Life-saving new cancer drugs are being held back In Britain so the Government can save money
The head of Britain’s biggest drugs company has accused the Government of systematically delaying the introduction of new cancer drugs in order to save money. GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty warned that ministers were making false economies as they tried to grapple with the deficit in the public finances.
In an interview with the BBC, he said that governments across Europe had already cut drug prices by 5 per cent a year – costing GSK around £300 million per annum.
However, he said governments were now seeking to go further in an effort to achieve even bigger savings – and he highlighted Britain’s decision to delay new cancer treatments.
‘The bit I’m much more frightened about is that what’s now beginning to become clear is that, in addition to price reductions, governments are delaying the approval of innovative new drugs,’ he said. ‘So a second way they can save money, they think, is ‘Let’s just not buy the next round of innovation’.
‘Cancer in the UK is a good example where we’re seeing oncology drugs being systematically delayed from introduction and reimbursement.
‘We are seeing a variety of the more innovative and more expensive medicines being delayed in a whole series of different diseases across Europe.’
Sir Andrew accused governments of treating the pharmaceuticals industry as a ‘simple procurement business’ without understanding the wider implications of their decisions.
‘As governments have got more and more anxious about their debt positions and austerity agendas, what happened is quite predictable,’ he said. ‘If you are a minister and you need to cut costs, it is a lot easier to cut drug prices than it is to close a hospital or reduce the size of the Civil Service. I understand that.
‘The issue here is, of course, if you don’t buy the new drug it is going to save you money in the drug bill. But the drug bill is only 8 per cent to 10 per cent of the total healthcare bill and what is being lost in this stampede for cost cut is any kind of strategic thoughtfulness.’
Professor Jonathan Waxman, of Imperial College London, said a number of new cancer drugs had been blocked by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which assesses the cost-effectiveness of new treatments. ‘In my view, Nice has over-regulated and proscribed drugs that offer real advances to people with cancer,’ he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
‘In my particular area of specialisation, which is prostate cancer, we have had two new drugs become available over the last year and a half which offer real benefits for patients. ‘I would argue that they have been disallowed – banned – by Nice on the basis of an assessment which is not a true financial costing of the worth of the drugs.’
He warned that drug companies may soon no longer find it worthwhile to seek approval for their products in Britain.
‘The regulation is such in this country that it is not worthwhile for the drug companies making the effort of actually negotiating with our regulatory authorities for the sale of their products in the UK. It is a complete loss-leader for them – waste of time,’ he said. ‘We are going to have a situation in the UK where drugs are not available for our patients. It is a disaster. Someone just needs to sort this out.’
A Department of Health spokesman hit back at the criticism of its spending and of the decisions taken by Nice. He said: ‘The Government has increased spending on health, which includes new drugs, and thousands more patients are getting access to the most advanced treatments. ‘This includes the 11,000 extra patients who have benefited from the setting up of our £650 million Cancer Drugs Fund.
‘The need for careful assessment of drugs’ effectiveness by Nice is particularly important for patients and taxpayers during a time of economic austerity. ‘The Government has not changed any assessment processes relating to cancer drugs. ‘Furthermore, drug companies need to look hard at the high costs they are asking of the health service for their latest treatments.’
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham accused David Cameron of breaking his General Election commitment to cancer patients. “With a great fanfare, he said he would deliver quicker access to drugs for cancer patients. Today we hear that his Government is in fact delaying new treatments to save money,” he said. “If true, this is a shameful state of affairs and a false economy. The Prime Minister must be kept to his pre-election promises.”
Meet the ‘Mosquebusters’: British Legal Team Out to Stop Islamic Influence in its Tracks
Meet the Mosquebusters — or as they’re officially known, the Law and Freedom Foundation – a group of anti-Islamic vigilantes in Britain with a subtler approach than their peers: Rather than picket Mosque sites, or lead demonstrations of any kind, they sue under Britain’s byzantine legal code to make it illegal for those Mosques to be built in the first place.
Anti-Islamic sentiment in Britain is not new. Groups such as such as England Is Ours and Stop Islamisation of Europe have, for some time, been defending what they see as traditional British/Western culture against a group they see as closeted Islamic extremists who will kill “infidels” or take slaves at the drop of a hat. In fact, they believe that the Koran urges precisely that. Some — like the English Defence League (EDL) — verge on paramilitary fascism in their use of tactics.
Others simply run around in public yelling incendiary phrases. The Mosquebusters, however, are apparently clever enough to avoid those obvious trappings of pro-Western resistance. Foreign Policy Magazine describes their approach as “a war against Islam, but one that often resembles a bureaucratic turf battle more than a clash of civilizations.”
Their leader, who calls himself “The Lawman,” also takes a subtler approach to the question of fighting Islamic influence in Britain. Rather than play into liberal stereotypes of “Islamophobia” and racism, he makes it very clear up front that what concerns him is Islamic doctrine, not people. From his manifesto: “It is primarily about the division between Islamic and non-Islamic society, and the lawless violence at the heart of Islamic doctrine and practice.”
The key message, especially for those with concerns about scandals like the one surrounding the Mosque being built at Ground Zero last year, is as follows:
It’s very seldom that a Mosque outfit will put forward a Mosque calling it a Mosque. They will always try and say it’s for the benefit of the community, it’s a prayer room, it’s a community center for all faiths or all ethnicities. No, it’s not, it’s going to be a Mosque, and if you disobey parts of Islamic law whilst you’re on the premises, you’d better look out. They go under all kinds of names and local authorities lap it up because local authorities are afraid to nullify the politically correct gravy train that they’re riding. It’s good business for them, and things go through under all kind of euphemisms, but they are Mosques.
It’s not religious practice, claim the Mosquebusters, it’s parking. Or noise pollution. Or building codes. And with downloadable petition templates, generic letters to councilors, and free legal advice for begrudged locals, it‘s Boby’s mission to make it as easy as possible for your average, disgruntled suburbanite to join in. If there’s a trial or hearing about planned construction, Boby will come down to the courthouse to provide free legal representation; if a mosque site has been proposed, he’ll arrange volunteers to paper a neighbourhood with flyers.
But the Mosquebusters aren’t just a resource for aggrieved pensioners — the group actually wants its volunteers to spread out, actively trolling city planning offices and public records for mosque applications. “It is satisfying detective work, rooting around Islamic deviousness!” reads the instructional e-mail sent to volunteers.
The process begins by searching for D1 planning applications (non-residential buildings), then checking floor plans for a “prayer room,” checking names of applicants and agents for names that sound Muslim. “It might be lodged under the label of ‘multi-faith center‘ or ’community center,’” says Boby. “Mosque applicants are crafty and often try to hide what it’s really about.”
It might seem that the Mosquebusters is a quixotic, xenophobic campaign limited to a handful of small towns in England, but it has ties to other anti-Islamic groups around the world. People from Australia, Canada, Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States comment on the Mosquebusters website regularly, and the group is often written about by far-right organizations.
“Mosquebusters racks up another win, all was needed was for someone to oppose it’s [the mosques] construction,” crows Tundra Tabloids, a Scandinavian website that claims to keep tabs on the political correctness that allows Islamic extremism to flourish. “This is brilliant. I hope council was paying close attention,” reads a caption on MRCTV, a right-wing news website.
Trees cut down after single complaint about ‘slippery berries’
A British bureaucracy would not of course think of consulting with the public
A British council cut down three well-loved rowan trees after receiving just one complaint that fallen berries posed a “slip risk”.
Croydon council sent in tree surgeons earlier this month to chop down the 20ft trees, outside warden-assisted accommodation for the elderly.
The trees had been planted at the south London housing complex, Ashwood Gardens, more than 30 years ago.
Pensioners living there spoke of their anger at the council’s action, and even suggested that the name Ashwood Gardens was no longer appropriate.
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “The area we live in is very urban and the trees were put up in the 1980s to give at least a sense of being close to the country. “But now everyone thinks the name of the accommodation should be changed as it can hardly be classed as a ‘garden’ any more.”
Susan Findlay, 72, who has lived there for three years, said: “No one could quite believe it. “The beautiful trees have gone. They have been here for decades, more than 30 years, and now all that has gone to waste.
“The council worker told me the trees were being chopped down because there was a fear that one of us could fall over by slipping on the berries which had fallen from the trees, but it is just rubbish. I cannot believe the council has listened to just one person.”
A spokesman for the council confirmed it had received one complaint about berries “causing a slip risk”.
The man who wants to dumb down Britain
The new access tsar runs one of the county’s WORST universities – offering courses in breast-feeding, counselling, beauty spa management and carnival arts
Professor Les Ebdon likes to begin his PowerPoint presentations by quoting the Roman philosopher Cicero: ‘Wisdom often exists under a shabby coat.’
With his penchant for shapeless suits and loud ties (betraying a dress sense that’s stuck firmly in the world of 1970s academia), such a mantra is perfect for the vice chancellor of the recently created University of Bedfordshire. But his point is a serious one, for Professor Ebdon is evangelical about the need to get more poor students into higher education.
Few would challenge the concept of ‘opportunity for all’, but Ebdon’s ideas on achieving this are radical in the extreme.
He is vehemently against the ‘Oxbridge Obsession’, never mind the acknowledged excellence of other top-level universities.
Most controversially, he is in favour of social engineering, threatening ‘nuclear’ retribution against universities that don’t increase their intake of students from less well-off backgrounds.
He has also spoken of his disapproval of the grand ‘baronial halls’ of leading universities, saying they could deter applicants from a disadvantaged background.
But why bother about the views of a man who presides over the University of Bedfordshire — ranked joint 102nd out of 119 in the Good University Guide? The answer is that he is about to become Head of the Office for Fair Access, the body designed to help more poor students into higher education.
It’s a profoundly contentious appointment. Professor Ebdon has been steam-rollered through by the Lib Dems, against bitter Conservative opposition. Indeed, Vince Cable, the coalition Business Secretary, ignored both the ‘concerns’ of David Cameron and a parliamentary Business Select Committee questioning his suitability for the post.
It was under Tony Blair that Labour first introduced its so-called ‘flagship’ education policy of aiming to send half of all school-leavers to university — leading to widespread fears about the lowering of university standards and devalued degrees.
Now critics of Ebdon, who is on record defending what detractors term ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees, are deeply worried that he will simply continue to dumb down our higher education institutions.
Education Secretary Michael Gove is said privately to have described the Ebdon appointment as a ‘disaster’. Gove has called the trend for universities to skew admissions rules in favour of candidates from under-performing comprehensives as ‘bizarre’, as they give poor schools an excuse not to improve.
Other Tories fear Ebdon will lead a ‘race to the bottom’ of educational standards, forcing universities to slash their entry requirements in pursuit of crude social engineering quotas — or risk having their student fees capped by the new tsar.
A leading critic of university fees, Ebdon’s salary at the University of Bedfordshire is around £246,000. In his new government job, which polices tuition fees and admissions targets, he will be paid £45,000 for just two days a week.
But he will have huge powers over elite universities — able to slash their tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year if they fail to meet targets to take on more students from poor families. He says, rather melodramatically, that he will be an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’.
But apart from social engineering – what, precisely, does Professor Ebdon, 65, believe in? He is fervently pro ‘modern’ universities — many are ex-polytechnics — railing against the traditional system which has seen Britain’s top universities become world leaders and magnets for research funding.
The Cambridge-Oxford-London ‘Golden Triangle’ group of universities is in his firing line. Why should these establishments receive more money for research than lesser institutions, he asks? Isn’t that elitism? Just because they are better, should they get more money?
He highlights the great potential of newer institutions’ research facilities by mentioning the Fitflop footwear range which was developed at London Southbank University.
As the former chairman of the Million+ think-tank, which represents newer universities including Kingston University London and the University of Wolverhampton, he speaks of such colleges as ‘modern universities’ — as opposed to ‘traditional institutions’, which, in politically correct circles, are considered inaccessible and elitist.
Asked about his own university’s lowly position in the national rankings, his answer was revealing. ‘It’s a snobs’ table,’ he said. ‘Institutions like Cambridge and Oxford are always at the front, while newer places bring up the rear.’
At the University of Bedfordshire (formerly the less illustrious-sounding Luton College of Higher Education), he stresses the importance of ‘widening participation’, ‘social mobility’ and ‘fair access’.
Yet he ignores the latest research that shows the under-representation of working-class pupils in leading universities is due to the poor quality of teaching in many state schools, rather than entry hurdles.
The courses on offer at his institution do not include traditional degree courses such as maths, physics, chemistry, history or modern languages.
Instead, there is a less-than-scholastic two-year course in carnival arts — teaching undergraduates how to design costumes and allowing them ‘to take part in Europe’s largest one-day carnival: the Luton International Carnival’.
Then there is the degree in advertising, and in beauty spa management. Work experience ‘is gained from working in the college’s own salon’. Students will also become ‘expert in hairstyles, wig dressing and making, fashion styling and make-up.’
A fashion and surface pattern design course promises to ‘develop and constantly build upon your creative and problem solving skills’.
Next up is the event management course, during which students will go on ‘sporting field trips to venues like Luton Town Football Club, Twickenham, Wimbledon, Eastlands Stadium, Manchester and the Woburn Golf Club’.
Not surprisingly, there is also a football studies course in which students are given a ‘broad overview of football within a business, coaching and educational environment’. The course is ‘underpinned by academic theory related to football, sport and leisure, and will involve students in the application of concepts in industry-related scenarios and realistic simulations.’ It doesn’t stop there. Students on the sports therapy course will ‘gain qualifications and professional practice in body massage and sports massage’.
In addition, there are courses in beauty therapy and breast-feeding counselling, on which students will ‘work with parents in a person-centred manner that respects individuals’ beliefs and needs’ and will ‘be made aware of the significance of issues of diversity in your practice’.
There are also courses in animal management, advertising design and computer game design and a post-graduate course in sport tourism management (which teaches ‘academic theory in tourism, leisure and events’). Dumbed down indeed!
The University of Bedfordshire also awarded the late TV presenter Sir Jimmy Savile an Honorary Doctor of Arts in 2009. Well-loved he may have been, but he is hardly an exemplar of academic excellence.
In the last year for which statistics are given, almost 13 per cent of Ebdon’s students dropped out of their studies. The national drop-out average was just below 8 per cent, although the university says its drop-out rate is close to the benchmark set by the Government.
In 2004, the then Luton University famously proposed relaxing the consequences for students failing second-year exams, leading one newspaper to ask: ‘Is this the worst university in Britain?’
In 2009, Ebdon backed plans to give students from poor families a head start by offering them places at university on lower exam grades.
He launched a scathing attack on medical schools, mostly found in the top universities, as ‘full of very earnest young people from middle-class backgrounds’ who, he said, might be unwilling to practise in working-class areas.
On being appointed to his new position as access tsar, Ebdon said: ‘I feel privileged to be appointed to this post at such a key time. I am passionate about access to higher education and strongly believe that no one should be put off from going to university because of their family background or income.’
His political ideas on the future of education in Britain are firmly grounded in his own background. He said in March last year: ‘I myself came from a background where nobody had previously been to university, and I remember every time I had a setback, the common response from people in my peer group back home to me was: “University is not for the likes of us.” ’
He said last September: ‘To date, ministers have been too focused on the progression of relatively small numbers of students to a relatively small number of universities.
‘These are very limited aspirations and will do little to ensure the progress of people from groups traditionally under-represented in higher education — those from poorer backgrounds, those who are the first-in-family to go to university, black and ethnic minority students and mature and part-time students.’
The Russell Group, which represents Britain’s top 20 universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, wants to see a return to fewer, higher quality students. Instead, Ebdon is lobbying for the removal of a cap on student numbers.
He acknowledges this will be costly, but says: ‘The easiest thing in the world would be for my board of governors to say to me, “Stop doing all this widening participation work. Go and get some of these easier students to teach with three As at A-level, and save us all a bit of money.”
‘I think it is important, if the Government’s belief is behind their rhetoric, that they recognise these increased costs and that it is important for government money to be there to support them.’
Quite how this can be sustained at a time of austerity and public spending cuts is another matter. Indeed, in their report, the MPs on the Business Select Committee accused Professor Ebdon of woolly-thinking.
Ebdon faced intense questioning from members of the committee about his suitability for the access role. He responded by chastising highly selective universities with ‘patchy’ records on access, saying that he would be prepared to use the ‘nuclear option’ of stopping institutions from charging higher fees if they did not measure up.
The MPs later voiced their concerns, saying: ‘We struggled to get a clear picture of Professor Ebdon’s strategy for the future.’ They concluded: ‘We recommend that the Department conducts a new recruitment exercise.’
Just why Vince Cable has chosen to ride rough-shod over their views, and why the Prime Minister has allowed him to do so, is deeply worrying. But the tragedy is that the effects of the appointment of this unashamed social engineer risk damaging academic standards in Britain for several generations.
Electric car maker goes to court over their vehicle’s limited range — and loses
Tesla and the company’s lawyers are nothing if not determined. After a judge smacked down the electric vehicle manufacturer’s libel suit against the BBC and Top Gear for comments made about the range of the Tesla Roadster, the automaker rallied with a second, amended lawsuit. It didn’t take long for the the same judge to nix the new case, too, saying the amendment was “not capable of being defamatory at all, or, if it is, it is not capable of being a sufficiently serious defamatory meaning to constitute a real and substantial tort.”
That sound? It’s the smack of the judicial backhand.
The judge went on to say drivers know a manufacturer’s claim about range is dependent on driving conditions and habits.
The dustup, as you may recall, began when Top Gear put the Tesla Roadster through its paces on the show’s test track. While Jeremy Clarkson lauded the car’s acceleration, the segment claimed the vehicle ran out of juice after just 55 miles of abuse. That figure is far south of the 200 mile range Tesla claims for the vehicle. CEO Elon Musk called the show “completely phony” not long after the segment aired and brought out the legal guns. The rest, as they say, is history.
A natural recovery from spinal injury!
A teenager who feared she would never walk again, is now preparing for a ballet exam after her spine miraculously healed itself.
Megan Kershaw, 14, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in 2008, which caused her to collapse at school. During a nine-hour operation to remove three-quarters of the tumour, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her spine, causing spinal fractures, and for years she was confined to a wheelchair.
It was during treatment that Professor Nick Bishop from Sheffield Children’s Hospital suggested they should try and let the spine heal naturally. Now Megan’s back is fully healed and doctors have been amazed by her speedy recovery.
Professor Nick Bishop said: ‘The speed of recovery is fantastic and just shows how well children’s bones can recover in this kind of situation. ‘Her spine is healing itself without any special treatment from us. The spine’s building blocks, the vertebrae, have growth plates on their upper and lower surfaces. “It is these growth plates that have restored Megan’s vertebral architecture in such an exemplary fashion. ‘Megan no longer needs to see me now her spine has healed.’
Her mother Deborah, 48, from Misson, near Doncaster said: ‘She is a miracle. It is incredible what has happened and what the body can do. ‘She’s back to being a normal healthy child and can do all the things her friends do. ‘She has shown tremendous courage through everything and she’s back to her dancing which has helped her very much.’
Megan still needs regular check-ups and is having a scan at the end of March to check on her progress.
The youngster previously hit headlines when Simon Cowell paid for her to go on a trip to Disneyland in Florida for her 13th Birthday. He stepped in when he heard she had made a ‘wish board’ that included meeting him, Girls Aloud and the dream trip to Disney.
Megan is now preparing for a Royal Academy of Dance ballet exam next month.