A Dose Of Data On Drugs

September 15, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Vjacheslav Galkin has helped to develop new drugs and medical equipment in his native Russia, but he toured Columbia Medical Plan this week in hopes of expanding his knowledge.

"I'm very interested in information from this tour to get ideas for new [medical] equipment," said Dr. Galkin, executive director of the Infection Control Society and secretary of the Institute of Medical Equipment, both Russia groups.

On Tuesday, Dr. Galkin and 21 other Russian pharmaceutical professionals visited the Columbia health maintenance organization as part of a four-week program to learn more about quality assurance and the manufacturing of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.

"The program's goal is to get them technical training, but also ensure they have an overall good experience," said Rene F. Baird, senior analyst for General Physics Corp., a Columbia-based technical training company that helped set up the program.

The group includes immunologists, medical school instructors, pharmacists and drug administrators from Russia.

The $280,000 program, which began Labor Day weekend and ends Oct. 2, includes classroom instruction and tours of pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, warehouses, hospitals and universities in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The trip was financed and primarily organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based Academy for Educational Development.

During their tour of Columbia Medical Plan, the Russians visitedthe pharmacy, laboratory, and the pediatrics and urgent care departments.

"We hope we have a lot of things that we can apply in Russia," said Natalia N. Alexeeva of the Moscow-based Russian Center for Medical Technical Information.

The group was particularly interested in federal Food and Drug Administration regulations and in details about the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs.

"They want to find out about the total health delivery system," said Joseph Sokol, director of pharmacy services for Columbia Medical Plan. "They're also very interested in patient information."

Mr. Sokol distributed prescription bottle warning labels to the Russians and told them how the HMO maintains drug quality.

The group also wanted to know about drug prices.

"A profit is an entirely new concept to them," Ms. Baird said.

So are HMOs such as Columbia Medical Plan, which offer a variety of services under one roof.

"Health coverage plans are only in the beginning there," said Alex Gelfan, who oversees immunization efforts in Siberia. "They're making their first humble steps."

Despite the program's business emphasis, the Russians made some side trips, including a visit to a McDonald's restaurant, where many of the visitors tasted a Big Mac for the first time.

Ms. Baird said the Russians enjoyed the food and that American patrons didn't seem to mind waiting while an interpreter translated the menu into Russian.

"The Americans were really nice about standing there," said Ms. Baird, who had feared that some diners would grow impatient with the group's large order. "Americans are usually in a hurry," she said.

Dr. Galkin said he was impressed by his tour of the United States.

"It's the nature, it's the buildings, the kindness [Americans show] each other," he said.

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