Extensive campaign needed to get safer heart drug approved for the NHS

Now approved but only with severe restrictions on its use — You have to be over age 70 to get it, for instance! The fact that the drug costs a lousy 3 bucks a day is the big problem, apparently. Broke Britain! A Labour government — Yes. A Labour government — spent all the people’s money on bailing out the big private banks!

An expensive heart drug has been approved for use on the NHS after a campaign by doctors and MPs, it has been announced. The drug called Multaq or dronedarone could benefit hundreds of thousands of patients after it was approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The drug costs £2.25 per day in comparison to around 5p per day for exisiting treatment.

Multaq is used to treat people with atrial fibrillation, which affects 600,000 people in Britain, causing a disturbance in the heart’s rhythm leading to palpitation and fatigue. It increases the risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke.

Earlier this year 176 cardiologists and 25 MPs and peers wrote to Nice to push for its approval. Previous draft guidance from Nice had rejected the drug saying it was more expensive and not as effective as exisiting treatments. However those drugs cause debilitating side effects such as liver problems and severe sensitivity to the sun.

Multaq is the first new drug for atrial fibrillation for 25 years.

Dr Derick Todd, Consultant Electrophysiologist at The Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said: “The treatment of AF is about making patients feel better and protecting them from the negative health outcomes associated with AF. “I am excited that dronedarone is now available, which is a valuable additional choice for the treatment of AF.”

Trudie Lobban, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Atrial Fibrillation Association said: “The availability of a new treatment for AF is very welcome news for patients with this potentially life-limiting condition. AF affects the quality of life of both patients and their families and it has been a long time since we’ve seen new therapies in this area, giving hope to thousands who are struggling with this debilitating condition.”

Nice has recommended that Multaq be used after treatment on previous drugs, usually beta-blockers, have failed. Patients must also have at least one other health problem such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or have had a stroke. They must also be aged over 70 and their condition must fulfill certain criteria on their heart function and severity.

A statement from Nice said: “In recommending the use of dronedarone as a treatment option for some people with AF, the independent Appraisal Committee noted comments from patients and clinical experts received during consultation on the draft guidance that all current anti-arrhythmic drugs have side effects which can have a significant impact on quality of life with long term use.

“It heard from patient experts that some people with atrial fibrillation might prefer to take dronedarone because it has fewer side effects, despite it being less effective than other antiarrhythmic drugs in preventing recurrence of atrial fibrillation. The committee also accepted evidence that the drug did not lead to an increase in the risk of mortality, unlike the anti-arrhythmics with which it was compared.”


Why Britons should study foreign languages at school

The article below is an eloquent statement of the case for study of foreign languages. As it happens, languages are an enthusiasm of mine but I nonetheless doubt that the case for studying them is strong. I have some formal (but very minor) qualifications in Latin, Italian and German and I feel that the knowledge I have gained of all three has opened many gates for me. But I have a slight “gift” for languages and most people don’t — so I see no reason why most people should study them. I think that the study of foreign languages among English speakers should only be treated as an enthusiasm — not a virtue

I suppose it’s not entirely logical but I see the fate of a recent Prime Minister of Australia as instructive. Kevin Rudd’s major subject of study at university was Mandarin Chinese. He basically knew nothing else. And he acquired a fluency that enabled him to speak mainly Chinese on his first state visit to China — and having a blue-eyed blond person speak good Chinese to them certainly impressed the Chinese leadership. And any Westerner who acquires fluency in Chinese is certainly exceptional and to be admired.

Yet Australia’s relationship with China did not prosper under Rudd’s leadership and he was eventually booted out of office over matters in which his knowledge of Chinese did not help one bit. Had he studied Eugen Ritter von Böhm-Bawerk he would have done much better

I have corrected all the spelling mistakes below. I can understand an enthusiast for foreign languages being shaky in her own language but how did so many mistakes get past the DT copy editors?

by Cassandra Jardine

During the past week, I have felt like a dinosaur. One daughter has just achieved the A-levels that will allow her to study French and Italian at Oxford. Another is about to start A-level Spanish. The third is eager to do two languages when she enters the sixth form. Meanwhile, my 11-year-old has been at a language school in Touraine to learn some French. (Having glanced at his primary school exercise book where Au Revoir was spelled “Ovwa”, I felt he needed a spot of immersion.)

But it seems that I am one of a dwindling number of parents who think that it’s important to have even a smattering of a foreign language. The latest figures for GCSEs and A-levels show such a steep decline that German is all but kaput, and even French is heading for la merde – For the first time it has been booted from the top ten most popular subjects (replaced by Religious Studies). The number of students taking these languages at GCSE has nearly halved since 2002.

The decline in language A-levels is equally steep. Only 13,850 students took A-level French this year, a drop of more than 3 per cent in just 12 months. German has dwindled to just 5,548 candidates.

“Exotics” like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Polish are creeping up at all levels but the overall trend is down and many university departments have closed in recent years, due to lack of demand, leaving largely the Russell Group to keep the study of modern languages alive. Just 28,500 of nearly 2 million undergraduates at British universities are studying languages. Three quarters of them are women.

The British attitude to languages is polarised. On the pushy side we have parents enrolling their two-year-olds for lessons in Mandarin. Elsewhere, languages are seen as a pointless chore and little wonder. As far as children can tell from their diet of films, music and television everyone can speak English. On this island, we rarely come across the 93 per cent of the world population that doesn’t share our language. Nor are we aware that 80 per cent of internet content comes in other languages. So what’s the point of struggling with irregular verbs, and speaking in a funny accent?

According to the Annual Language Trends Survey for 2009, just 41 per cent of comprehensive school pupils took a modern language at GCSE. It is selective and private schools that are keeping languages alive. At A-level, the 7.7 per cent of children in private schools are now so over-represented, that only 11 of 31 Cambridge colleges have a majority of language students from state schools.

The rot started long before a foreign language ceased to be compulsory at GCSE in 2004 – and has spread. Like fish stocks, levels are now so low that Mike Kelly, Professor of French at Southampton University and Director of the UK Support Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Study, says: “If the clock is ticking, we are getting close to midnight. We had hoped that the decline in modern languages had bottomed out, but it’s not getting better.

“Free choice has meant that languages are often set against subjects like art or drama, and are pushed further down the list of preferences. Languages are a long term business: you don’t get quick rewards. It takes three or four years to get to a decent level, whereas in other subjects you can have fun without long-term preparation.”

Language teaching can, indeed, be deadly boring. Pupils at state primary schools must be offered a language option, though they don’t have to take it. More than 90 per cent now do, but the teaching, in my experience, is desultory: hence my 11-year-old being parcelled off to France for a two-week confidence-boosting session before joining a private school. “I won’t be able to communicate with anyone except my one English friend,” he wailed on arrival – and this after being ‘taught’ French over several years.

Even at secondary school, the approach can be stultifying. In the interests of relevance, weary teenagers practice talking about their holidays, families and hobbies year after year. For GCSE they learn fifty such answers by heart to parrot in the oral exam. A child with a good memory could pass without understanding a word of what he or she is saying.

French came alive for me when I was sent on what I tell my children was a “proper” exchange holiday. Landed in a family where no English was spoken, I had to up my game. Nowadays, for fear of causing alarm, the standard language study trip involves spending all day sightseeing with English classmates, and has almost no observable impact except on the wallet.

And yet if we continue to let modern languages decline, employers say, we would be making a grave mistake. “In today’s world English graduates without languages are at a real disadvantage.” says Anny King, French-born director of the Centre for Languages at Cambridge University. “The English think: ‘I’m all right Jack, because everyone speaks English,’ but there are a lot of countries where you are lost if you only speak English.”

The EU and the UN are trawling for British people with command of foreign languages, and the jobs aren’t all in interpretation, translation and teaching. Languages are essential for research. Olympic hurdler Sally Gunnell recently bemoaned that she hadn’t a language to help her promote the 2012. “It’s also an excellent way into banking,” says David Shacklock, director of Euro London Appointments. “There’s a huge demand for German, French, and Chinese, but there are jobs out there for computer games testers in all languages. First and foremost you need a skill, but an A-level language will improve your job prospects.”

The booming third sector also needs linguists. “If languages continue to decline, it will be difficult for us to find the right people, especially if the Government cracks down on the number of non-EU people we employ,” says Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, where 80 staff speak 25 tongues. She finds that languages are not just useful in themselves, they are good for the brain. “Young people with languages have a greater mental agility – as well as a broader appreciation of the world.”

Mike Kelly (who speaks seven European languages and a smattering of Japanese) agrees. He wants to increase the range of language choices in primary schools, but isn’t fussed about which. “Once you’ve learnt one language, other than your mother tongue, it is much easier to learn another because it activates a different part of the brain. One is enough to get you over the surprise that people from other countries see the world in different ways. It’s not just about language but a sense of time and etiquette. In English we get to the point early in a conversation; in China, you build up to it. If you final words are, ‘You must come to dinner,’ the Chinese think that’s the point, not a polite flourish. Monolingualism locks you into a single way of being.”

The Coalition government is committed to a curriculum reivew. The time has come for a return to compulsory language teaching at GCSE, Anny King believes, and a more “ambitious” approach involving literature. Kelly wants a voluntary – but more extensive – system of teaching and testing, making more use of the Languages Ladder system of stepped tests, like music grades. It will, he hopes, encourage those who speak languages other than English at home to realise their assets. “If we don’t,” he says, “we are dead meat on the world job market.”

Students (and parents) with Oxbridge ambitions might also note that they are missing a trick. One in two applicants for modern languages is offered a place at Oxford, while the success rate for Politics, Philosophy and Economics is just 7.6 per cent. A friend has watched three children sail into Oxford on modern languages – and on to good jobs in industry, the civil service and the arts.

Tough love, maybe, but sending a child off to learn languages seems like a good idea. When I greeted my 11-year-old off Eurostar, I asked him if he had learnt any French. “I suppose it’s not such a stupid language,” he replied. One day that child may get a job.


This very crowded isle: England is most over-populated country in EU

England is now the most overcrowded country in Europe. It has more people per square mile than the Low Countries, which has long been the most densely-populated region of the continent, MPs have been told.

Only tiny Malta, an island city state with a population no bigger than that of Bristol, has greater population pressure among the 27 EU members.

The confirmation of England’s position at the head of the European overcrowding league table was given by the highly authoritative House of Commons library, which examined figures from the Office for National Statistics and the EU’s Eurostat.

Officials said that by next year England will have 402.1 people for every square kilometre, overtaking the figure of 398.5 in Holland and 355.2 in Belgium. The density of the population in England by 2011 will be more than four times that of France, which has 99.4 for each square kilometre.

According to the Commons Library estimates, it will reach double the density of Germany in 20 years’ time, when there will be nearly 460 people for every square kilometre in England against 224 in Germany.

The overcrowding figures come in advance of fresh official figures on immigration and its impact on the size of the population due for release today.

Ministers have promised to bring in a cap on immigration next year to bring numbers of arrivals down to 1990s levels and ease population pressures. However some members of the Coalition, notably Business Secretary Vince Cable, are hostile to any move to reduce immigration and sympathetic to calls from industry to allow more foreign workers into the country.

The Commons figures showed how overcrowding is increasingly affecting England, which attracts almost all of the migrants who arrive in Britain. England, it said, will hit a density level of 402.1 people for every square kilometre next year, which will rise to 524.1 in 2061.

But in Scotland the population density will barely increase at all, going up over the same period from 67.0 to 70.9 people for each square kilometre. Over the whole of the UK, the density measure will go up from 256.9 next year to 326.9 in 2061.

Recent EU figures have shown that Britain accounted for nearly a third of the total increase in population across the whole of Europe last year, with 412,000 extra people in this country in 2009.

Whitehall has also acknowledged that 100,000 new homes will be required each year for the next 25 years to cope with the growth of population as a direct result of immigration.

The figures have underlined concerns over the effects of rising population on transport and housing, and on both cities and countryside, as numbers rise towards the officially predicted level of 70million by 2029. James Clappison, Tory MP for Hertsmere, said: ‘Population density of such a level is an issue which politicians must address. Immigration is the major driver of population increase.’ He added: ‘This is something which the last government studiously ignored and this Government must deal with.’

The Commons figures for Holland differ from those used by the Luxembourg-based Eurostat in that they take into account the whole area of the country. EU estimates use just the land area and do not count Dutch inland seas.


Immigration to Britain jumps amid surge in student visas

Net migration to Britain rose by more than 20 per cent last year amid a surge in the number of students coming to the country. Net long-term immigration was 196,000, compared with 163,000 in 2008, a rise of 33,000, the figures from the Office for National Statistics showed. The number of visas issued to students rose 35% to 362,015 in the year to June.

Increasing numbers of foreigners have been arriving in the country claiming they are attending colleges and universities since a points-based system was introduced by the Labour Government. Campaign groups have claimed the system is a loophole, and pointed out that many British students are giving up their plans to pursue further education because of unprecedented places.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, has announced that there will be a thorough review of the rules.

Many students enter Britain to take legitimate degrees, with universities increasingly seeing them as a lucrative source of income at a time of cuts to higher education budgets. Recent research showed that as many as a third of universities were preparing to increase the number of foreign undergraduates they admit from September.

As well as attending traditional universities, tens of thousands of foreign students have been admitted to 600 “lower tier” colleges, at which it is easier to gain a place but which are still accredited to hand out bachelor degrees.

Last year, it emerged that some of these colleges offered qualifications in subjects such as circus skills, acupuncture and ancient medicine. Many of their students are given the right to work in Britain after graduating. About 4,000 illegal immigrants are also thought to have taken advantage of bogus colleges to slip into the country.

Other figures released by the Home Office today showed the number of asylum seekers arriving in Britain fell sharply in the second quarter of 2010.

The Home Office said there were 4,365 applications for asylum between April and June – a 29% fall on the 6,110 applications in same period last year. Two-thirds of this decrease was due to a drop in applications from Zimbabwe, down to 405 from 1,560 in the same period last year.

There was a 15% fall to 2,380 in the number of asylum seekers leaving and a 13% fall to 11,750 in the number of people departing in non-asylum cases.


BBC hedging its bets: Now talking to climate skeptics!

In a special Radio 4 series the BBC’s Environmental Analyst Roger Harrabin investigates whether the arguments surrounding climate change can ever be won. He questions whether his own reporting – and that of others – has adequately told the whole story about global warming.

Roger Harrabin has reported on the climate for almost thirty years off and on, but last November while working on the “Climategate” emails story, he was prompted to look again at the basics of climate science.

He finds that the public under-estimate the degree of consensus among scientists that humans have contributed towards the heating of the climate. But he also finds that politicians often fail to convey the huge uncertainty over the extent of future climate change.

At this crucial moment in global climate policy making, he talks to seminal characters in the climate change debate including Tony Blair, Lord Lawson, Sir Crispin Tickell and the influential blogger Steve McIntyre.

Just six months ago, public trust in climate science looked assured as nations moved towards the climate summit in Copenhagen. Now a recent BBC poll suggests that less than half of the British populace accepts that humans are changing the climate – the fundamental premise of government policy on energy, transport, planning, construction; and a major influence on policy in taxation, agriculture and foreign affairs.

This first programme in the series examines what happened to cause this swing in public sentiment.
It asks whether the scientific reviews underway – two down, two to go – will restore public faith in climate science.

It examines the sceptics’ argument that mainstream scientists have under-estimated the role of natural cycles in the recent warm period. And it considers whether changes in the output of the sun might even be leading the Earth into a period of cooling.


Global warmists abandoned fact for fancy

By Roger Helmer MEP

Around the world, the fight against “cli- mate change” and carbon dioxide e emissions is costing literally hundreds of billions of dollars – and this at a time when the Western world is ravaged by recession.

We can ill afford these sums. Many scientists think CO2 emissions have a trivial effect on climate, but even those who support the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) generally agree that the efforts we are making will result in changes so small that they cannot even be measured.

Given that China is building a new coal-fired power station every week, with India not far behind, it’s a fair bet that CO2 emissions will increase for decades regardless of what we in the West do. If the United Kingdom, for example, were to turn off its economy totally and not burn so much as a candle, China would make up our emissions savings in about 12 months.

Just 70 years ago, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill gave what became perhaps the most famous political speech in British history. Were he here today and able to comment on the great climate debate, he might well be saying, “Never in the field of public policy has so much been spent by so many for so little.”

They say there’s “a consensus” of scientists who support AGW. But science proceeds by hypothesis and falsification, not consensus. As author Michael Crichton famously put it, “If it’s science, it’s not consensus. And if it’s consensus, it’s not science.”

We are told that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents a consensus of 2,500 experts in the field. Yet when we look at the details, we find that the IPCC process, and especially the Summary for Policymakers, is in the hands of a small group, no more than two or three dozen.

The practically incestuous links among these scientists were revealed in a 2006 report by a team led by George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman at the request of Congress following a report by the National Research Council. These people work together, publish papers together and peer-review each others’ work. And we now know from the “Climate” leaks that they also cobbled together unrelated data sets, sought to “hide the decline,” to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period from the record, to prevent publication of alternative views and to bring about the dismissal of editors who took a more open-minded approach.

Science is supposed to follow the facts and seek the truth. These guys started with a conviction about climate change and sought to make the data fit the preconception. They called themselves the “Hockey Team,” and they included Michael Mann – creator of the infamous “hockey stick” graph – perhaps the most discredited artifact in the history of science, which nonetheless took pride of place in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report.

To understand climate hysteria, we need look no further than the Watergate advice: “Follow the money.” Governments, think tanks, institutions and universities spend huge sums on climate research. Academics can’t obtain work, tenure, grant funding or publication without toeing the line. Even researchers in unrelated fields can ensure funding by adding the context of climate change to their proposals. Thousands of jobs in government, academia, the media and industry depend on the climate issue.

The East Midlands region of the United Kingdom, which I represent in the European Parliament, has just committed $1.5 million to “climate change skills training” (read “propaganda”).

And the propaganda works. Every schoolchild knows about dangerous sea-level rise. But the children don’t know that it’s simply a projection of a virtual-reality computer model. They don’t know that in the real world, sea-level rise (at around six to seven inches in 100 years) is the same as it has been for centuries, that the Maldives and Tuvalu aren’t sinking beneath the waves. They don’t know that successive IPCC reports have consistently reduced their alarmist estimates for sea-level rise by 2100.

Every schoolchild knows that the ice caps are melting – but glaciers and ice fields accumulate snow (which compacts to ice) at high levels, while chunks of ice break off at the margin. Vast blocks of ice tumbling into the sea make great video footage, but they say nothing about warming or cooling. That’s simply what ice sheets do.

There has been some retreat of glaciers since about 1800 (long before CO2 became an issue), but geological evidence shows that glaciers regularly advance and retreat with the Earth’s climate cycles. We are simply seeing a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age. And global ice mass is broadly constant.

In 1942, six Lockheed P-38F Lightning fighters were lost in Greenland. In 1988, they were rediscovered under 270 feet of solid ice. That’s an ice buildup of nearly six feet a year.

Every schoolchild knows about the plight of the polar bear (the alarmists’ pinup species), threatened by climate change. But how many know that polar bear numbers have increased substantially in recent decades and that polar bears are thriving?

In each of these cases, the alarmists put the projections of virtual-reality computer models ahead of real-world observation. Yet these models are programmed with a wide range of estimates and assumptions – including the assumption that CO2 is a major cause of warming. Little surprise, then, that they predict that outcome.


About jonjayray

I am former member of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society, former anarcho-capitalist and former member of the British Conservative party. The kneejerk response of the Green/Left to people who challenge them is to say that the challenger is in the pay of "Big Oil", "Big Business", "Big Pharma", "Exxon-Mobil", "The Pioneer Fund" or some other entity that they see, in their childish way, as a boogeyman. So I think it might be useful for me to point out that I have NEVER received one cent from anybody by way of support for what I write. As a retired person, I live entirely on my own investments. I do not work for anybody and I am not beholden to anybody
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