Breakthrough MS pill rejected as too expensive by NHS watchdog (but you can get it in U.S and Germany)
The first pill to treat MS could be banned for use by NHS patients because it’s ‘too expensive’. The once-a-day pill fingolimod cuts by half the relapses that can lead to people being increasingly disabled, and experts hoped it would replace injections and hospital infusions for thousands of sufferers.
Until now, many people with Multiple Sclerosis have had to self inject at least weekly or travel to hospital for infusions.
But the NHS rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), says it is not value for money despite criticism over how it reached its verdict.
The MS Society said sufferers would be better off living almost anywhere else in Europe because access to new treatments is so poor in the UK – it is ranked 13th out of 14 countries in terms of getting advanced care.
The charity and the drug manufacturer Novartis plan to appeal the provisional Nice decision.
MS is the most common disabling neurological condition, affecting almost 100,000 Britons – 50 young people are diagnosed each week. It involves damage to myelin, a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system which means the body’s immune system attacks itself.
Symptoms range from mild, occasional illness involving numbness, muscle weakness and eye problems to rapid and severe deterioration, resulting in serious disability.
Dr Eli Silber, consultant neurologist who leads an MS service for South London based at King’s College Hospital said ‘This is disappointing and I hope Nice will review its draft decision.
‘The computer models used to determine cost effectiveness don’t take into account the significant amount of money that would be spent on patients at the end of life with severe disability, when there isn’t much we can do.
‘MS often affects young people, with families and work, and this decision denies them the opportunity to have the risk of disability reduced at a much earlier stage.’
Experts believe the drug, which is the first oral treatment, has the potential to be one of the most significant advances for a decade. Trial results in the New England Journal of Medicine last year show fingolimod, also known as Gilenya, cuts relapse rates and holds back progression of the disease.
Patients treated with fingolimod had a 50 per cent cut in disabling relapses compared with commonly used injections of beta interferon. The chances of progressing to a worse form of the disease were cut by about a third, without significant side effects. The new drug appears to dampen the immune response that causes nerve damage in multiple sclerosis.
The £19,000 annual cost of the drug compares with the £21,000 annual cost of hospital infusions using Tysabri, but is more expensive than interferon injections ranging from £6,000 – £8,000 a year.
However, MS specialists say the drug could make overall savings for the NHS, because fewer patients would need hospital treatment costing £3,000 a time after relapse and disability is lessened….
Professor Carole Longson, director of the Health technology evaluation centre at Nice said ‘While it’s important that people with multiple sclerosis have treatment options, Nice has to ensure that the NHS provides treatments that bring benefits that are value for money.
‘Unfortunately our independent committee wasn’t given sufficient evidence to show that fingolimod could reduce relapses considerably better than the other treatments currently being used. ‘Based on the available clinical evidence and economic analysis, our independent committee concluded that fingolimod would not be effective good use of NHS resources.’
EYE DRUG APPEAL
Four UK charities are appealing against a decision to ban a drug that could lead to thousands of people with diabetes needlessly losing their sight.
Lucentis was launched earlier this year for the treatment of diabetic macular oedema (DMO), which affects around 50,000 Britons causing problems with reading, driving and recognising faces.
Previously laser treatment was used to stabilise the condition which if left untreated causes 30 per cent of patients to go blind, but clinical trials show Lucentis can help reverse vision loss for some patients.
But the NHS rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), has decided the drug is not ‘an effective use of NHS resources’ and proposes to ban it.
Nice tried to ban Lucentis before, when it was initially used for wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, in 2007, with a decision that meant patients had to go blind in one eye first but was forced into a U-turn after thousands of protests.
The charities Diabetes UK, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Macular Disease Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) say the latest proposal to ban the drug was made without proper consultation and Nice should be trying to find a solution allowing diabetic patients to get it on the NHS.
Lucentis costs around £750 per injection, although a patient access scheme for AMD patients capped the cost to the NHS at £10,400 for 14 injections or more.
The charities are arguing that they and other key stakeholders have not been able to comment on significant new evidence submitted to Nice by the drug’s manufacturer Novartis.
The charities are calling for a proper consultation allowing stakeholders to submit their evaluations.
Steve Winyard, RNIB head of policy and campaigns said at least 5,000 diabetic patients a year could be eligible for the drug, which has a better chance of saving their sight than existing treatment. He said ‘Patients at risk of losing their sight have a right to expect that a full review of all the available information takes place.’
The charities are also urging the drug manufacturer, the Department of Health and Nice to reconsider the option of a Patient Access Scheme. Simon O’Neill, Director of Care and Advocacy at Diabetes UK, said ‘It is vital people with diabetes are able to access this treatment on the NHS.’
A Novartis spokesman said the company had submitted a patient access scheme to Nice and the Department of Health and is continuing negotiations to achieve a ‘mutually agreeable solution, which will ultimately benefit patients’.
Distinguished old lady dies after doctors miss her broken NECK and send her home without an X-ray
A former school inspector died after hospital medics didn’t notice she had fractured her neck. Pensioner Joan Mary North, known as Mary, complained of severe neck pain but was discharged in agony without an x-ray, an inquest heard. The 82-year-old, who was a long-serving member of the Conservative Party, had received an OBE for services to politics and education.
The cause of death from the autopsy was given as a heart attack, but the fractured odontoid neck pain was given as a contributing factor.
Mrs North suffered a fractured odontoid peg – part of the spine – after a fall on March 19. An outpatient appointment with a physiotherapist revealed the fracture and she was readmitted in April 5 and died in hospital on April 13.
Mrs North, a former president of the Croydon Conservative Federation, was admitted to Croydon University Hospital’s accident and emergency department the same day but doctors said she did not need an X-ray and she was discharged.
Mrs North was a domestic science teacher before she became a schools inspector and her dedication was rewarded with an OBE in 1997 for her services to politics and education.
At an inquest into her death a Croydon Coroner’s Court last week, her friend Shirley Trimmer described the agony Mrs North was in when she was being discharged. She said: ‘I watched my friend die in the most ghastly situation imaginable and it could have been stopped if she had been admitted.’
Croydon University Hospital chief executive Nick Hulme wrote to Mrs Trimmer to apologise for not dealing with Mrs North’s pain sufficiently.
Mrs Trimmer said Mrs North should have been kept in overnight ‘if only for the shock’, which meant somebody would have noticed the fractured neck. She said: ‘She was terribly upset. She said “they are going to send me home” and I thought they had made a mistake. ‘She was saying “my neck hurts so badly, please do something” but the nurse was adamant.’
Mrs Trimmer hoped the inquest would mean the same mistakes were not made again.
Chief executive Mr Hulme said the doctors carried out a five point Nexus test to see if Mrs North’s neck needed an X-ray and results indicated she did not.
He added Mrs North could move her neck 45 degrees in both directions and this contributed to the decision to discharge her. But he admitted she was experiencing a lot of pain and she should not have been discharged.
Gavin Marsh, medical director at the hospital, told the inquest the accident and emergency department gets 400 patients a day and cannot admit them all. He said the proviso was that if the condition gets worse then come back to hospital. He said: ‘The prediction was that Mary’s pain would go away in a day or two and she will be fine but that did not happen.’
He blamed fewer beds and performance markers putting pressure on how many people can be admitted, saying 20 years ago this would not have happened.
Mr Hulme said staff involved in the case had been ‘re-educated’ about how to deal with similar situations.
Dr Roy Palmer, Croydon coroner, read a report from Mrs North’s GP which showed she had suffered from multiple health problems including heart disease.
The British primary school where just FOUR pupils out of nearly 500 speak English as mother tongue
A School with more than 400 pupils has only four for whom English is their mother tongue. In one of Britain’s most extreme cases, it has emerged that less than 1 per cent of pupils at Bradford Moor Community Primary School speak English as their first language.
The school is in one of the city’s most deprived areas, and 90 per cent of the 417 pupils are from Pakistan. Many arrive at the school unable to speak a word of English.
A leading think-tank said it was a worrying sign that cities were becoming ‘racially segregated’ and leading ‘parallel lives’, while MPs described the situation as ‘unacceptable’.
Almost one million children in the UK speak English as a second language. Last month, the Mail reported on St Matthew’s Primary School in Redhill, Surrey, where pupils can speak 44 languages.
A snapshot survey of Bradford’s primary schools revealed that more than half of pupils spoke English as a second language. In three schools, fewer than ten children spoke English as their native tongue.
Last night Shipley MP Philip Davies criticised parents who allowed their children to start school with scant knowledge of their adopted home’s language. He said: ‘This is a totally unacceptable situation that primary schools find themselves in. ‘Primary schools have got to presume that children can at least communicate in some form. Teachers are having to start with one hand tied behind their backs. ‘For me it is one of the key factors as to why Bradford so under-performs nationally on education.’
Official figures show that nearly 17 per cent of pupils in state-funded primary schools did not speak English as a first language last year, up from 12 per cent in 2006.
Dr David Green, of independent think-tank Civitas, said the language barrier was creating ‘dangerous divisions’ in society. He said: ‘Children cannot even start to get an education if they do not even speak the same language as the teacher. ‘It is also not fair on the 1 per cent of children who do speak English because their lessons will be compromised.
‘The only long-term solution is that people should not be allowed into Britain if they don’t speak English.’ Razwana Mahmood, the chairman of Bradford Moor’s governors’ board, is a former pupil and did not speak English when he started. On the school’s website, he writes: ‘I remember very clearly my first day at school and everything the teachers said to me. ‘Nothing unusual you might think, except, I had only just arrived from Pakistan and could not speak a single word of English.
‘My teachers were very kind to me. They offered me words of reassurance and went out of their way to comfort me as I was so distraught. Years later, when I had a better understanding of the English language, it all fell into place.’ He says that despite ‘most of our children still starting school unable to speak much English’, this has never been considered a ‘hindrance’.
The school holds several ‘booster’ classes every week to help pupils with their English and is understood to have teaching assistants to help the students with their language skills.
One former Asian pupil, who attended Bradford Moor in the mid-1990s, said: ‘When I was at school there, there were white kids speaking to us in Urdu or Punjabi. ‘Many kids were embarrassed to speak their own language. I had one white friend who could speak Punjabi fluently. ‘Bradford is full of Asians and their first language is always going to be Urdu or Punjabi.’
In a 2009 Ofsted report, inspectors noted that ‘most pupils enter school with either little or no English and are weak in home language development.’
How are the self-righteous fallen! Journalist at “The Guardian” admits phone hacking
THE British phone-hacking saga deepened as it was revealed that the assistant editor of The Guardian – the newspaper that originally uncovered the scandal – admitted hacking into telephone messages and getting a “thrill” from it.
In an article written for the media section of the newspaper in 2006, David Leigh said he hacked into private voicemails in order to explose “bribery and corruption,” not “witless tittle-tattle.”
Leigh, a Guardian executive, wrote the article after News of the World (NotW) royal editor Clive Goodman pleaded guilty to phone hacking, a crime for which he was later jailed. He wrote, “I’ve used some of those questionable methods myself over the years. I, too, once listened to the mobile phone messages of a corrupt arms company executive – the crime similar to that for which Goodman now faces the prospect of jail.”
The journalist said the trick was “simple” as the businessman in question had left his voicemail pin code on a print-out.
Leigh added, “There is certainly a voyeuristic thrill in hearing another person’s private messages. But unlike Goodman, I was not interested in witless tittle-tattle about the royal family.” He also admitted to blagging – pretending to be someone else on the phone – to get stories and added, “As for actually breaking the law? Well, it is hard to keep on the right side of legality on all occasions.”
The article came to light as it emerged that several alleged victims of phone hacking will soon file lawsuits against a second newspaper group, Piers Morgan’s former employer, Trinity Mirror. The victims’ lawyer, Mark Lewis, said the claims would be filed in a few weeks but did not disclose his clients’ identities.
So far, the phone-hacking scandal centered on Rupert Murdoch’s News International newspaper group, leading him to shut down the NotW.
Another false sex claim from Britain
A businessman has been awarded record costs of £100,000 against a former employee who made false allegations of sexual harassment. Debbie Smith claimed she was forced out of her job after Tim Watts, chairman of the Pertemps recruitment agency, called her a ‘sexy nurse’ as part of a stream of ‘degrading and offensive’ comments.
Mr Watts, 62, said: ‘These vexatious spongers have to be taught a lesson. And she has been, big time. ‘Like many others, Debbie Smith no doubt thought she could secure an easy bung. Most companies, even when they are in the right, which I would submit tends to be the majority of the time, settle such disputes because of the spiralling cost of fighting them. ‘Not me. I have never taken a backward step in my life. My reputation means everything to me, and I wasn’t having it. I wanted the truth to come out. And it did.’
Mother-of-three Mrs Smith was sacked as the £90,000-a-year managing director of a subsidiary of Pertemps, P Investments, after it lost £250,000. She sued for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and victimisation.
Mr Watts maintained there was no truth in the allegations, which he said were made in ‘pique and anger’ following Mrs Smith’s dismissal, and the claims were branded ‘vexatious and frivolous’ by a Birmingham tribunal in March.
It ruled that 50-year-old Mrs Smith had been ‘out to get’ Mr Watts, and said she made her allegations to try to force a payout after the ‘catastrophic’ failure of the subsidiary venture.
Last month the tribunal ordered Mrs Smith to pay P Investments £100,000. Mr Watts had initially claimed £250,000, but settled for less than half that rather than see his accuser go bankrupt. The previous highest costs award is thought to be £67,000.
Mr Watts, whose fortune is estimated at £35million, said small firms and charities were ‘groaning under the burden of complying with employment law that encourages employees to misrepresent themselves as victims of discrimination whenever their poor performance or behaviour is tackled’. He added: ‘The Debbie Smiths of this world should never get to the starting block.’
Victory for common sense in Britain
Girl paralysed after diving into her friend’s swimming pool loses £6m damages claim after judge says owner ‘didn’t need warning signs in his own home’
A teenager who was paralysed in a swimming accident at a late-night party lost her £6million compensation bid yesterday. Kylie Grimes was left paralysed from the chest down after hitting her head diving into a pool at a friend’s house when she was 18.
A High Court judge said she had suffered ‘catastrophic’ consequences from the misjudged dive, but ruled it would not be fair to allow her to sue the pool’s owner – her friend’s father – for £6million in compensation.
Mrs Justice Thirlwall said: ‘She was an adult. She did something which carried an obvious risk. She chose, voluntarily, to dive when, how and where she did, knowing the risks involved.’
Miss Grimes, now 23, hit the bottom of the pool with such force that she broke a vertebra below the base of her neck. She has lost the use of her arms and legs and is confined to a wheelchair. An ‘accomplished swimmer’ before the accident, she had drunk three or four small glasses of wine before the dive, but was not drunk.
Other teenagers at the party, at the home of businessman David Hawkins, were jumping and ‘bombing’ into the 30ft heated indoor pool, the High Court in London was told.
Mr Hawkins, who runs a forklift truck business, and his wife were not at home on the night of the party in August 2006. They had given permission for their 18-year-old daughter Katie to invite two friends to stay the night, and later said another two friends could stay. But around 20 teenagers ended up at the house in an exclusive area of Farnham, Surrey, after Miss Hawkins met up with friends from her sixth-form college at a nearby pub. Miss Hawkins insisted she had only invited five people she knew well and told the court: ‘Everyone else just turned up.’
Some of the youngsters had been drinking, and there was a ‘party atmosphere’ at the house, worth an estimated £1.5million.
The court heard that Miss Hawkins had handed a bikini top and tracksuit bottoms to Miss Grimes so she could go swimming.
The teenager, a keen horse rider and school athlete, swam for around 30 minutes before getting out, then re-entered the pool in a ‘shallow racing dive’. The judge said the dive must have been steeper than she thought, as she hit the bottom and immediately told friends her legs were not working properly.
Miss Grimes was taken to hospital but despite doctors’ efforts she was left tetraplegic. She can only move with the aid of a specialised wheelchair.
Miss Grimes sued Mr Hawkins claiming he was negligent because there were no signs warning against diving. Her lawyers said the combination of a teenage party and an unlocked swimming pool was ‘a recipe for disaster’.
But lawyers for Mr Hawkins said there was no legal requirement for such signs on a private pool and that other people, including his own teenage daughters, had dived there safely. Mrs Justice Thirlwall threw out the negligence claim, saying: ‘It would not be fair, just or reasonable.’
She said diving into a pool always carried an inherent danger, adding: ‘Every adult of normal intelligence knows it. The claimant in this case knew it.’
Miss Grimes has also launched legal proceedings against Frimley Park Hospital NHS Trust, which has admitted breach of duty over her treatment but denies that its actions made her injuries worse. That case has yet to be heard.
Brainless British school authorities
British bureaucrats just love finding excuses to put other people out.
When her seven-year-old daughter complained of dry lips, Joanne Wilkins gave her a tiny tin of Vaseline to apply at school. But when Ellie-Maye went to use it, it was confiscated – because it is not a prescribed medicine.
And when Mrs Wilkins queried the decision, she was told if she wanted her daughter to moisturise her lips, she would need to take her out of school to apply the Vaseline.
‘This is health and safety gone mad,’ said Mrs Wilkins, 28, a project manager, yesterday. ‘Where has common sense gone? I can’t believe how my daughter was humiliated. ‘This harmless ointment was taken away in front of all her friends. She was made to feel naughty and as a result was close to tears – all over a tiny pot of Vaseline.’
Mrs Wilkins took advice over her daughter’s dry lips from her pharmacist. She said: ‘She recommended Vaseline Lip Therapy. It is the basic original Vaseline – just petroleum jelly – and is colourless and odourless. ‘She could apply it as often as she wished and it comes in a tiny pocket-sized tin that Ellie-Maye could easily carry in her schoolbag.
‘In fact, Ellie-Maye needed help opening the tin and the first teacher of the day helped her and had no problem with the Vaseline at all. But at lunchtime, when she went to apply the Vaseline again, a second teacher she asked to help open it said she shouldn’t have it in school at all. ‘Then in front of all Ellie-Maye’s friends, she took it away.’
The next day, puzzled as to why the Vaseline had been confiscated, Mrs Wilkins went to see Graham Prince, headmaster of Wistaston Church Lane Primary School near her home in Sandbach, Cheshire.
Mrs Wilkins, who also has a son Issac, two months, with her husband Nick, said: ‘Ellie-Maye was really upset and I thought there must be some mistake. ‘But he just confirmed that unless the Vaseline was prescribed then she was not allowed to use it in school.
‘I was shocked – especially when he suggested one way round it was to “medicate” Ellie-Maye by taking her out of school. ‘Alternatively, I could come to the school to apply it. I thought this was ridiculous that I would be expected to find time off work or that Ellie-Maye’s education should suffer in some way.
‘Anyone of any age can buy Vaseline in the supermarket. As she had my permission to use it and you don’t even need to buy it from a chemist, it seemed such an over-the-top reaction.’
Mrs Wilkins has now been forced to have the Vaseline prescribed with a doctor’s note – at a cost of £15. She said: ‘My GP said that as it wasn’t a medicine and doesn’t need to be prescribed, it shouldn’t be done under the NHS. It would therefore need a private doctor’s note.
‘It seemed ridiculous as the little tin to buy costs under £1. However, as Ellie-Maye still suffers from dry lips and I don’t want her to suffer, I’ve had no choice.’
Last night the school head refused to comment. However, a spokesman from Cheshire East Council said on behalf of the school: ‘The school has to be one hundred per cent certain that any ointment or medication that a child brings into school is safe to use.
‘Our school policy sets out that any type of oral ointment or medicine to be self-administered in school should be prescribed by a physician. ‘Our only interest is the protection of children in our care and it is with this in mind that we applied our school policy.’ [Rubbish!]
Green taxes to pay subsidies ‘will cost up to 30,000 jobs’, British report warns
Green plans to boost renewable energy will destroy up to 30,000 British jobs, according to a hard-hitting report.
David Cameron and his ministers have repeatedly claimed that raising green taxes to pay for subsidies for low carbon technologies such as wind farms will boost economic growth and create 70,000 ‘green collar’ jobs.
But that claim has been torpedoed by John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, an independent group that studies the green energy industry.
He said the Prime Minister’s hopes were ‘staggeringly far-fetched’ and warned that the subsidies will put people on the dole and lead to higher energy prices. Mr Constable studied the EU-wide subsidies and concluded that Spain will generate huge numbers of green jobs while workers and consumers in the UK are hit hard.
‘Green economic policies mean more pain than gain for Britain,’ he concluded. ‘The “green economy” will drain investment from other sectors, making Britons pay more for electricity indefinitely and live less productive lives with access to fewer jobs.’
Mr Constable’s findings are a blow for Mr Cameron, who has made pushing renewable energy a centrepiece of his campaign to detoxify the Tory Party since he became leader six years ago.
The report, entitled The Green Mirage, exposes the colossal scale of public subsidies for renewable energy and warns that by propping up many of these schemes, ministers have simply ‘picked losers’ and prevented the development of more cost-effective ways of generating energy.
It says the UK’s £5billion subsidy to renewable electricity generators in the eight years to 2010 was the equivalent of paying every worker in the wind industry £230,000. Each job in the wind industry was subsidised to the tune of £54,000 last year.
The Green Mirage quotes models developed for the European Commission which suggested that the EU’s climate policies will have only ‘slight’ benefits for GDP and employment by 2020, but that these will not be felt by Britain.
The Commission’s study suggested that Spain would gain 120,000 jobs under current green policies, rising to more than 150,000 if subsidies are increased, the report said.
But Britain stands to lose 10,000 jobs under the current anti-global warming regime, potentially rising to 30,000 if policies are speeded up.
Mr Constable said: ‘Continuing to subsidise renewables will impose high costs on the rest of the economy. This will result in net job losses and loss of international competitiveness.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘Increasing the amount of renewable energy we produce in Britain won’t only help our energy security, but will create new business and job opportunities for the economy.’
A spokesman for industry body RenewablesUK said the figures used by Mr Constable were not a reliable guide.
Developments over the past decade were largely focused on onshore wind technology, where the UK had been left behind. But in the coming years, investment was expected to be directed towards offshore wind, where Britain is set to be a market leader.