE.

The aim of the programme is to provide advanced diabetes education for doctors specialising in diabetes. Throughout the course, considerable emphasis will be placed upon patho-physiology and the clinical management of diabetes.

Dr Abdullah Ben Nakhi, Consultant Diabetologist, and head of KDS, commented: “The reason this initiative is crucial for improving diabetes rates in this region is because it directly targets healthcare professionals who are the key influencers in the fate of this disease. Usually the top diabetes specialists in the region are the ones that set the standard in diabetes treatment.

Once these handful of specialists are all following the same principle guidelines taught in this course, then a norm will be set within the healthcare system; a norm that has been applied, tested and proven to be extremely successful in foreign healthcare structures.”

Study shows huge disparity in drugs prices

On 30 November last year Health Action International (HAI), a global NGO on pharmaceutical policy issues, undertook a global “snapshot” of the price of ciprofloxacin, a commonly used off-patent antibiotic.

The prices of the originator brand product and the lowest priced generic equivalent were collected. Data were collected from 93 countries globally, including 14 from the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

An interactive map on HAI’s website presents the results and shows large price differentials across the world for this medicine (see The findings confirm that prices can vary widely both between countries and within countries. In the Eastern Mediterranean Region the average price for the originator brand (US$36.47) was twice the price of the drug in Southeast Asia ($17.46) but less than in other regions.

For lowest priced generics, the price in the Eastern Mediterranean Region ($7.61) was more than in South-East Asian Region ($1.19), African Region ($4.55) and the Western Pacific Region ($7.23).

In the Eastern Mediterranean Region the originator brand was 10.6 times the price of the lowest priced generic (similar to what was found in the WHO European Region).

In other regions of the world, the price difference between originator and generic was even greater. The average price of the originator brand shows very little variation across countries of different wealth.

In contrast, the average price of generics decreased as the wealth of the country decreased. According to a statement by HAI, the use of low priced generic medicines is a significant step towards improving access to treatment.

Generic ciprofloxacin is mostly available at a much lower price than the originator brand product, and in many cases, there is ample room to reduce the generic price further, making treatment more affordable.

Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean noted: “Governments need to further examine access to affordable essential medicines in their country and give it the priority it deserves.

Being sick is enough of a misfortune; obtaining needed medicines should never result in choices between impoverishment, going without treatment or buying only a partial course of treatment.”

Regional chemo pioneer consults at Dubai’s IMH

The International Modern Hospital (IMH) in Dubai announced that it will have one of the world’s leading oncologists consulting at the hospital.

Professor Dr Karl Reinhard Aigner, head of oncologic surgery at the Medias Klinikum in Burghausen, Germany and one of the pioneers of ‘regional chemotherapy’ (RCT), will be available for consultation and the provision of treatment at IMH.

He will practice with his team of specialised physicians. Regional chemotherapy is used in the treatment of solid tumours. It has fewer side effects compared to conventional chemotherapy.

In regional chemotherapy, medication is injected into the site of the tumour, specifically an artery serving the tumour or tumour region. This targeted approach to treatment allows a considerably higher chemotherapy dose to be administered which results in more rapid and effective treatment.

Prof Aigner explained: “Most of the patients who come to us are those who have not responded well to chemotherapy or those who have had a relapse.

Various medical studies have published results pointing to convincing data in terms of tumour response, quality of life and survival of those treated with RCT. For instance, it has been well established that pancreatic cancer, a killer cancer, responds well to RCT when other chemotherapies have failed.

Breast cancer too has been treated with almost no side effects and without amputation. The response rate of breast cancer has been 80% to 95% with RCT.

“Additionally, even advanced cancers of the bladder and the prostate are treated by means of the isolated pelvic perfusion technique with chemofiltration, avoiding mutilating surgery, impotence and incontinence.”

Dubai to host World Hospital Congress

Next year Dubai will host the International Hospital’s Federation’s 37th World Hospital Congress.

The congress serves as a platform for health professionals share knowledge about hospital administration and various aspects of medical science.

Dubai will be the first city in the Arab world to do so. The biennial event, which will take place in the city from 29-31 March, 2011, moves its location for each event.

The theme of IHF 37th World Hospital Congress is: “Shifting Paradigms: Anticipating the Ethical Challenges of New Health Technologies and Procedures in a Globalizing World - Developing Ethics in Hospitals and Health Services.”

Dr Jose Carlos De Souza Abrahao, President, International Hospital Federation, says: “IHF 2011 is a unique opportunity to know more about the Middle East Hospital industry.

It will provide the chance to exchange ideas and viewpoints with our peers from around the world. I hope this conference helps further our efforts to apply the best practices in our field and share them with our colleagues.”

● For more information visit:

Johns Hopkins, Saudi eye hospital in joint initiative

The Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, USA, has set up a collaborative initiative with King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital (KKESH) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which will cover research, education (a key focus of the initiative) and patient care.

KKESH is the largest eye hospital in Saudi Arabia. Dr Peter J. McDonnell, William Holland Wilmer Professor of Ophthalmology and the director of the Wilmer Institute, said: “We at the Wilmer Institute have long been interested in the study and cure of blinding eye diseases around the world, and the King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital is certainly one of the most impressive eye hospitals outside of the United States.”

He added that he hoped the collaboration would see a more rapid evaluation of potential new therapies than would be possible with either hospital working alone.

According to a statement several Wilmer faculty members will work at the hospital for extended periods – treating patients, teaching and conducting research.

With financial support from the Saudi Government, joint research activities will focus on developing treatments for blinding eye diseases. A new endowed professorship at Johns Hopkins will be established to support the work of Hopkins’ faculty.

Kuwait legislates doctors union

Legislation has been passed in Kuwait enabling the establishment of a doctors union.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Mohammad Al-Afasi endorsed the union in late January.

The union aims to defend the rights and benefits of doctors, and would work to improve their financial and social status, representing them in all issues related to their affairs, said a ministry press statement.

Every doctor in practice, who carries a recognised certificate and is employed in any medical institution, be it private or public, will be accepted into the union according the ministry. The supreme body in charge of handling affairs of the union will be the ‘General Assembly’ which will be comprised of all members who pay a monthly subscription.

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City offers capsule endoscopy

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) in Abu Dhabi has started offering capsule endoscopy – a technique which enables the examination of the digestive tract using a wireless ‘camera in a pill’.

This technique is more comfortable for patients as it does not require the insertion of a camera on a flexible tube – the traditional method of doing such investigations.

The service has been launched within the hospital’s Interventional Endoscopy Program of the Gastroenterology Division. Capsule endoscopy is being provided at SKMC under the supervision of Dr Nigel Umar Beejay, Lead Consultant in Capsule Endoscopy, who was involved in using the first public demonstration of the capsule in the world in 2001 in Canada and who teaches and lectures internationally on capsule endoscopy.

The technique enables the physician to visualise the entire bowel including the traditionally difficult to visualise small bowel.

Dr Beejya said that SKMC has three types of capsules available to examine the oesophagus, small bowel and colon. “Although the capsules have been available in other parts of the world, their use in the Middle East has been limited.

It is remarkable to have SKMC as the first hospital in the Middle East to offer the full service of all three types of capsules,” he said.

The most common applications for the small bowel capsule includes evaluation for obscure GI bleeding (negative upper and lower endoscopy), iron deficiency anaemia, suspected Crohn’s disease, suspected small intestinal tumours, surveillance in patients with polyposis syndromes, and suspected or refractory malabsorptive syndromes (such as celiac disease).

Kuwait hospitals, Johns Hopkins to cooperate

Kuwait’s Al Farwaniya, Amiri, Addan and Jahra hospitals have established cooperation agreements with John Hopkins University and Hospital, according to Dr Hilal Al-Sayer, Kuwait’s minister of health.

The initiative will look at ways to provide training, technical support, information systems, laboratories, radiology, and improve the quality of services at the hospitals.

Medical tourism company links Belgium, GCC

Mediaway, the medical bridge between Belgium and the Arab World, has teamed up with The Rocco Forte Collection’s Hotel Amigo in Brussels, along with select partners Etihad Airways, The Edith Cavell Hospital, Dockx Car Rental and Visit Belgium, to offer a new medical package to residents of the Gulf countries.

Belgium has emerged as one of Europe’s leading medical tourism destinations, offering medical tourists a highly-regarded level of medical care and research across all medicinal disciplines.

The new medical package, which is directly linked to the respected Edith Cavell Hospital, is tailormade to the influx of Arab nationals seeking treatment in Belgium’s medical facilities and offers travellers a comprehensive package, complete with medical staff that are fluent in Arabic.

● For further information or to make a booking, call (UAE) 8000 650592 or visit

Organ transplant body set up in Saudi to look at regulations

According to a report in Arab News (18 February 2010), a committee for the development of organ transplantation in Saudi Arabia was formed by the Health Ministry under the direction of the minister, Dr Abdullah Al Rabeeah.

According to Yacoub Al Mazrou, Deputy Health Minister and secretary general of the Medical Services Council, the new committee will develop future plans, procedures, regulations and rules regarding the organ transplant programme undertaken by the Saudi government.

The organ transplantation services of the government are carried out through the Saudi Center For Organ Transplantation, (SCOT) which is headquartered in Riyadh.

Al Mazrou told the newspaper that the members of the committee would include nephrologists and specialists in organ transplantation from the SCOT and from hospitals such as the National Guard Health Affairs, Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, Security Forces Hospital, King Saud University and the Ministry of Health.

According to the report, the board of the Saudi Council Of Religious Scholars has unanimously agreed on the permissibility of removing an organ, or a part thereof, from a living person and grafting it should there be no risk in the removal and should the transplantation seem likely to be successful.

SCOT identifies two types of donors – cadaveric donors and living donors. Cadaveric donations are harvested from people immediately after their deaths. Organs such as corneas, heart, liver, lungs, intestines, pancreas, kidneys are cadaveric donations.

The newspaper quoted a senior health official as saying that there were hundreds of patients suffering due to organ failure and SCOT has standard application forms for people who are willing to donate their organs after death.

New CEO appointed for Tawam in Al Ain

Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI), the international arm of United Statesbased Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) have appointed Gregory F. Schaffer to be the new chief executive officer of Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, UAE.

Schaffer has more than 30 of years of health care leadership experience and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE). He served as president and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, US, for 10 years.

Commenting on his appointment, Schaffer said: “I have known the Johns Hopkins brand and philosophy for many years. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to enjoy a new cultural experience and bring Hopkins expertise and knowledge to the emirates.

Tawam has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the region’s leaders in healthcare delivery. We will do our best to help Tawam maintain and expand its important role." Tawam Hospital in affiliation with John Hopkins Medicine is a premier, 477-bed tertiary care facility.

The hospital serves as a regional referral centre for specialised medical care and a national referral centre for oncology services.

Philips, DHA to set up CME academy

The Dubai Health Authority and Philips have announced a joint venture to develop Continuous Medical Education (CME) academy of excellence in Dubai.

The academy will offer international and local accredited courses for medical practitioners in the UAE and GCC countries. The academy is expected to open within six months. The joint venture will be managed and funded by Active-M, a venture capital company.

Louis Hakim, VP of Royal Philips Electronics and CEO of Philips Middle East said that the company will leverage its world-wide network with academic bodies for the benefit of the joint venture.

“Philips will also provide curriculum for topics that need regional development, in line with topics identified by the DHA clinical expertise,” he said.

Roche launches Actemra for RA at Dubai seminar

At an international seminar in Dubai in February, drug company Roche launched a new drug for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – Actemra (tocilizumab), which the company says is the only product to show superiority over methotrexate (MTX), the most widely used treatment against RA.

At the seminar, attended by more than 100 medical specialists from around the world, Dr Hesham El-Bakr, Business Unit Director, Roche UAE, explained that research shows that rheumatoid arthritis patients have high levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), the key cytokine or protein involved in the inflammatory process.

The overproduction of IL-6 leads to inflammation, swelling, joint damage and destruction and other symptoms. “By blocking the action of IL-6, Actemra, the world’s first IL-6 receptor-inhibiting monoclonal antibody, rapidly improves the signs and symptoms by reducing inflammation both in the joints and throughout the body, thereby helping more RA patients to achieve the ultimate goal of remission,” he said.

Dr Mohamad Al Marzouqi, consultant rheumatologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre in Abu Dhabi, who participated in the seminar, said: “The latest clinical trials and case studies presented at the seminar, show that Actemra delivers a unique combination of a rapid onset of action and an efficacy that keeps improving over time. This means that many of my patients now have a new treatment option that will help them deal with this lifechanging disease”.


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