Companies and Institutions Leading the Diagnostics Charge

Wed, 09/07/2016 - 14:10

From outlining long-term plans against life-threatening illnesses like cancer to coming up with new and improved technology for early detection and prevention, Mexico is increasing its focus on preventive medicine. Organizations like the National Institute of Cancerology (INCan) have created initiatives such as the tumor bank to keep a tissue registry while the country’s main health provider, the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), is looking to shift attitudes toward a healthier lifestyle in the face of severe overweight and obesity ratings threatening epidemics on diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The importance of prevention is impossible to overstate, as preventable or treatable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer account for almost half of Mexico’s deaths. In 2014 heart conditions including myocardial infarction were the main killer in Mexico, with over 19 percent of deaths, followed by diabetes with 15 percent and malignant tumors in third place with 12 percent, according to official data.

Against this stark background, Mexican and international companies are leading efforts on early detection and prevention for those illnesses but also potentially debilitating conditions such as osteoporosis, setting their sights on a stronger and healthier population.

For some such as Doctor Erick Alexanderson of the Mexican Cardiology Society (SMC), simple measures including regular medical check-ups will go a long way. “People should be making lifestyle changes that lead to lower cholesterol levels, reducing tobacco consumption, increasing physical activity, achieving a healthy weight … to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease,” he says. Women are also an underdiagnosed demographic, which is why the SMC partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) on preventive campaigns.

Hard science is also needed to create reliable indicators, an area where INCan is working non-stop via collaboration with state health providers like Seguro Popular, but the country is still a few years away from having all the data in hand. However, advances such as testing family members of cancer patients for genetic markers predisposing them to the disease have shown promising results, say doctors Abelardo Meneses and Luz Ruíz, from the Institute.

Technology firms like Siemens Healthineers are teaming up with diagnostics laboratories on strategies and digital solutions to reduce diagnostic costs and time, also looking to help in a time of financial pressures brought about by governmental budget cuts. “By detecting predispositions, laboratory diagnostics can improve disease prevention and will become more important, reducing cost of care with higher possibilities of success,” says the company’s Hispanic America Regional Director for their Diagnostics Division, Carlos Hernández.

Financial constraints are on everybody’s mind, as state health providers spend most of their resources treating conditions related to diabetes and obesity, according to the Director General of IMSS, Mikel Arriola. Miroculus is looking into the growing field of molecular research to offer simple to use diagnostics tools for stomach cancer and is aiming to start clinical testing in Mexico by the end of the year, while Osteosol is working to stop osteoporosis from the womb.

Vaccinations, one of the main areas of traditional preventive medicine, looks like a bright spot, as the country ranks high in children’s inoculation levels in the OECD, even surpassing first-world nations like France and the US. And Mexico’s National Public Health Institute (INSP) is also looking at adults and conducting trials to improve vaccination rates against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer in the country.

This chapter takes a look at both companies and institutions fighting to stop the spread of diseases before they hurt Mexicans.