British Alzheimer’s sufferers will finally get vital £2.50 drugs banned by NICE
Hundreds of thousands of people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s will no longer be denied crucial drugs that slow the devastating disease. A three-year campaign by the Daily Mail ended in victory yesterday when the NHS drug rationing body reversed a ban that had been universally condemned by doctors, patients and their families.
Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – who knew they were losing their minds – faced the scandalous situation of waiting for their condition to deteriorate before being prescribed the three drugs.
Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl cost only £2.50 a day, but the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence ruled in 2007 that they can be used only by patients in moderate – not early – stages of the disease.
This prompted a legal challenge partly funded by £230,000 raised in one week by Mail readers, which forced NICE to reveal its calculations behind banning the drugs.
Now the rationing body has succumbed to pressure and issued new draft guidelines which will allow doctors to prescribe the treatments to patients with mild symptoms.
The U-turn also means the drug Ebixa can be prescribed for the first time to severely ill patients. This will save thousands from taking antipsychotic medication – dubbed the ‘chemical cosh’ – which is not proven to work and can cause dangerous side-effects such as strokes.
Around 465,000 people live with Alzheimer’s in the UK and 62,000 people are diagnosed each year, yet fewer than 50,000 patients are currently prescribed drugs.
The Mail campaigned vigorously with the Alzheimer’s Society, and with the help of physicians and celebrities, to end the scandal which affected some of the most vulnerable in our society.
Although the drugs are not a cure, up to half of patients respond with ‘life-changing’ improvements. Their symptoms are lessened and the progression to dementia is slowed, trials have proven.
Research also shows that those who begin the drug treatment at a later stage never catch up with those who began earlier, suggesting prompt intervention leads to an improved long-term prognosis.
Nice previously claimed the NHS could not afford to offer drugs to all eligible patients, but has now carried out a review using a different computer model to assess their cost-effectiveness. This time it concludes the benefits are worthwhile, when compared with full-time care which can cost up to £40,000 a year.
The change in policy could be confirmed early next year in England and Wales, where the ban applies.
The potential cost to the NHS is unclear because thousands of patients could now ask for re-assessment, to add to the newly diagnosed.
At present the NHS spends around £100million a year on anti-dementia drugs. A Government estimate says using Aricept for mild disease would add only £5.7million next year. It says this would be offset by delays in patients needing long-term care. And the drug will lose its patent in 2012 which means the price will fall as cheaper generics are supplied to the NHS.
Professor Clive Ballard, director of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said doctors had faced an ethical dilemma for the past three years: Knowing there was treatment available that they were banned from prescribing. He said: ‘If this guidance is issued, doctors will no longer have to watch people deteriorate without being able to treat them.’
Professor Ballard is convinced some doctors had been reluctant to diagnose the disease because of the restrictions, while patients might also have delayed seeking help. He paid tribute to the Mail readers who raised £230,000 towards the court battle, which failed to overturn the ban but forced Nice to disclose key information.
For the price of a cup of coffee these drugs can help many people continue to play with their grandchildren or recognise their loved ones. You can’t put a value on these benefits.’ Gordon Wilcock, professor of clinical geratology at Oxford University, said ‘common sense’ had prevailed and NHS patients would at last get help – not just those who could afford a private prescription.
Nice’s chief executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, said: ‘Our increased confidence in the benefits and costs associated with the use of the three drugs for treating mild and moderate stages of the disease has enabled us to make a positive recommendation for their use in mild disease.’
Fewer than one in ten Alzheimer’s patients are prescribed anti-dementia drugs to treat their symptoms, yet clinical trials clearly show the benefits of early treatment.
Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl compensate for low levels of a key chemical in the brain. They stop breakdown of the enzyme acetylcholinerase, which plays a crucial role in memory and helps nerve cells communicate.
When they work the drugs ‘lift the fog’ for patients who remember names, or how to make a cup of tea, with effects lasting up to two years on average. Aricept, which costs £75 a month, is the most popular.
Another, Ebixa, at £69 a month, has never before been recommended for routine use on the NHS. It is the first in a new class of drugs which appear to have a protective effect, by blocking a messenger chemical that increases damage to brain cells.
A long-term study found Ebixa restored the ability, for at least a year, of severely ill patients to do routine daily activities and feel more alert. In the U.S. and France, clinicians routinely combine a drug such as Aricept with Ebixa to get maximum protection for patients.
Unemployed British man forced to attend ‘Back To Work’ seminar instead of real job interview to avoid losing benefits
After losing his job, David Sharp was delighted to have a second interview for a sales post and was confident about winning the role. But he claims he had to pull out of the interview thanks to bizarre rules that meant he could not miss a ‘Back To Work’ class on the same day. Job centre staff warned Mr Sharp, 33, from Huyton, Merseyside, that if he missed the seminar he would lose his benefit money.
Faced with the possibility of having neither a new job nor his dole money, the former bingo caller was forced to cancel his interview. Mr Sharp said: ‘I had only been signing on for a few weeks when I got in the running for a business and marketing role in town. ‘I did well, but the second interview was at the same time as a course at the Huyton job centre.
‘I rang the national 0845 telephone number and was given an ultimatum. Either I attended the course or my benefits would be cancelled. ‘I tried to change the interview and they said ‘no’. I then offered to show documented proof of my interview to the job centre, but that was no good.’
He added: ‘I went on the course and it was pretty mundane, about how to get in touch with employers all stuff I had already done to get the interview. ‘I am disappointed with Job Centre Plus. They should have been doing a lot more to help me. ‘They stopped me getting a job to put me on a ‘Back To Work’ course. It was very counterproductive and now I am still unemployed.’
A spokesman for the Department for work and pensions said Mr Sharp had not spoken directly to the Job Centre Plus in Huyton. But they could not rule out the 33-year-old was given incorrect advice over the phone.
West is being ‘outspent, outmanoeuvred and out-strategised’ by Islamic extremism, warns Blair
The West is being ‘outspent, outmanoeuvred and out-strategised’ by violent Islamic extremism, Tony Blair has warned.
The former prime minister said that there had been a failure to challenge the ‘narrative’ that Islam was oppressed by the West which was fuelling extremism around the world.
He said too many people accepted the extremists’ analysis that the military actions taken by the West following the 9/11 attacks were directed at countries because they were Muslim and that it supported Israel because Israelis were Jews while Palestinians were Muslims.
‘We should wake up to the absurdity of our surprise at the prevalence of this extremism’, he said
‘Look at the funds it receives. Examine the education systems that succour it. And then measure, over the years, the paucity of our counter-attack in the name of peaceful co-existence. We have been outspent, outmanoeuvred and out-strategised’.
Speaking last night in New York to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mr Blair warned that it was impossible to defeat extremism ‘without defeating the narrative that nurtures it’.
Moderate Muslims who believed in co-existence and tolerance were, he said, being undermined by the unwillingness of the West to take on the extremists’ arguments.
‘We think if we sympathise with the narrative – that essentially this extremism has arisen as a result, partly, of our actions – we meet it halfway, we help the modernisers to be more persuasive’, he said. ‘We don’t. We indulge it and we weaken them. Worse, a reaction springs up amongst our people that we are pandering to this narrative and they start to resent Muslims as a whole’.
Mr Blair’s warning comes as the French issued their most extreme warning in recent years about the dangers of visiting Britain, saying a terrorist attack is ‘very likely’. A dramatic statement on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs adds that visitors need to exercise ‘extreme vigilance’. This is especially so in world famous sites like London’s Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, and on the capital’s public transport system.
While Britain and the USA have already warned people to be careful when travelling in Europe, the French advice is by far the most extreme to date. It invokes the 1990s and early 2000s when Gallic secret agents regularly monitored suspected Islamic radicals in a city referred to by the French as ‘Londonistan’.
The statement was issued after terrorist suspect killed in a drone attack in Pakistan last month was identified as a British man tasked with leading an Al Qaeda group in the UK.
Last week, security agents in France, Britain and Germany warned Al Qaeda terrorists were planning a Mumbai-style atrocity in Europe. The alert was sparked after Ahmad Sidiqi, an Afghan informant said to have known Mohammed Atta, mastermind of the 9/11 2001 attacks, told US interrogators of the chilling plot.
Sidiqi said Ilyas Kashmiri, an Al Qaeda commander linked to the 2008 attacks in Mumbai in India that left 174 people dead, had told him that teams had already been sent to Europe to launch similar assaults.
The United States and Britain warned their citizens on Sunday of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Europe, with Washington saying al Qaeda might target transport infrastructure.
Britain raised the terrorism alert level in its advice for travellers to Germany and France to ‘high from ‘general,’ while leaving the threat level at home unchanged at ‘severe’.
God isn’t dead – he has just turned green
The young don’t need religion, as the environment gives them all the certainty they need, says Robert Colvile in Britain
First, the good news: Richard Dawkins’s campaign to turn Britain’s children against organised religion seems to have failed. Unfortunately, it hasn’t done so because of the depth of Christian belief in this country, but because kids, by and large, can’t be bothered with religion at all.
According to The Faith of Generation Y, a study of 300 people born after 1982 who have been involved in the Church’s youth and community projects, hostility towards Christianity has faded into brute indifference. True, only 12 per cent denied the existence of a higher power, while 23 per cent were relatively traditional believers. But by far the most popular answer, collecting approximately 43 per cent of the vote, essentially amounted to “Dunno, really”.
The explanation is simple: for those of us born in the Eighties and later, religion just doesn’t impinge on our lives. My education was unusually traditional – as well as the statutory RE classes, there were daily chapel services and Bible readings, and I even served my time in the school choir as a warbling, off-key alto.
But as soon as we had the chance, even those brought up in the faith ditched religion as quickly as the Prodigal Son ditched his dear old dad. At university, theology was for the weirdos who were actually interested in the stuff, or for the dossers who thought it was an easy route to Oxbridge. The only visible religiosity came from the evangelical, Christian Union types – a weird, cultish sub-sect who just seemed too damned happy. In the 2001 census, a majority of my yearmates gave their religion as “Jedi”, just because we thought it was funny.
So the new study does have a point when it claims that the “chain of Christian memory” has become “eroded”, that Britons are no longer sustained by a common store of religious knowledge. But it comes a cropper when it paints a picture of an apathetic generation, slouching through life with its gaze fixed on the here-and-now, “not looking for answers to ultimate questions” and relying – when consolation is needed – on “a very faded, inherited cultural memory of Christianity in the absence of anything else”.
For this generation is not, as the report says, “unstoried and memoryless” – it has turned to another story altogether. A couple of years ago, the Government sent every state school in England a copy of Teach Your Granny to Text, and Other Ways to Change the World – the result of an exercise in which more than 4,300 schoolchildren were asked to suggest ways to make the planet a better place. The majority of the published suggestions were about the environment: ask your dad to stop singing in the shower, so he wastes less water; don’t waste electricity by leaving the charger connected to your mobile phone.
Greenery, as a secular religion, has come to dominate not just the curriculum, but the imagination. It’s Blue Peter’s recycled bottle tops on a grand scale: lessons on the dangers of global warming, projects on endangered species, litter-picking exercises. As any parent will testify, pester power is as often employed these days to guilt Dad into separating out the recyclables as to beg for the latest Transformer. Colleagues who have suffered their children’s eco-scorn assure me that no member of the Inquisition was ever so ruthless, ever so certain of his faith, as their tiny Torquemadas.
For the Church, the problem is clear. Environmentalism can offer all the upsides of faith – the sense of community, of certainty, of moral superiority – with none of the nagging doubts. The idea that Jesus died for your sins can be hard to get your head around. How much simpler, and how much more appropriate for our age, is the idea that you can save your soul, and the world, simply by shopping in the organic aisle.
Britain needs more nuclear plants, not wind farms
By Nigel Farage a Ukip South East MEP,
Britain faces a power crisis of unimaginable proportions. Our generating capacity is degrading at a rapid pace, and according to energy minister Chris Huhne, we face power blackouts in a few years.
Indeed, we are looking at a shortfall of at least 40 per cent as our elderly nuclear and conventional gas, coal and oil power stations reach their dotage. As they close, the spectre of fuel poverty will continue to raise its head.
During last winter, that coldest of cold snaps, according to official statistics, thousands of pensioners died because they were unable to afford to heat their homes. Sadly this is just the beginning.
Our economy runs on power. After wages, the biggest cost to most businesses is energy. We have all seen domestic bills soar in recent years, cutting into our disposable income and making life much less pleasant. How can this be?
It is not as if we don’t know that we need power, it is not as if siren voices haven’t been warning us for at least a decade that unless we seriously invest in energy generation we will be back to candles and watermills.
Only last week, Mr Huhne was bobbing self-importantly around in the midst of the Great Thanet wind farm. He, too, is worried about the shortfall in our energy supply, and he, like so many of our political and social elite, sees developments like the Swedish Vattenfall’s wind farm as the only way forward. It isn’t, and here is why.
They need back-up power (read conventional power stations – the ones that are closing down) running continuously in case the wind stops blowing. Even if they did work as we are told, to supply the UK’s energy needs of 78GW we would require at least 78,000 5MW turbines.
The Government boasts that we have 4,500 of them. They are not self-funding like other kinds of power, and can only survive with subsidies such as the upwards of 14 per cent secretly added to everybody’s electricity bill to pay for our EU-inspired Renewable Energy Obligation.
And you thought the wind was free? They are unreliable and the power from them is unpredictable. The Government talks about full capacity – at best they run at 26 per cent, which means you can only expect to get 1MW from a 4MW turbine.
They fail to provide jobs. Vattenfall boasts that East Kent will get 21 jobs in Ramsgate, but the company will get £1.2 billion in subsidy over the next 20 years, if they last that long. We have no idea how much maintenance will cost. Anybody who lives near the sea will tell you about the ability of salt to gum up the works. These precision instruments will break down.
If we are worried about power then sadly these ornaments, these vanity projects will never provide the power we need. According to figures released this week by the Government’s own UK Energy Research Centre, the energy produced at Thanet over the projected 25 year lifespan of the farm, measured in megawatt hours, is expected to be £149 a pop. That compares with £80 for coal and gas, and £97 for nuclear power. Costs have increased for all generation, but offshore wind farms are way the most expensive.
This is, of course, madness but it is the collective lunacy of our political class. Two years ago, Parliament near unanimously supported the Climate Change Act. This forces us to cut our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, at a cost of up to £18 billion a year, or £734 billion in total. They have done this to apply EU rules.
What they don’t tell you is that they are slowly seeing through the climate scam themselves. Only in June at the Bilderburg conference of world leaders the agenda read: “The conference will deal mainly with financial reform, security, cyber technology, energy, Pakistan, Afghanistan, world food problem, global cooling, social networking, medical science, EU-US relations.”
British head teacher shocks pupils by eating spider
He has been recognised as one of the country’s leading head teachers whose methods have helped achieve enviable results at his schools. Indeed such is Aydin Onac’s reputation that he was even awarded a £40,000 golden hello when he took over at one London secondary. But his latest methods may prove a little difficult to stomach, after he stunned pupils at his new school by eating a tarantula in front of a packed assembly.
Recreating the sort of stunt usually seen on reality show, I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here, Mr Onac ate the baked spider, in order to raise money for a new sports and drama centre at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington, Kent.
While some of his pupils delighted at seeing his discomfort during the ordeal, others were said to be upset, and at least one parent complained that it set a bad example to youngsters.
Mr Onac only took over at the highly rated St Olave’s school last month, after resigning from his previous post as head of the Fortismere School in Muswell Hill in London. When he joined Fortismere School in 2006 he became the first head teacher in the country to receive a £40,000 signing on bonus. But despite some initial opposition, he oversaw a significant rise in exam results, with the number of pupils achieving five good GCSEs rising from 64 to 73 per cent in just three years.
Just weeks into his new job in Orpington however his unconventional approach to running a school has threatened to divide opinion. Mr Onac, whose school serves more than 900 boys aged between 11 and 18, said he came up with the idea of eating a poisonous spider as a way of raising sponsorship money for a new sports and drama complex.
He explained: “It wasn’t until I opened the container and saw how big it was that I started to feel very nervous. “When all the students came into the great hall and I realised what I had let myself in for, and that there was no way out, then I really started to panic.” He added: “It tasted quite salty, and a little bit like burnt chicken. It felt crunchy and very dry in the mouth, like eating those very dry cheese biscuits, so it was difficult to swallow. “As I was eating it I was thinking about the quickest route to the cloakroom and whether I would still be alive by break-time.”
The spider was sourced from Cambodia, where they are farmed and eaten by locals as a delicacy, and Mr Onac has insisted its importation complied with British and EU guidelines. The spider are usually deep fried and the cooking process negates the effects of any toxins the spider carries.
But while he has insisted the stunt was ethically sound, not everybody connected with the school is in agreement. One parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s all very well raising money, but why does he have to behave as if he’s taking part in I’m A Celebrity? “Head teachers, especially ones of his calibre, should not be copying people like Jordan or Joe Swash and eating exotic animals. “I don’t care if it is responsibly sourced, if children get the wrong idea then they’ll think it’s OK to go around eating spiders.”
Another parent said: “I know that these spiders are farmed in Cambodia and considered a delicacy there, but we’re not in Cambodia, we’re in Orpington and in Orpington we don’t do things like this.”
But a member of the teaching staff said they were full of admiration for Mr Onac’s actions. He said: “It was a sight that I for one never thought we would see in the great hall. We all thought he was incredibly brave.”
Some reasons why Latin continues to fascinate
Comment from Britain
The power of Roman history, literature and myth is so great that it will always go on being reinvented. And that reinvention didn’t just start in the Thirties with I, Claudius.
Because classics was the staple diet of British and European education from around 1100AD until about 1900, it was classical thought that provided the majority of storylines in Western European literature, as well as much of the subject matter in Renaissance art and architecture. Throw in Christianity – largely disseminated through Europe in Greek and Latin – and you see how the writing mind of the Western world was, until recently, a classical mind.
Ben Jonson said of Shakespeare that he had “small Latin and less Greek”, but the point was that even a man of humble origins brought up in rural Warwickshire knew a little of both – pretty unlikely these days.
Shakespeare was only one of the great European writers – including Dryden, Pope, Milton, Dante and Samuel Johnson – to use classical stories as their raw material, refashioned in new and brilliant, and pretty fast and loose, ways.
It’s not just the usual suspects – Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Coriolanus – that were borrowed from the ancient world. The fountain of classical tales was so powerful that even a play such as The Comedy of Errors was rooted in a – now obscure – Roman comedy, The Twin Brothers by Plautus.
The predominant influence of the classical world on English writers has only recently been extinguished. P G Wodehouse won a senior classical scholarship to Dulwich College in 1897, and packed his books with Latin references. In The Girl on the Boat (1922), Wodehouse gives a Latin lesson that wouldn’t disgrace the most fastidious of classics masters: “Nothing is more curious than the myriad ways in which the reaction from an unfortunate love affair manifests itself in various men…
“Archilochum, for instance, according to the Roman writer, proprio rabies armavit iambo. It is no good pretending out of politeness that you know what that means, so I will translate.
“Rabies – his grouch – armavit – armed – Archilochum – Armilochus – iambo – with the iambic – proprio – his own invention.”
“In other words, when the poet Archilochus was handed his hat by the lady of his affections, he consoled himself by going off and writing satirical verse about her in a new metre, which he had thought up immediately after leaving the house.”
Wodehouse, as ever, hits the nail on the proverbial. Whether you’re talking about men who have been chucked, like Archilochus, weak men (Claudius), debauched men (Caligula) or powerful men (Julius Caesar), the Romans got there first, and gave modern writers an archetype to play with.
It’s no wonder that the head of MI5 also said that he had seen lots of security chiefs like Sulla (a Roman general known for his cunning), in despotic regimes across the world. Republican and Imperial Rome was seething with characters jockeying for position in the ancient city’s complex military and political hierarchies.
So, want a parallel for Louise Shackleton, David Miliband’s wife, incensed at her brother-in-law’s decision to enter the Labour leadership race? Well, you could do worse than Livia, the ambitious power behind several imperial thrones; Augustus’s third wife, mother to Tiberius, grandmother to Claudius, great-great grandmother to Nero.
Margaret Thatcher has often been compared to the British rebel queen Boadicea. And David Cameron could be any one of a dozen confident emperors, born to the purple (the colour of the toga worn by emperors, consuls and generals). Throw in the power of myth – mostly, admittedly, Greek myth, adapted by the Romans – and you can see how classical tales are so easily revived, and so memorable, particularly to the minds of children.
The battles between the gods, the Trojan horse, the endless wanderings of Odysseus, the hell of King Midas turning everything he touches to gold, the 12 Labours of Hercules… Ancient myths are beautifully structured stories. They follow peaks and troughs, just like the plot arcs of the Hollywood scriptwriter ruthlessly trained in the art of story-telling.
It means classical stories jump effortlessly from papyrus to cinema screen. And it also means that those stories have kept on jumping to cinema screens, even as the study of classics has declined in recent years (although the number of state schools doing Latin has doubled in the past decade).
Roman history and literature can survive the unthinking attacks of former education secretaries Ed Balls (“Very few businesses are asking for Latin”) and Charles Clarke (“Education for education’s sake is a bit dodgy”). Everyone gets Rome, because the Romans got everywhere.
Roman history is far enough in the past that you can play around with it for your own modern purposes; you can recycle it into good or trashy stuff without straining the original sources too much. But it’s also recent enough that you can see the direct Roman influence on so many things – on our politics, architecture, literature and, most of all, the English language – while still being astounded by the savagery that accompanied all that civilisation.
Tell a child about lions tearing bleeding chunks out of gladiator slaves, and you’ve got them hooked on Rome for life. They don’t need to know the pluperfect subjunctive second person plural of amo to appreciate the thrills of the Colosseum. Nice, though, if they can learn that, too.