‘Last resort’ osteoporosis drug is ’17 times better than standard treatment’
This is an utter disgrace. People are being denied the only drug which can in fact restore their health. And a major effect of the ban will be to require other medical interventions — which will certainly cost more than the drug. Sheer bureaucratic stupidity
A drug considered a last resort in the fight against osteoporosis is 17 times more effective than the standard initial treatment, an international study has found.
Protelos is radically different from other therapies because it promotes the growth of fresh bone rather than just preventing deterioration. But under NHS guidelines it is a ‘third-line’ treatment, meaning patients with bone thinning or a fracture are not allowed it until two other approaches have been tried. In most cases, symptoms also have to worsen before they qualify.
The new research compared the effectiveness of Protelos with the ‘standard’ – but much cheaper – first-line treatment alendronate, from a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Doctors found that samples from women taking Protelos for six months contained almost 14 times more new bone than those on alendronate – around 3 per cent compared with 0.2 per cent. Following a year of treatment with Protelos, also known as strontium ranelate, the bone growth was 17 times greater.
Samples from 268 post-menopausal women with osteoporosis in several countries were analysed for the study, led by doctors at Hopital Edouard Herriot, Lyon. Their results were presented at the European Congress on Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis in Valencia, Spain.
Osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and brittle, affects around three million in the UK and the study was welcomed by medical experts.
Professor Roger Francis, of Newcastle University, said: ‘Helping patients to build new bone is an important goal in the treatment of osteoporosis. ‘These results are so important as strontium ranelate is a proven drug already available on the NHS. ‘This study clearly suggests strontium ranelate helps patients to build new bone to a far greater extent than alendronate, the current standard of care.’
Despite protests from doctors and campaigners, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence last year restricted first-line treatment for women at risk of osteoporosis, or having suffered a fracture, to alendronate. But a quarter of patients do not respond or suffer crippling stomach side effects.
A woman in her early 70s unable to tolerate alendronate has to become 20 per cent worse to qualify for second-line medication – and 60 per cent worse to be eligible for Protelos.
Protelos treatment costs £300 a year compared with £50 for alendronate. But campaigners say it has fewer side effects and the price compares well with the £12,000 bill for fixing a broken hip.
Phonics: British chidren to identify ‘non-words’ in new reading test
I at first thought that the use of non-words was absurd but I can now see the point. It reminds me of an amusing episode in my own childhood when I was in grade 2. The class was asked to close their books and recite the story we had been reading. I was the only one who could not. Much to the surprise of the other pupils, I was praised for that. I was the only one who had actually been reading. The others were memorizing. The non-words mentioned below would check on that — JR
All children will be subjected to a reading test at the age of six, it was announced today, despite huge opposition from teachers. Ministers are pressing ahead with a trial of a new-style phonics test designed to identify pupils lagging behind after a year of compulsory education.
Children in English state schools will be asked to read a list of 40 words as part of an informal assessment administered by teachers. The test will include a number of made-up words such as “koob” or “zort” in a move designed to ensure pupils can decode unfamiliar words using phonics – the system that breaks down words into individual sounds.
But the move has been criticised by the UK Literacy Association who claim non-words will leave children confused. Almost two thirds of respondents to an official Government consultation also opposed the decision.
Unions have criticised the tests, insisting the focus on phonics will straightjacket teachers and prevent them employing different methods to improve reading standards.
But ministers insisted they would press on with the assessments after a small-scale trial in 16 primary schools. A larger pilot project will be introduced in 300 schools this summer before a national roll-out in 2012.
Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister, said: “Learning to read is a fundamental part of a child’s education. “The new check will ensure that children who need extra help are given the support they need to enable them to enjoy a lifetime’s love of reading.” He added: “Almost all pupils and teachers in the pre-trialling thought the test materials were appropriate.
“The 270 pupils involved did not find the non-words confusing, and so the phonics check will contain some non-words. They are already used in many schools and are the fairest way to assess phonic decoding. “Non-words show which children have the knowledge to read any new word, rather than pupils who have already developed a wide vocabulary or a good sight memory.”
Monbiot discovers reality
The original moonbat himself
You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.
A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting(1). Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.
Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com(2). It shows that the average total dose from the Three-Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.
If other forms of energy production caused no damage, these impacts would weigh more heavily. But energy is like medicine: if there are no side-effects, the chances are that it doesn’t work.
Like most greens, I favour a major expansion of renewables. I can also sympathise with the complaints of their opponents. It’s not just the onshore windfarms that bother people, but also the new grid connections (pylons and power lines). As the proportion of renewable electricity on the grid rises, more pumped storage will be needed to keep the lights on. That means reservoirs on mountains: they aren’t popular either.
The impacts and costs of renewables rise with the proportion of power they supply, as the need for both storage and redundancy increases. It may well be the case (I have yet to see a comparative study) that up to a certain grid penetration – 50 or 70% perhaps? – renewables have smaller carbon impacts than nukes, while beyond that point, nukes have smaller impacts than renewables.
Like others, I have called for renewable power to be used both to replace the electricity produced by fossil fuel and to expand the total supply, displacing the oil used for transport and the gas used for heating fuel. Are we also to demand that it replaces current nuclear capacity? The more work we expect renewables to do, the greater the impacts on the landscape will be, and the tougher the task of public persuasion.
But expanding the grid to connect people and industry to rich, distant sources of ambient energy is also rejected by most of the greens who complained about the blog post I wrote last week(3). What they want, they tell me, is something quite different: we should power down and produce our energy locally. Some have even called for the abandonment of the grid. Their bucolic vision sounds lovely, until you read the small print.
At high latitudes like ours, most small-scale ambient power production is a dead loss. Generating solar power in the UK involves a spectacular waste of scarce resources(4,5). It’s hopelessly inefficient and poorly matched to the pattern of demand. Wind power in populated areas is largely worthless. This is partly because we have built our settlements in sheltered places; partly because turbulence caused by the buildings interferes with the airflow and chews up the mechanism. Micro-hydropower might work for a farmhouse in Wales; it’s not much use in Birmingham.
And how do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways – not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels? The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production. A national (or, better still, international) grid is the essential prerequisite for a largely renewable energy supply.
Some greens go even further: why waste renewable resources by turning them into electricity? Why not use them to provide energy directly? To answer this question, look at what happened in Britain before the industrial revolution.
The damming and weiring of British rivers for watermills was small-scale, renewable, picturesque and devastating. By blocking the rivers and silting up the spawning beds, they helped bring to an end the gigantic runs of migratory fish that were once among our great natural spectacles and which fed much of Britain: wiping out sturgeon, lampreys and shad as well as most seatrout and salmon(6).
Traction was intimately linked with starvation. The more land that was set aside for feeding draft animals for industry and transport, the less was available for feeding humans. It was the 17th-Century equivalent of today’s biofuels crisis. The same applied to heating fuel. As EA Wrigley points out in his new book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, the 11 million tonnes of coal mined in England in 1800 produced as much energy as 11 million acres of woodland (one third of the land surface) would have generated(7).
Before coal became widely available, wood was used not just for heating homes but also for industrial processes: if half the land surface of Britain had been covered with woodland, Wrigley shows, we could have made 1.25 million tonnes of bar iron a year (a fraction of current consumption(8)) and nothing else(9). Even with a much lower population than today’s, manufactured goods in the land-based economy were the preserve of the elite. Deep green energy production – decentralised, based on the products of the land – is far more damaging to humanity than nuclear meltdown.
But the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power(10,11). Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast(12).
Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.
Catalogue of appalling blunders by politically-correct British police let the Night Stalker claim 500 victims
But there is no shortage of zeal in policing thought crimes, of course. And golliwog owners are cracked down on immediately
An appalling catalogue of police blunders allowed ‘Night Stalker’ Delroy Grant to carry out sex attacks on 500 elderly people in a reign of terror spanning two decades. He should have been stopped in his tracks 12 years ago, when police were given his car registration number. There were two further positive identifications in 2001 and 2003.
But ‘basic policing errors’ allowed the Jamaican-born predator to continue raping and assaulting vulnerable pensioners after stalking them and breaking into their homes at night – often cutting their telephone lines and electricity cables.
Detectives believe the 53-year-old’s tally of victims could even be as high as 1,000. Many of the elderly men and women on whom he preyed have either died or are too traumatised, ashamed or confused to come forward.
The shocking revelation that the one-time Jehovah’s Witness could be Britain’s most prolific sex attacker came yesterday as Grant faced a sentence which could see him die in prison. A judge warned him the jail term would be ‘very long indeed’ after a jury convicted him of 29 specimen charges by a 10-2 majority.
They rejected the ‘ludicrous’ assertion that his ex-wife planted his DNA at the crime scenes to ‘frame’ him for a wave of attacks which terrorised old people in south London, Kent and Surrey from the early 1990s.
One of the victims – a grey-haired woman he indecently assaulted in her home – stared at him through opera glasses from the back of Woolwich Crown Court as the verdicts were delivered.
Grant – who refuses to admit his crimes or offer any explanation – simply shook his head. In a corner of the court, a policewoman sobbed into her hand.
The massive manhunt dedicated to finding the Night Stalker was riddled with a series of errors, oversights and ‘simple misunderstandings’ which critically undermined it, a formal inquiry concluded yesterday.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said the mistakes and confusion ‘had horrific consequences’. Some of the bungles proved to be catastrophic. In May 1999 an elderly woman was burgled in Bromley, Kent. A Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator told police she had seen a black man putting on gloves and walking towards the house. She gave details of his car, including the registration number.
Detectives ran a trace on it which showed it was registered to Delroy Easton Grant’s wife Jennifer at their home nearby. When the name ‘Delroy Grant’ was fed to police computer databases, it identified six people of that name. One Delroy Grant, in London, showed a burglary conviction. For a moment, it looked as if the hunt could be over. But a DNA sample taken from this man, which eliminated him from the inquiry, somehow became assigned to Delroy Easton Grant’s profile.
Although a detective did visit Delroy and Jennifer Grant’s home to check on his movements on the night of the burglary, Delroy was out – and no follow-up action was taken. Had his DNA been taken that day, he would have been identified instantly as the Night Stalker rapist.
In 2001, a BBC Crimewatch appeal prompted a call saying an e-fit picture resembled Delroy Grant. Investigations were carried out – but Delroy Easton Grant was wrongly eliminated by the 1999 DNA blunder.
In 2003, an elderly woman attacked by Grant scratched him in the struggle and got some of his DNA under her fingernails. She told police her attacker looked like one of the minicab drivers at a local firm she used. In fact Grant did work for that firm – but he was never interviewed.
He was not caught until November 2009 after his car was captured on CCTV near a crime scene in Croydon.
Commander Simon Foy, head of the Metropolitan Police homicide and serious crime command, issued an apology to victims and their families for the ‘missed opportunity’ to catch him, and for ‘the trauma suffered by all those victims and our failure to bring Grant to justice earlier’.
He added: ‘Grant is a rapist who preyed upon the most vulnerable section of society. He has never given any explanation for his offending and we may never know why he did it.’
“A promotion for a lads’ holiday to Ayia Napa [in Cyprus] showing a woman clad in a skimpy bikini alongside the text ‘awesome views’ has been slammed by a watchdog. The photograph, which was displayed in the window of a men’s clothing shop, featured only the woman’s chest.
The images sparked a host of complaints on the grounds they were ‘offensive’ and ‘objectified women’.
The firm claimed it had received only a small number of objections which it said could be resolved by removing part of the imagery. But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the promotion could not appear again in the same form.
‘We considered that the image was likely to cause serious offence to some and was not suitable to be displayed in an untargeted medium where it could be seen by children.’