March 13, 2021

World premiere: Dutch hospital to recycle costly cancer medication

Filed under: Dutch first,Health,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 3:22 pm

The Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Gelderland together with Dutch hospitals Jeroen Bosch ziekenhuis, St. Antonius and UMC Utrecht are setting up a trial to reuse unused costly oncology medication.

In the Netherlands at least 100 million euro worth of medication is thrown away each year, waste that increases the cost of healthcare. Too much medication is being prescribed, which leads to environmental waste because it often ends up in nature.

Of course, the ‘recycled’ medication will be subjected to rigorous quality control from pharmacists, with a temperature chip added to the sealed packaging. Based on the results, the RUMC will see if they cannot implement the program in more places.


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June 25, 2018

Dutch surgeon’s bad online buy turns good

Filed under: Technology by Orangemaster @ 9:33 pm

Dutch surgeon Harm Rutten in Eindhoven wanted to buy a camera that fits onto his surgeon’s headlamp so that his team could follow the operations he carries out on very small parts of the human abdomen.

Sadly, he bought a camera system off Chinese website Alibaba, but the camera didn’t do what it was supposed to do. He fired off a disappointed email and figured that was the end of it. Unexpectedly, the Chinese engineering firm that made the product contacted him and within days sent an engineer over to see what they could do to make their product work the way the surgeon needed it to work.

A Chinese engineer came all from China to Eindhoven, saying “I want to offer hospitals good solutions. It is nice to be able to help doctors”, which sounds like an excellent can-do attitude to me.

And if you follow the link below, there’s a film to see the result.


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May 8, 2017

Belgians overrun small Dutch town for medication

Filed under: General,Health by Orangemaster @ 9:21 pm

Hulst, a village in the east of Zeelandic Flanders, commonly referred to as “the most Flemish city in the country”, is being invaded today by protesting Belgians from Antwerp who are upset at being overcharged for medication.

A Flemish doctor who mainly has poorer clients bussed some 400 Belgians to buy drugs such as tamsulosin and omeprazole. And the pharmacies in Hulst is used to these ‘tourists’, having hired extra personnel to deal with the Belgian visit, but also criticising the Belgian government for serving its people poorly.

To give you an idea, a packet of paracetamol is 6 euro (!) in Belgium and about a euro in the Netherlands. Then there’s antipsychotic drugs that cost 152 euro (!) in Belgium, while they cost 11 euro in the Netherlands. That’s insane.

Why are the prices so different? While the Dutch pay about 100 euro a month for basic health insurance (part of which is paid for by the government for poorer people), the Belgians pay 90 a year and get nailed when they have to buy medicine. Ineffective lobbying on the part of the Belgian government when it comes to bargaining with pharmaceutical companies is very much to blame as well.

Why did the Belgians visit this week? Because the Belgian government increase the statutory personal contribution on May 1.

(Link:, Photo by Tom Varco, published under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license)

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February 15, 2015

Hospital perfects donor organ machine

Filed under: Science by Orangemaster @ 9:22 pm

The University Medical Center Groningen has developed a special machine to repair organs such as lungs and livers that have been deemed unsuitable for transplant, which could significantly shorten donor waiting lists. These machines imitate blood circulation through the organs, ‘reanimating’ damaged organs. As well, organs could be conserved for 24 hours instead of the usual seven hours.

Professor of experimental surgical transplants Henri Leuvenink estimates the machines would increase organ transplants by 30%. According to the UMCG, they are the first hospital in the world with such technology.


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December 27, 2011

Science says medical romances are unrealistic

Filed under: Literature,Science by Branko Collin @ 9:41 am

In what one sorta-kinda hopes is a tongue-in-cheek article in the week 51 issue of Dutch medical journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde, Cornelis Langeveld has looked at medical romances and whether they “give a realistic picture of medical practice”.

“The doctor novels which were studied give an unbalanced and distorted view of medical practice. The medical information was sometimes incorrect, partly due to lack of knowledge by the author, partly due to incorrect translation from English. The reality of medical practice was not represented accurately in either of the series investigated, although the medical information in the ‘Doctor novels’ [Harlequin] series appeared to be accurate more often than that in the ‘Dr. Anne’ [Favoriet] series.”

“The medical situations were located mostly in hospital emergency departments and operating rooms. Medical specialisms were represented mainly by surgeons, emergency care doctors, orthopaedic specialists, cardiologists and gynaecologists.”

Langveld wonders if the unbalanced and distorted view is such a bad thing. “One may expect adult readers to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction. The readers of the Doctors Novels series received a number of valuable lessons apart from the medical mistakes, like the answer of the country doctor to the question what she used her maternity leave for: ‘Read,’ she replied demurely. ‘Read, read, I do nothing but read. And no romance novels or thrillers or gossip magazines either, but medical journals. They are educational.'”

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August 10, 2011

Health minister pulls funding on successful breast cancer drug

Filed under: Health by Orangemaster @ 1:40 pm

Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers has decided to pull the plug on a breast cancer drug which can extend the lives of women who have an advanced form of the disease. Bottom line: the minister believes it’s expensive and has no added value, which is pretty much code for ‘they’ll die anyway, just later on’. Most people who get cancer do die of it, sadly, so the logic is elusive at best.

Although this pill-based chemotherapy treatment (read the data) prolongs life, stops the spread of cancer to the brain, is approved in nearly all EU countries and is registered with the European pharmaceutical authority EMA, the Minister is going ahead with her plans, and doctors are livid.

The Netherlands has the fourth highest rate of breast cancer in the world. By cutting this funding, it also shows it isn’t interested in a cure, just budget cuts.

The Netherlands is also terribly depressed, is the infant mortality leader in the EU and has questionable women’s health care practices, including lack of gynaecologists on weekends in hospitals, no routine check-ups, pap smears or echograms (still widely considered ‘for fun’), a preference for not using any pain killers during childbirth and other things that expats and international find very difficult to wrap their brains around.

You’ll still rather get sick here than in countries where health care costs are unaffordable for most people, although I’d retort by preferring to get sick in the UK, Canada and Australia.

(Link:, Photo of Bras by Jill Motts, some rights reserved)

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March 20, 2011

Nineteenth century X-ray machine put to the test

Filed under: Technology by Branko Collin @ 1:28 am

In 1895 high school director H.J. Hoffmans and hospital director Lambertus van Kleef from Maastricht decided to build their own X-ray machine, just weeks after Wilhelm Röntgen’s famous discovery. Gerrit Kemerink of Maastricht University has now fired the old beast back up again and managed to coax some good pictures from it. The BBC has both images of and by the machine, and reports:

Given that a high radiation dose might be required to carry out the tests, the team obtained a hand from a cadaver as their imaging subject – rather than the “young lady’s hand” listed in Hoffmans and van Kleef’s notes.

The team accordingly found that using a modern detector, a radiation dose 10 times higher was required from the antiquated system when compared to a modern one.

Using a photographic plate and the same imaging conditions Hoffmans and van Kleef used, a dose 1,500 times higher was required.

In Dutch X-rays are called ‘röntgenstralen’, after their discoverer.

(Via Boingboing)

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August 14, 2009

Hacking at Random: hackers in the bible belt

Filed under: Online by Branko Collin @ 2:19 pm

har_09_02Yesterday was the start of the official, lecture-filled part of Hacking at Random, an episode of a Dutch hackers convention that takes place every four years under a different name and at a different location. This year’s HAR is situated at Nunspeet, in the Dutch bible belt, and as always has a strong emphasis on debating the confluence of politics and technology.

Speakers this year include the guy who’s getting a camera planted in an empty eye socket, the people who make prostheses for 50 bucks instead of 250,000 (presumably we’re not talking about eyes anymore), IP/IT lawyer Arnout Engelfriet, and the infamous BREIN organisation, the Dutch ‘RIAA’.

If I have the time, I will report on the activities from the scene of the action in future postings.

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May 18, 2009

Bodybuilders flee doping check

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 12:47 pm

All 20 contestants of the Belgian bodybuilding championship fled the venue in the Dutch city of Vlissingen, Zeeland, yesterday when three doping inspectors entered the room. The championship was cancelled, and the 300 or so spectators had to go home without seeing a single bodybuilder compete.

One of the inspectors, doctor Hans Cooman, told Nieuwsblad (Dutch): “I have never witnessed anything like it.” Nieuwsblad insinuates that the organisers of these contests often move their competitions off-shore in the hope of escaping doping tests even though these tests can be held anywhere. Says Cooman: “Sometimes sports federations take the initiative and invite us to come by, like the cycling union does. But we have never had an invitation like this from bodybuilders.”

(Photo by Jo Christian Oterhals, partially based on a photo by Lin Mei, both some rights reserved)

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May 9, 2009

‘Serious’ quackery gets tax break

Filed under: General,Science by Branko Collin @ 12:30 pm

A judge in Haarlem ruled last month that acupuncturists who are also certified Doctors of Medicine qualify for a tax exemption that other acupuncturists must miss out on, reports NRC (Dutch). The ruling (Dutch) seems to suggest that jurisprudence and European law leave little room for the court to rule otherwise. Apparently, there is a European Union directive that says tax exemptions for healthcare can only apply to those who have had medical training.

The irony is that quacks who should know better—because they have had an education that should have emphasized critical thinking—are the ones that get rewarded by the state, which to me, you know, yuck.

(Photo of an acupuncture needle by Wikipedia User: Xhienne, some rights reserved.)

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