Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More on Cipla, Plumpy'Nut and India

Stephanie Nolan, the South Asia Correspondent for Canada's Globe and Mail, and I have been corresponding on Twitter about the goings on in India with respect to Plumpy'Nut, RUTFs and official government policy. As part of an article she wrote about the Plumpy'Nut controversy in India, she says, she tried to find out exactly what the Cipla product is and whether it's equivalent to Plumpy'Nut and got ten different answers.

Today she writes that "further invstigation shows Cipla product, whatever is, not WHO-approved & not officially RUTF. Delhi-based Compact closest 2 making."

Related post: India, Plumpy'Nut and Cipla
Related posts on Plumpy'Nut patent issues under intellectual property tag.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

India, Plumpy'Nut and Cipla

More on the Plumpy'Nut controversy in India. Cipla, a company more famous for its generic versions of AIDS drugs, makes pre-packaged food supplements for export to Africa, according to Sumana Narayanan in the India environment magazine Down to Earth.

Cipla also told
Narayanan that there is no market for such so-called ready-to-use claims no market in India. I find this hard to believe and hope Narayanan follows up on that idea. (She pointed me to her article in a comment to yesterday's post.)

Not sure if this is still true but from what I've heard about India regulation of AIDS drugs in the past, the government's own rules actually probibit the sale of the inexpensive AIDS generics made by Cipla and others locally in India. Makes you wonder if a similar "only for export" rule applies to RUTF as well?

For an update on Cipla, see
"More on Cipla, Plumpy'Nut and India."

Click on "intellectual property" tag for previous posts on Plumpy'Nut patent issue:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

India Blocks Use of Plumpy'Nut

The Indian government has told Unicef to stop using Plumpy'Nut for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in that country over concerns about importing and becoming dependent on "foreign food." This is a separate issue from the patent controversy that I have blogged about in the past.

The Indian government questions whether RUTFs (ready-to-use therapeutic food) are better than hot-cooked food, as reported by the Times of India.

On that score, the government's concerns about efficacy seem overblown. Plumpy'Nut is a fortified peanut paste that has a good track record as a ready-to-use therapeutic food in several African countries. And hot cooked meals aren't going to provide the concentrated calorie and nutrient power needed in an emergency situation.

But the larger issue--of having to depend on commercial food imports should not be dismissed lightly. Yes, there's a strong whiff of protectionism but that's understandable in light of the growing crisis in the world's supply of staples. (See Lester Brown's article in Scientific American, or for an even more provocative view, this piece by Deborah Fahy Bryceson in the Monthly Review.)

The solution to the Indian impasse, as reported in the Times Online, may be to use locally produced RUTF. Two Indian companies are starting to get into the business of doing just that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Planning is Key to Good Multimedia

Multimedia is not easy--takes much, much longer to create than pure text--and requires more thought, cooperation and collaboration.

At each stage of creating the Malawi video that is up on CNN's website--pre-production, production, post-production and distribution--I kept realizing how many different pieces there were. I'll admit there were times when I felt pretty low as each stage seemed to take longer than I anticipated. But I think the result is worth it.

Several multimedia journalists I respect keep emphasizing that you need to do a good job matching up various aspects of the story to the medium. Text--at whatever length (even captions) is particularly good for facts and analysis. Images for action or "slice of life." Audio for emotion.

So, even before I went to Malawi to report on its severe nurses shortage, I knew that I wanted the video to complement the text--not be the whole story. I wanted the video to give a sense of a couple of individual nurses and what they face in a real-world way that is much harder (although not impossible) do to with text.

And then the text could focus on context and analysis. For example, look at these three sentences from my CNN article:

"By the late 1990s, however, Malawi was reeling from the AIDS epidemic. As if that weren't bad enough, the government also had to cut spending on health care and education as a condition for getting help from the U.S. and other countries to liberalize its trade and economy. The publicly funded health system, on which more than 95 percent of Malawians still depend for treatment, quickly started to fall apart. "

Very quickly, I was able to provide the necessary context: the twin ravages of the AIDS epidemic and structural adjustment programs that crippled the Malawian health care system.

The photo essay was the least well-developed part of the CNN package--it really happened almost as an afterthought, when the CNN producer asked me if I had any still photos. But I was able to throw it together in a couple of hours (maybe 20 minutes to pick the photos and longer to export and email them to the producer) because I have organized all the photos Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick took for the Malawi project as well as caption information in Lightroom, a terrific photo management/database program from Adobe. (And no, nobody paid me to mention Lightroom.)

Once again I wanted to touch on themes of showing nurses in a wide range of activities both inside and outside the hospital/clinic. Given how many negative images of poverty and despair we see from Africa, I specifically chose photos that show success--or at least active engagement. That's something I have thought about a lot over the years and so was able to act quickly.

FYI, I produced one other video based on the Malawi trip, called "Telling Stories, Saving Lives." You can see it in either Flash or Quicktime. I chose to upload it to because of the Creative Commons license.

"Telling Stories" is more of a self-contained piece -- but could probably also be paired with a good text story (on women's rights or domestic violence or the arts and health). Why not all three articles connected to that same video. Ahh, my next project!

Related Post:
My Malawi Nurses Video Featured on CNN