Stem cell research and its use in therapy are at the frontiers of biomedicine. It is being explored as a panacea for a wide range of diseases from tissue damages to serious conditions like neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. Most recently, it is being explored as a possible tool to treat patients with severe cases of COVID-19 in China. While it is a high potential tool, it also has its share of associated risks.
The Government of India has recently notified the National Health Policy for Rare Diseases allocating Rs 4 crore to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) while approving an estimated Rs 25 crore for the year 2021-22 exclusively dedicated to rare diseases. Rare diseases cumulatively affect around 350 million people worldwide of which 70 million people are from India. There has always been concern regarding India’s policy towards rare diseases and its lack of commitment towards finding a solution to this problem which can be seen through the meagre budgetary allocations for the health sector, especially for rare diseases. The absence of a public policy for the research and development of Orphan drugs adds to the problem. The new policy may come as a relief to those who need it yet India has a long way to go concerning its efforts and policies towards dealing with this issue.
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, communicable diseases have become the focus of every nation yet the concern for non-communicable diseases(NCDs) cannot be overlooked. It has been noticed during the crisis that those who were suffering from comorbidities were the worst sufferers. The comorbidities were none other than non-communicable diseases(NCDs) that made people more vulnerable to the pandemic. A modeling study published in The Lancet Global Health suggests that, worldwide, one in five people are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19 if they become infected, mostly as a result of underlying NCDs. Several countries saw disruptions in providing regular healthcare services to the patients suffering from NCDs due to the focus on COVID-19 and because the economic state of the countries was in shock. The pandemic showed the extent of the burden that NCDs pose on health resources. In such a situation, the pandemic has again brought back the focus on NCDs that need to be tackled efficiently to tackle any further risk to people’s health all over the world.
Recently, the Lok Sabha has passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) bill, 2016 which prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows only altruistic surrogacy. The bill seeks to protect the rights of the surrogate mother and the child born from surrogacy and promotes ethical surrogacy. However, it falls short of addressing certain key concerns regarding the surrogacy in India.