Scottish patients denied ‘Lockerbie bomber’ drug
Scottish NHS patients have been denied access to a cancer drug being used to keep the Lockerbie bomber alive after spending watchdogs ruled it is too expensive.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) said that abiraterone “significantly improved” the life expectancy of prostate cancer sufferers but its £2.5 million cost “was not considered to offer value for money”.
Cancer Research UK said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision, while the Conservatives said patients and their families would be furious at being denied a drug that has benefited Britain’s worst mass murderer.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al – Megrahi’s was freed on compassionate grounds in August 2009, supposedly because he had a life expectancy of less than three months. He remains alive in the Libyan capital Tripoli more than two-and-a-half years later.
He is thought to have been taking abiraterone ever since his release. A trial involving 1,200 men has shown that on average prostate cancer sufferers taking the drug lived an extra 3.9 months.
Men given the treatment and the steroid prednisone lived 14.8 months on average, while those on the steroid alone lived 10.9 months. The SMC decision means health boards will be expected to deny access to the drug in all but the most exceptional cases.
Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive at Cancer Research UK, which helped develop the drug said patients and doctors “value the extra months of life it can give”. He added: “We need to find a way for it to be routinely available through the NHS.”
He said the charity was “hugely frustrated” that Janssen, the drug’s manufacturer, could not offer a price the SMC considered good value and hoped a revised offer would emerge.
There are no other treatments available for men with advanced prostate cancer that has returned after chemotherapy and it has also been shown to reduce pain.
Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Tory health spokesman, said the SMC decision was “misguided” and makes a “mockery” of Nicola Sturgeon’s claims about the Scottish NHS’s superiority.
“It is shameful that Mr Megrahi was sent home not so much ‘to die’ but to benefit from a life extending drug men in Scotland are to be refused,” he said.
The refusal came after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the SMC’s equivalent in England and Wales, issued draft guidance last month stating the drug was too expensive.
However, some English patients will be able to access abiraterone through the Coalition Government’s Cancer Drugs Fund, which the SNP has refused to copy.
The treatment is currently available in Wales and will remain so until NICE issues its final guidance. Abiraterone tablets costs £2,735 for a month’s supply and £35,551 for a year.
Janssen estimated that 115 NHS patients in Scotland would be eligible for the treatment in the first year of introduction at a total cost of £2.54 million, including the price of prednisone.
These figures were projected to increase to 205 and £4.5 million respectively for year five, an average of £21,951 per patient. A SMC spokesman said the organisation was “disappointed” at not being able to recommend the drug.
He said it was “clear” the drug did not offer value for money and Janssen has advised it will make another submission. In the meantime, health boards can accept individual requests for the medication in “special circumstances”.
The Scottish Executive said the process for appraising new medicines is “robust and transparent” and operates independently from ministers.
Wind power: Fuelling an inconvenient delusion that spells ruin for Scotland
WIND power – more accurately wind impotence, since turbines operate at just 24 per cent of capacity – is the curse of Scotland. One of the most beautiful landscapes in Europe has been brutally ravaged, families have been driven into fuel poverty, pensioners have been presented with the lethal dilemma “heat or eat” – all to appease the neurotic prejudices of global warming fanatics.
Last week, the punitive costs of this lunacy were exposed in a report by Professor Gordon Hughes, professor of economics at Edinburgh University. He has calculated that the bill for wind energy by 2020 will cost consumers £120 billion. Yet generating the same amount of electricity from efficient gas-powered stations would cost only £13bn. Where the full insanity of the renewables option is brought home is in Professor Hughes’ claim that, beyond the crippling cost to consumers, “there is a significant risk that annual CO2 emissions could be greater under the Wind Scenario than the Gas Scenario”. The optimistic forecast is that wind power might reduce carbon emissions by 2.8 per cent: the worst-case scenario, as the quote above shows, is actually a negative carbon reduction – achieved at a cost of £120bn.
The inefficiency of wind turbines requires perpetual back-up by building gas turbine power stations – running two parallel energy generation systems, each alternately redundant, in times of economic crisis. The fiscal ratchet is turning relentlessly. The Renewables Obligation, introduced in Scotland in 2002, forces electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of power from renewables, currently 11.1 per cent and rising. By 2027 this scam will have cost UK customers £32bn.
Rook customers for a further £24 a year towards the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, £42 to subsidise wind farms, £13 from gas consumers to fund the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and £25 to support renewables, and what do you have? An average Scottish household energy bill of £1,345, with families spending more than 14 per cent of their monthly income on gas and electricity, compared with 8 per cent in 2005. Yet by 2020 these costs will be recalled nostalgically as the days of cheaper energy, once the green taxes really kick in. There are now 900,000 Scottish households in fuel poverty, which the SNP government has pledged to eliminate by November 2016. They are going about it in a strange way.
It is not bad news for everybody: across the UK a dozen landowners are sharing £850 million in subsidies for wind turbines. Some people claim to regard turbines as beautiful; that aesthetic prejudice is understandable if you are the owner of a turbine earning £250,000 in subsidies to generate £150,000 worth of electricity, the ratio revealed in the report. A study by Professor David MacKay, of Cambridge University, estimated it would require an area the size of Wales completely covered with wind turbines to supply just one-sixth of the UK’s energy needs. That would be fine with Alex Salmond – Scotland might just fit the bill.
The worst enormity of this scheme for the environmental devastation (in the name of saving the environment) and impoverishment of Scotland is that it is all founded on a superstition: the Grande Peur of man-made global warming. Never has science been so shamelessly manipulated. Forget the notorious frauds – the discredited “Hockey Stick”, Al Gore’s misrepresentations of ice-core samples, the Siberian tree rings, the melting Himalayan glaciers, the University of East Anglia emails, the sea levels rising only in computer models, the polar bear population “declining” from 5,000 to 25,000 since 1970 – and go to the original false premise.
Of the specifically defined “greenhouse gases,” the most abundant is water vapour, but global warmists perversely exclude it from their calculations. When asked why, they reply that it is “customary” to do so. The reason, of course, is that since water vapour accounts for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, removing it vastly increases the proportion of carbon dioxide in the equation. With water vapour included, as it should be, CO2 represents only 3.6 per cent of the greenhouse effect. Overall, just 0.28 per cent of the greenhouse effect is man-made; within that, man-made CO2 accounts for 0.117 per cent of the greenhouse effect.
That is the total global output by humanity. If the prescriptions of the Kyoto Accord were universally implemented they would reduce it by 0.035 per cent. Diligent mathematicians may, if they wish, apply themselves to calculating Scotland’s contribution to that minuscule CO2 production, harmless in any case since solar activity is the likeliest cause of cyclical climate change. That is the “threat” to our existence in response to which Alex Salmond is destroying the landscape of his country and imposing hardship on its people. To the faithful, of course, this is the Great Leap Forward.
UK: Catholic archbishops intensify opposition to homosexual “marriage”
The Catholic Church in England has intensified its campaign against government plans to legalise same-sex marriage, urging the faithful to protect the “true meaning” of matrimony for future generations.
In a letter read in 2500 parish churches across the country during Sunday Mass, the church’s senior archbishops argued that the proposed change would reduce the significance of marriage.
“The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith said in the letter.
“There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children,” they wrote.
The archbishops ended the letter by calling on Catholics to fulfil their duty to make sure “the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations”.
Britain’s government plans to allow everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, to have the option of a civil marriage. Prime Minister David Cameron has openly backed the plans, and the equalities minister will launch a consultation later this month on how to change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said it was “bizarre” that the Catholic Church had chosen to mobilise their congregations on the issue. “It shows a perverse sense of moral priorities,” he said, accusing the archbishops of “preaching a gospel of division and discrimination”.
“Catholics are entitled to believe that same-sex marriages are wrong, but they are not entitled to demand that their rejection of gay marriages should be imposed on the rest of society and enforced by law,” Tatchell said.
A spokeswoman for the gay and lesbian rights group Quest said the “tide of history” was already turning in favour of same-sex marriages.
However, opinion polls showed on Sunday that the government proposals could clash with the views of Conservative voters, of whom just 35 per cent said they were in favour of putting same-sex relationships on the same footing with marriage. But the ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph also found that the wider public backed the move by a margin of 45 to 36 per cent.
Currently only heterosexual couples are permitted to get married in Britain, while civil partnerships, introduced in 2005, are limited to same-sex couples.
The archbishops’ message came after Pope Benedict XVI on Friday denounced what he called the “powerful” gay marriage lobby in America and told visiting US bishops to not back down in the face of “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage”.
Last week Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the head of the Scottish Catholic Church, condemned the British marriage proposals as “madness”, and accused the coalition government of trying to “redefine reality”.
The controversy came as the head of the Anglican Church Rowan Williams visited Rome on Sunday for a private meeting with the Pope, followed by joint prayers during Vespers at the monastery of Rome’s Church of San Gregorio al Celio.
Relations between the Anglican Church and the Vatican have warmed markedly since a landmark visit by Pope Benedict XVI to England and Scotland in 2010.
Leading British companies may be forced to promote more female executives
Hiring the best person for the job not allowed — leading to an inevitable decline in the standard of the work and the life of the business
Britain’s biggest firms are ‘spectacularly unsuccessful’ at promoting high-flying women to top jobs, management experts warn. In a report today, the School of Management at Cranfield University, Bedfordshire, says firms are good at hiring young women to junior jobs, but too few make it to the top.
A separate report today from the Department for Business raises the prospect of firms being forced to hire a certain number of women on to their boards.
Lord Davies of Abersoch, who was appointed by ministers to investigate the lack of women in boardrooms, urged firms to speed up their promotion or risk the consequences. He said: ‘I must emphasise that efforts need to be ramped up and the speed of change accelerated if we are to avoid Government interference.’
In his first report, published last year, he said FTSE 100 companies should reach a minimum target of 25 per cent of female representation on the board by 2015. But he rejected the option of setting quotas, which exist in countries such as Norway.
However, David Cameron refuses to rule out these so-called ‘golden skirt’ targets if the situation does not improve. The Prime Minister said the promotion of women to senior jobs had to ‘accelerate’ and that the case was ‘overwhelming’ that firms were run better if men and women worked alongside each other. Speaking in Stockholm recently, he said: ‘I don’t think you should ever rule out [quotas] if you can’t get there in other ways.’
The Department for Business said the number of women appointed to the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest firms had achieved its ‘largest-ever annual increase’ over the past year. In 1999, just 6.9 per cent of directors in the FTSE index of Britain’s 100 biggest firms were women. Last year, it reached 12.5 per cent. It has since jumped sharply to 15.6 per cent, with more than one in four jobs now going to women.
Lord Davies said: ‘We are on a steady journey towards our 25 per cent target, but the reality is that a lot more still needs to be done.’
Business Secretary Vince Cable will also say today that quotas are unlikely to be needed if companies continue to make progress, adding: ‘The UK is making the voluntary approach work.’
But the problem remains that while many women join companies from school or university, only a tiny number reach the top.
Professor Susan Vinnicombe, co-author of Cranfield’s Female FTSE report, said: ‘Many FTSE companies are successful at attracting women at entry level, and developing them and retaining them after maternity leave. ‘But [they] are still spectacularly unsuccessful at promoting them to executive level.’
She said the figures were ‘moving in the right direction’ but a gulf still existed between the women who became executives and those in part-time non-executive jobs.
Women account for 22.4 per cent of all non-executive directors in the country’s boardrooms, but only 6.6 per cent of executive jobs.
Theresa May, Minister for Women, welcomed the ‘unprecedented progress’ by women, and said firms knew they could not ‘ignore the talent of half the population’.
Lord Davies has accused some men of being ‘prehistoric monsters’ who do not understand equality. The former trade minister said: ‘The attitude of chairmen is different if they have daughters in their twenties. They are talking about it to them, whereas older chairmen pay lip service to it.’
Over the last year, the number of companies in the FTSE 100 which have only men on their board has dropped sharply from 21 to 11.
It comes after a report last week found high-flying women were paid nearly 10 per cent less than a man doing exactly the same job. On average, a female executive gets a total pay package of £93,434, while a man with the same job title receives £103,230.
British School exams subjected to equality checks to stamp out bias
Examiners are closely vetting primary school test papers to ensure they do not discriminate against children on the grounds of race or gender, it has emerged.
They have resorted to counting the number of black and white children pictured in exams to reduce “potential bias” in this year’s tests, it was revealed.
Test developers analysed papers – sat by up to 600,000 children in England – to ensure they do not prejudice ethnic minorities, the disabled and boys as opposed to girls by using images that promote one group over another.
But Ofqual, the qualifications watchdog, says examiners should go even further to minimise bias for “protected” groups. This could result in exam bosses monitoring the performance of gay and bisexual pupils in English, maths and science tests.
Critics have attacked the recommendations and claim that Ofqual should concentrate on monitoring exam standards instead of promoting equality. Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “It’s political correctness gone mad.
“Of course, there shouldn’t be any huge bias for any group but going into this sort of detail, such as counting the number of black children in diagrams, is a waste of someone’s time and taxpayers’ money.”
Pupils aged 11 currently take Sats tests in the final year of primary education in England. Test developers contracted by Standards and Testing Agency – an executive agency within the Department for Education – have already prepared for this year’s exams.
A report into the preparations – by Ofqual – said examiners had attempted “to identify items/questions which may be potentially biased against particular groups, such as boys in comparison to girls (and vice versa)”.
It also said they had analysed “the number of images of black and minority ethnic children appearing in the test paper versus the number of images of white children, the representation of children with a range of physical disabilities and the choice of personal names used in the questions”.
But is said examiners should go further by carrying out a “detailed analysis of the performance of children who fall within protected characteristics [of the Equalities Act 2010]”. This includes children of different sexual orientation, age, race, religion and those with disabilities.
An Ofqual spokeswoman confirmed that was recommending that the Standards and Testing Agency undertakes the additional analysis after the tests have been sat by all students.
She said that “previous studies have looked at the performance of different groups of pupils in tests under development, but not the actual performance of students when the tests are administered nationally”.
Prof Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said that while equality was important, it was “absurd to pursue it to this extreme”.
“This pursuit of ‘fairness’ is getting in the way of the essential purpose of the tests, which is to look at the extent to which the young person can use words and numbers fluently,” he said. “Essentially, there’s a balance to be struck between excellence and equality but it looks to me that political correctness has tipped us too far in the direction of equality.”
It’s possible for a Muslim to be in the wrong in Britain?
I think it’s only happened since a Conservative government got in
A teenager has today been charged with making ‘racist’ comments on Facebook about the deaths of six British soldiers in Afghanistan.
Azhar Ahmed, 19, allegedly posted the comments on his profile page and has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence, according to West Yorkshire Police.
A police spokesman said Ahmed, from Ravensthorpe, West Yorkshire, was commenting on the level of attention British soldiers who died in a bomb blast last week received compared to Afghan civilians who have died in the war.