Leeches widely prescribed in Russian medicine

Dhaka,  Tue,  22 August 2017
Published : 14 May 2017, 20:54:56

Leeches widely prescribed in Russian medicine

MOSCOW: Leeches are widely prescribed in Russian medicine, about 10 million of them every year, in many cases as a low-cost substitute for blood thinners like warfarin, according to a global media report.

In Russia, a medicinal leech costs less than $1 (Dh3.67), and a typical application requires three to seven of the ravenous little creatures. Leech treatments, available throughout the country, take 30 to 40 minutes, though the resulting wounds ooze blood for an additional six hours or so until the natural anticoagulant in leech venom wears off. Though Russia under President Vladimir Putin is muscling its way back onto the world stage militarily, economic development has lagged woefully, and that includes the medical system.

In developed countries, leech applications are often, and perhaps unfairly, associated with quackery, like the once popular practice of bleeding patients.

In fact, leeches are creeping back into Western medicine — as many as 6,000 are used annually in the United States, the BioTherapeutics, Education and Research Foundation estimates — but not for the same purposes as in Russia.

The Food and Drug Administration in the United States cleared the sale of leeches as medical devices in 2004 — along with maggots — while European pharmaceutical companies have focused on isolating therapeutic, blood-thinning chemicals in the venom and delivering it in a less creepy manner.

The FDA has approved leeches for draining blood, for example, using them to remove excess blood from severed body parts that have been reattached.

In the Russian tradition, the therapeutic benefits are seen in the venom, a natural anticoagulant prescribed as a preventive treatment for stroke and heart disease, at a fraction of the cost of pharmaceutical blood thinners.

Russians are in theory covered for most doctor care and drugs under a socialised medical system written into the post-Soviet Constitution in 1993. Modernising this state health care was a priority that Putin enshrined in decrees early in his third term as president.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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