Don’t give out cancer drugs if it’s just to extend life: Treatment costs can’t be justified, say British experts
In statistician’s terms, the issue here is not the mean but the variance. Some people get very little benefit from the drugs while others have their life substantially extended. And the only way you can find out which is which is by giving the stuff to everyone. They are now however saying to give it to no-one, so in some cases are condemning to death people who could in fact have had many more years of life. But that’s socialism. The individual doesn’t matter. One size fits all
Patients with terminal cancer should not be given life-extending drugs, doctors said yesterday. The treatments give false hope and are too costly for the public purse, they warned. The group of 37 cancer experts, including British specialist Karol Sikora, claimed a ‘culture of excess’ had led doctors to ‘overtreat, overdiagnose and overpromise’.
Campaigners dismissed the report, saying it was wrong to write off cancer victims. ‘I would hardly call this type of treatment futile,’ said Rose Woodward, of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer. ‘We have kidney cancer patients on a life-prolonging drug called Sutent who have been told they have only two to three weeks to live but who go on to live for a further five years.’
Around 310,000 Britons a year are diagnosed with cancer. But by 2030 this is expected to have risen to 400,000 as an ageing population succumbs to the disease. The NHS spends well over £5billion annually on cancer treatments, up from £3billion in 2002.
In the journal Lancet Oncology, the expert group warned many of the costly drugs produced by manufacturers brought little value. They said patients were offered treatment even where there was little evidence it was of use. Instead, money should be invested in better scans and tests to determine whether a tumour is beatable, leaving ‘difficult decisions’ as to who gets treatment.
‘We clearly would want to spare the patient the toxicity and false hope associated with such treatment, as well as the expense,’ the experts told the European multidisciplinary cancer congress in Stockholm.
The doctors point out that many patients do not want to spend their final days undergoing exhausting chemotherapy in hospital and would rather be at home surrounded by loved ones.
But a spokesman for the Rarer Cancers Foundation said: ‘Describing all treatments near the end of life as futile is tantamount to writing patients off. ‘Just because they cannot be “cured” does not mean that we cannot give them valuable treatment, care and support.’
Ian Beaumont of Bowel Cancer UK said money was not the sole issue. ‘While cancer care can be expensive, it is unjust to put a cost on the lives of patients, especially when modern treatments can often give them precious time with their loved ones and increase their length and quality of life,’ he added.
Only last week a pill for prostate cancer, Abiraterone, was made available in the UK for the first time at a cost of £35,000 a patient. Although on average it only extends lives by a few weeks, some patients survive for five years.
Similarly, Avastin, which is used to treat advanced bowel cancer and some other tumours, was initially thought to extend survival by an average of only six weeks. But some patients are still alive five years later and tumours have not returned.
Barbara Moss was given months to live when she was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer that had spread to her liver in November 2006. She paid for Avastin privately and the drug shrank the tumours so much that they were small enough to be removed by surgery. She lived an extra five years.
Last week Professor Sikora warned that, in future, the best cancer treatments would be the preserve of the rich because they would be too expensive for the Health Service.
The terrorist Britain can’t kick out: Released after half his sentence but still ‘a risk to the public’… the suicide bomb fanatic who’s free to stay – thanks to his “human rights”
A fanatical terrorist has escaped being thrown out of the UK because it would breach his human rights. Hate-filled Siraj Yassin Abdullah Ali, graded the highest possible risk to the public, was released after serving just half of his nine-year sentence for helping the July 21 bombers.
He now mingles freely among the Londoners his co-plotters tried to kill six years ago.
Government officials are desperate to deport the Islamic fundamentalist back to his native Eritrea but have been told they cannot because he could face ‘inhumane treatment or punishment’.
Ali was convicted of helping a gang of five Al Qaeda suicide bombers in their bid to repeat the carnage of the attacks of July 7, 2005, two weeks later.
Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was killed on July 7, said he was ‘filled with despair’. He said: ‘These people were plotting to commit mass murder – what about the human rights of victims and families? ‘These people had no consideration for the women and children they were trying to kill. How can they claim we should look after and support them?’
The case is the latest to highlight how human rights laws have left the authorities powerless to remove some terrorists and convicted criminals.
Imposed human rights laws have left the authorities powerless to remove some terrorists and convicted criminals. Imposed by unaccountable European judges, they place the rights of the most dangerous wrongdoers above the risks faced by ordinary people.
The five would-be suicide bombers were jailed for life after trying to detonate bombs at Shepherd’s Bush, Warren Street and Oval Tube stations and on a bus in Shoreditch.
Ali, 35, knew about the potentially murderous July 21 conspiracy and helped the fanatics clear up their explosives factory.
He was jailed for 12 years in February 2008 for aiding and abetting the Al Qaeda cell. Judge Paul Worsley QC said he must have ‘harboured the hope’ the bombers would ‘destroy society as we know it’.
The sentence was reduced to nine years on appeal and after time Ali spent in jail while awaiting trial was taken into account, he was automatically released on licence several weeks ago. He is now living at a bail hostel on a leafy residential street in north-west London. He has been seen travelling on the Tube and catching buses.
With music headphones plugged into his ears and a bag slung casually across his shoulder, he appeared to be caught on camera chatting on a mobile phone.
It is understood that Ali is being monitored around the clock and must obey a curfew and other conditions, including a ban on using the internet.
He is the second high-risk terrorist linked to the July 21 attacks to win the right to remain in the UK on human rights grounds in recent weeks.
Ismail Abdurahman, 28, who hid would-be bomber Hussain Osman for three days, escaped being deported to his native Somalia after judges feared for his safety. Abdurahman is also living at a bail hostel in London despite the protests of police and Home Office officials.
The release of Ali and Abdurahman underlines the challenges faced by police, probation and MI5. There are fears that they will be stretched to the limit as they try to monitor dozens of freed fanatics in the run-up to the Olympics next year.
Research by one think-tank found that more than 230 people have been convicted of terrorist offences since 2001, but only around 100 remain in prison.
Under Article 3 of both the European Convention on Human Rights, and Labour’s Human Rights Act, individuals are protected against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The clause allows foreign terror suspects to fight deportation on the grounds that they would be tortured in their home countries if returned.
In February, Lord Carlile warned that European judges have turned Britain into a ‘safe haven’ for foreign terrorists.
Tory MP Priti Patel said: ‘This is yet another example of how we have got to abolish this appalling human rights legislation that allows terrorists and violent criminals to waltz out of prison and stay in our country. ‘They should be deported instantly back to where they came from.’
Solicitor Cliff Tibber, who represents the families of several July 7 victims, said: ‘There is no doubt it is uncomfortable for the families to see someone like this back on the streets after what feels like an extremely short period of time.’
A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘We will do everything we can to remove this individual from the UK and are extremely disappointed by the court’s decision to grant bail, which we vigorously opposed. ‘In the meantime, we are working closely with public protection agencies to ensure that appropriate monitoring is in place.’
A Ministry of Justice spokesman insisted that public protection remains ‘top priority’ and that serious offenders face ‘strict’ controls and conditions.
Migration boom DID drive down wages and living standards, admits Labour
Labour’s open-door immigration policy drove down wages and living standards in Britain, party leader Ed Miliband has admitted. He conceded that the last government ‘got it wrong’ on border controls and said that British workers had been ‘undercut’.
The bombshell confession came amid revelations that, when in power, Labour suppressed a string of damaging reports about the impact of mass immigration on the UK. At the time Labour denied claims that migration – in particular the large number of skilled Poles – was making life harder for some British workers.
Mr Miliband conceded: ‘We got it wrong in a number of respects including underestimating the level of immigration from Poland, which had a big effect on people in Britain. ‘What I think people were worried about, in relation to Polish immigration in particular, was that they were seeing their wages, their living standards driven down.
‘Part of the job of government is if you are going to have an open economy within Europe you have got to give that protection to employees so that they don’t see workers coming in and undercutting them.’
However, Labour is still refusing to match the Tory commitment to reduce net migration – the difference between the number leaving the UK and the number of arrivals – to the ‘tens of thousands’.
Mr Miliband told Sky News: ‘I’m not going to make promises that I can’t keep. We need a tough immigration policy but I think free movement of labour is right for Britain.’
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper admitted: ‘We did get things wrong on immigration. ‘We should have had transitional controls on migration from Eastern Europe.’
In a separate development, the Coalition published a string of reports, which cost £165,000 to produce, which ministers claimed had been suppressed by Labour.
The documents, commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government, revealed that immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria had low education levels and were more likely to claim unemployment-related benefits than non-immigrants or other migrant groups in Britain.
Migrants from the two countries were also more likely to have four or more children than those coming to Britain from elsewhere, placing a significant strain on the education system.
Housing Minister Grant Shapps said: ‘This is another disturbing cover-up by a Labour Party that failed on immigration and then tried to bury the truth. ‘This Government is bringing immigration under control to restore public confidence in the system left broken by Labour.’
A splendid example of British hypocrisy
Must not criticise the good and the great. The little people must know their place
The Law Society has been found guilty of discrimination after its executive in charge of promoting disabled workers’ welfare sacked the only full-time member of staff to have a serious disability.
Solicitor Elizabeth Marshall, 44, who has cerebral palsy, won ‘substantial’ compensation at a tribunal after she was made redundant from her role as a policy adviser and speechwriter for the body’s president and chief executive.
She said she was humiliated and shocked when told she was to lose her job after 11 years in the role.
Ms Marshall told the Central London Employment Tribunal she believed the real reason for her dismissal was a series of emails she sent to colleagues who were fellow union members accusing the Law Society of ‘systematic discrimination’.
Six days after she wrote the last email she was summoned to a meeting with the director of corporate responsibility, Stephen Ward, who is also the Law Society’s diversity champion.
It was at this meeting she was told her job had been made redundant. When she complained, she was told that the decision could be justified by sound business reasons.
Ms Marshall claimed she was the only full-time disabled employee at the headquarters of Britain’s most powerful law body in Chancery Lane, Central London.
She added: ‘Unfortunately… I have to take the view that my disability is potentially an issue.’ She said at no time was her performance in her role criticised. To her knowledge the only other disabled workers were two work-experience staff.
The tribunal ruled that the dismissal was unfair and that the society failed in its duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate her disability.
The Law Society, which represents more than 100,000 solicitors and often advises the Government on upholding diversity rights, had denied discrimination. Despite repeated requests for a response to the ruling, the body declined to comment.
The Law Society claims that it ‘is committed to playing a leading role in the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity and diversity in all its activities’.
Pompous British bureaucrat persecutes kind-hearted woman
For 40 years, Joy Bloor has looked after tortoises at her home in St Austell, Cornwall. She’s always done it for love, not money. But now her sanctuary is being threatened with closure after council officials ruled that her 400 tortoises are ‘wild animals’. She has been told that she will be put out of business unless she applies for a zoo licence, which could cost £1,000.
Joy’s Lower Sticker Tortoise Garden has become a popular tourist attraction. Admission was free until the local council decided to make her pay business rates and she had to start charging £3 a head to cover costs.
That was just the beginning of the bureaucratic interference. The council is also insisting that all the tortoises should be tagged with electronic micro-chips. Presumably, officials are worried they might stage a mass break-out and start savaging the cattle on nearby farmland.
Someone at the Town Hall has been watching too many episodes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
If the tortoises did break for the border, it wouldn’t be that difficult rounding them up. The average walking speed of a tortoise is just 0.17 miles an hour. That would give even the slowest-witted council jobsworth ample time to apprehend them and return them to captivity. Some of the tortoises are more than 100 years old. They are hardly likely to go on the rampage across the Cornish countryside.
Joy said: ‘Even if they did escape, they wouldn’t get very far. Our tortoises are fully domesticated and follow us like little dogs. They come when we call them. They couldn’t possibly survive without humans to keep them alive.’
Micro-chipping them would not only be near impossible, because of the thickness of their leathery skin, it could also cause considerable distress and life-threatening trauma in some cases. And what if the tortoises simply retreated into their shells and refused to come out? Would they send for the Black and Decker drills?
The council argues that it has no option other than to force Joy to comply with the provisions of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. Bailiffs have already visited the sanctuary and issued an enforcement order. She is now being threatened with prosecution.
This could become the latest cause celebre, once those Irish ‘travellers’ have finally left their illegal site in Essex.
No doubt Vanessa Redgrave is hot-footing it to Cornwall to save the St Austell 400. I have visions of the tortoises barricading themselves into their sanctuary, chaining themselves to concrete pillars, hoisting the United Nations flag and chanting: ‘Hell. No. We Won’t Go.’
Swampy and his mates are probably steaming down the A30 in a fleet of old Bedford vans to provide reinforcements, while riot police from neighbouring forces tool up and flood into Cornwall, ramping up the overtime. Let the Battle of Lower Sticker commence.
OK, so it’s easy to make fun of this, but for Joy it’s no laughing matter. Why should she have a lifetime of hard work and devotion ruined by block-headed bureaucrats?
All she’s doing is giving a home to domestic pets who either been abandoned or have lost their owners. Where’s harm?
The idea that she’s running some kind of zoo is beyond preposterous. Somehow I can’t see tortoises jumping through hoops or propelling themselves on the flying trapeze.
Most tortoises spend all day mooching around doing very little and hibernate from the end of September to the beginning of March. The sanctuary closes to the public for the winter. There’s not much call for paying three quid to watch tortoises sleep.
Archive image from the Lower Sticker Tortoise Garden
The Lower Sticker Tortoise Garden closes to visitors in the Winter while the tortoises are in hibernation
More to the point, think of the time and taxpayers’ money which has been wasted on this fatuous exercise — the officers’ reports, the site visits, the committee meetings, the legal opinions, the interminable discussions about whether tortoises are domestic pets or ‘wild animals’.
And this at a time when councils across the country are bleating about the ‘cuts’ to essential public services.
Actually, money is the motive force behind all this. First they slapped a massive bill for business rates on Joy, now they want her to buy an expensive zoo licence, call it a grand for cash.
The bold public servant responsible for this vindictive campaign is one Lance Kennedy, who styles himself ‘Cabinet Member’ of Cornwall Council and ‘Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Protection.’
That grandiose title just about sums up everything which is wrong with the kind of individual who goes into local government these days.
He’s a jumped-up parish councillor, but has taken on the airs and graces of an international statesman. ‘Cabinet Member’ and ‘Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Protection’. For heaven’s sake. Protection from what, exactly — wild tortoises?
Just who does this pompous oaf think he is? When the local MP wrote appealing for clemency, Portfolio Holder Kennedy accused him of ‘inciting’ council officials to break the law.
Major Lance says he sympathises with Joy’s plight, but rules is rules: the refrain of intransigent tyrants down the ages. He is impervious to reason.
British doctors failing 500,000 cancer patients by not spotting medical problems caused by treatment
Doctors are failing cancer patients ‘far too often’ by not spotting other medical problems caused by their treatment, according to a leading expert on the disease.
Professor Jane Maher, the medical director of Macmillan Cancer Support, said she feared 500,000 people’s symptoms for conditions including osteoporosis and heart disease are being missed by GPs.
She said that their lack of knowledge about the long-term side-effects of cancer drugs and a lack of communication with hospitals were to blame.
‘GPs and oncologists are failing cancer patients far too often,’ Prof Maher told The Guardian. ‘By not sharing vital information and recording clearly on the patients’ medical records they are putting a significant number of cancer patients at risk of having their work, health, relationships and home lives unnecessarily spoiled by long-term side-effects of their treatment.’
The National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI) estimates that up to a quarter of those diagnosed with cancer go on experience a consequence of their treatment which affects their health or quality of life.
Prof Maher added: ‘Based on the NCSI work looking into consequences of cancer treatment, I fear that up to 500,000 people’s symptoms are being missed by GPs.
‘GPs need to recognise that people who have had cancer may have health problems related to their treatment, and GPs are the best people to pick these up. But that doesn’t happen nearly enough at the moment.’
The medical expert said doctors needed to ensure that cancer survivors’ medical records included more detail about their disease and type of treatment. ‘At the moment GPs aren’t recording whether someone has had chemotherapy or radiotherapy,’ she said.
‘That’s partly because they don’t get enough information from hospitals, but also because they don’t realise why it’s important for them to do that.’
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government’s national cancer director, said it was essential that GPs and oncologists worked together to ensure patients get the best possible care.
The fact that cancer survival rates are improving year on year with a growing number of long-term survivors made it more important, he added.
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners said doctors needed help with the issue.
Admitting that GPs were generally unaware of the risks associated with specific treatments, she said: ‘If Prof Maher and the NHS tell us exactly what cancer someone has had, and what treatment, and what the possible risks are of that, and in a way that’s easy to understand, we will do things better.’
Drug that ‘shrinks children’s brain tumours by 50%’ is launched as once-a-day pill
Good to hear that some “orphan” drugs are in fact getting through the system
A drug that can shrink brain tumours by up to 50 per cent in children with a rare disease has been launched in the UK. NHS doctors will be able to apply for funding from health trusts for Votubia (everolimus) for children with growing non-malignant brain tumours associated with a condition called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC).
The once-a-day pill offers an alternative to surgery and could provide a lifeline for up to 1,600 youngsters in the UK with the tumours.
The drug, which has been granted orphan drug status for rare diseases, has been shown to shrink subependymal giant cell astrocytoma (SEGA) tumours associated with TSC. TSC is a genetic disorder which leads to non-malignant tumours forming in organs, most commonly the brain and kidneys.
Brain tumours occur in up to 20 per cent of patients with TSC, causing physical and mental disability.
Chris Kingswood, head of research at the Tuberous Sclerosis Association, said: ‘For a long time there has been a desperate need for a useful alternative licensed treatment to invasive brain surgery.
‘Everolimus is the first licensed product we can offer patients to attack the cause of their debilitating condition; it works by blocking a protein that acts as an important regulator of tumour cell growth.
‘The way it works in the signalling pathway can be simply likened to blocking a receiver so it cannot process signals from the aerial on an analogue radio, so that the signals can no longer transmit to drive in this case tumour cell growth.’
Dr Finbar O’Callaghan, consultant in paediatric neurology at the University of Bristol, said: ‘SEGA is a serious complication in TSC, accounting for much of the increased mortality seen in this condition.
‘Until now, brain surgery has been the only option for treatment and the availability of a pharmacological therapy is a major milestone and provides a treatment option in those cases where surgery is difficult or not possible.’
Revolution! British High School students to be docked marks over bad spelling and grammar in exams
GCSE candidates face losing as much as 12 per cent of their marks for poor spelling, punctuation and grammar. The writing errors will be punished to inject rigour back into qualifications taken by 600,000 pupils a year.
‘Bite-sized’ modules will also be axed in favour of final exams under the reforms outlined yesterday by regulator Ofqual.
From next September, pupils taking English language GCSEs will be assessed for their grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Twelve per cent of the total marks will be given for demonstrating writing skills in these subjects.
English literature, geography, history, ancient history and religious studies will follow in 2013, with 5 per cent of the marks granted for accurate writing.
Pupils will also be expected to use specialist terms.
For two-year GCSE courses starting next year, all examinations will be sat in summer 2014. Pupils will no longer be able to resit exams in order to boost their marks, except in English and maths.
The consultation sets out plans to allow students who need these qualifications to retake them – from November 2013 onwards – so that they do not have to wait another 12 months for the opportunity. The reforms were announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove last year and included in the Department for Education’s White Paper.
Speaking in the summer, Mr Gove attacked the ‘culture of resits’ that had resulted from allowing students to keep taking modules until they achieved the desired grade.
He told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘The problem that we had is that instead of concentrating on teaching and learning, you had people who were being trained again and again to clear the hurdle of the examination along the way. ‘It’s a mistake and I think the culture of resits is wrong. ‘What we need to do is make sure, certainly at GCSE, that you have a clear two-year run.’
The consultation on the changes will run until November.
This year, nearly one in four exam papers – 23.3 per cent – were awarded a coveted A or A*, up from 22.6 per cent in 2010. While the pass rates were a record high for the 24th consecutive year, the annual increase of 0.8 per cent was small in relation to that seen in previous years. Experts said it signalled the end of relentless grade inflation, with pass rates expected to level out as early as next year.
They claimed the year-on-year increases have been fuelled by a lack of rigour in the exams.
The move effectively scraps the current system, which splits GCSEs into ‘bitesize’ units, with students assessed on these throughout the course.
Pupils will also no longer be able to re-sit exams in order to boost their marks. The only exceptions would be English and maths.
Torment of teacher cleared of sex attack claims: Accusations saw him barred from birth of son
Who’d be a male teacher in Britain?
A teacher cleared of sexually assaulting six pupils yesterday told of the agony of being ordered to live away from his wife and baby son.
Peter Wilson suffered the indignity of social workers attending the birth of his first child and making him swear he would not live with his family for the eight months it took to resolve the allegations.
Yesterday a jury took just 20 minutes to acquit him of all the charges, brought after girls at his primary school accused him of kissing them and touching their bottoms.
The 35-year-old said the allegations were ‘probably malicious’ – he had merely been trying to encourage the pupils with a clasp of the shoulder, a hug or a pat on the back.
He remains suspended from his job while the council carries out its own investigation. His 29-year-old wife Clare, a teacher at the same school, has also been barred because of her relationship to him.
After the case, Mr Wilson spoke of their ‘horrible ordeal’ and told of his delight at having his reputation restored. ‘The past 18 months or so have been the most stressful of my life and my wife’s,’ he said.
‘My greatest distress was that as a result of these unfounded allegations, social services were present at the birth of our first child and I was required to sign an agreement to say that I could not live in the same house as my wife and newborn baby.’
Mr Wilson was suspended from the school in Blackpool – which cannot be named for legal reasons – after two pupils reported him to a teacher. Other children gave similar accounts of him rubbing his hand down their backs or leaning close to them cheek to cheek before patting them on the bottom.
Mr Wilson was charged by police and released on bail on condition he had no unsupervised contact with under-16s.
The jury at Preston Crown Court heard he had been considered a well-liked and well-respected member of staff until his suspension.
Giving evidence, Mr Wilson broke down in the witness box as he denied gaining sexual gratification and insisted any touching was part of his job.
His barrister, Mark George QC, had told the jury: ‘Nowadays, it seems as if encouragement, a clasp of the shoulders, or a pat on the shoulders, or pat on the arm can be misunderstood and lead to someone like Mr Wilson becoming the subject of suspicion and a case of this sort.’ The teacher told police four of his accusers were lacking confidence and self-esteem and needed praise.
The jury yesterday cleared him of 11 counts of indecent assault relating to five girls. Earlier in the trial the jury was ordered by the judge to find him not guilty on three further counts in relation to another girl.
Mr Wilson, of Thornton Cleveleys, Blackpool, cried in the dock as he was cleared. He was supported in the public gallery by members of his family.
Last night Blackpool council said both Mr Wilson and his wife would remain suspended ‘ahead of an internal investigation following the conclusion of the court case’.
A spokesman for Lancashire County Council’s social services department said the authority could not comment on individual cases.
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up — on his usual vastly “incorrect” themes of race, genes, IQ etc.