Press review

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UK boy one of first to receive NHS proton beam therapy

Country : U.S., UK

Keywords :
LONDON, 25 Jan (APM) - A 15-year-old boy has spoken of his excitement at being among the first to have NHS proton beam therapy in the UK, The Telegraph reported on Wednesday.
Mason Kettley, who suffers from a rare brain tumour, began treatment on Tuesday - five years after the parents of Ashya King sparked an international manhunt when they took him abroad in search of treatment.
Until last month, NHS patients were sent as far away as the U.S. for treatment, if specialist doctors said it was required.
Now the Christie Hospital in Manchester has begun offering the highly targeted treatment, with Mason the fourth case to undergo it, and the first to speak publicly about it.
It is the first centre in the UK offering such treatment to NHS patients.
The lack of proton therapy in the UK became the subject of public debate in 2014, when the parents of Ashya King, then aged five, fled the country in search of proton beam therapy because they believed the standard radiotherapy he was due to have in Southampton would harm his brain.
The child ended up receiving proton therapy in Prague, and has since been cleared of cancer.

Drug companies get millions for war on superbugs

Drug companies will be paid millions for developing antibiotics to fight a superbug threat described as more dangerous than terrorism or climate change, The Times reported on Thursday.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, will introduce a “subscription model” to encourage the creation of medicines to fight antibiotic-resistant infections, it said.
No new class of antibiotic has been discovered since 1980, with the pharmaceutical industry reluctant to carry out costly research into the area. Companies cannot expect blockbuster sales from new antibiotics because they would be held in reserve for cases in which existing medicines fail.
To separate profits from sales, the NHS will pay companies up front if they produce an effective new drug, a commitment that could ultimately cost millions of pounds a year.
“That way companies can have more confidence in the profitability of their new antibiotics and be more likely to invest the more than a billion dollars it costs to bring a new drug to market,” Hancock said. (APMHE 61566)

GSK chairman to step down

GlaxoSmithKline’s non-executive chairman Sir Philip Hampton is to step down from the company, the FT said on Monday.
The paper said Hampton’s departure follows pressure from stakeholders saying that the company’s share price has underperformed over the last decade (APMHE 61502).

Lyrica probably used off-label in Scotland

Pfizer’s Lyrica (pregabalin) is probably being prescribed outside its approved indication in Scotland, according to a senior academic in the country who was quoted in The Times on Monday.
The drug is approved for neuropathic pain, but GP surgeries in Scotland are spending tens of thousand of pounds on the product, suggesting it is being used in other indications where it has not been tested.
David Webb, professor of clinical pharmacology at Edinburgh University and a former chairman of the Scottish Medicines Consortium, said: “There is little doubt that the drug is being used outside the area of neuropathic pain. It is not licensed for chronic pain syndromes or lower back pain.”
This meant, he said, that the treatment was “probably not working” for a number of patients who were receiving it. “There is definitely an issue here.”

Navy not ready to deliver medicines in case of ‘no-deal’ Brexit

UK health secretary Matt Hancock has asked for the navy to help with the delivery of medicines if there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, The Times said on Monday.
However, the navy has warned that it will take up to a year to refit its ships to allow sufficient numbers of crew to travel alongside the cargo, meaning that they will not be ready in time for Brexit day on 29 March.
The Guardian on Sunday had a related story, saying that the government has been reviewing transport routes for all medicines “to maximise the ability for supply to continue unimpeded” after 29 March, according to a letter from Dr Keith Ridge, NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer, which has been seen by the paper.
“In the event of a ‘no-deal’ scenario this additional transport capacity and prioritisation includes prescription-only medicines and pharmacy medicines, general sales list medicines and unlicensed medicines, including specials and investigational medicinal products used in clinical trials and vaccines,” the letter reads.

Pharma storage at capacity in UK

Three-quarters of UK warehouse owners say their space is full to capacity and storage costs have soared by up to 25% in the past three months after a surge in Brexit-related inquiries, said the Guardian on Monday.
It is understood that pharmaceuticals storage, which is handled by five specialist licensed operators in the UK, is at capacity, said the paper.
Pharma companies have been told to store six weeks’ worth of drugs in anticipation of border delays if there is a no-deal Brexit.

NHS England digital chief criticised after joining start-up she praised in newspaper article

A senior official in the UK's National Health Service has sparked controversy over a "revolving door" between the public and private sectors after she announced her departure for a health tech start-up she had praised in a national newspaper, just days after the NHS called for a major expansion into the sector. (APMHE 61527)
The Financial Times on Monday said Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer for NHS England, wrote a high-profile article this month extolling the virtues of Kry, a Swedish doctor app, without disclosing in the piece that she had been hired by the company to take up a global product role.
The paper quoted Meg Hillier, the Labour Member of Parliament who chairs the House of Commons public accounts committee, which scrutinises the spending of public money, as describing Bauer's behaviour as "brazen" and "jaw-droppingly inappropriate".

Daily aspirin 'not worth the risks'

Aspirin should not be taken to prevent heart disease unless it is on doctors’ orders, scientists have warned after a major study found the drug “substantially” increases the risk of dangerous bleeds, The Telegraph reported on Tuesday.
A review of 164,225 people in their fifties, sixties and seventies found that regularly taking the inexpensive drug boosts the chances of major bleeding by more than 40%.
Aspirin has long been recommended for patients already known to suffer from heart conditions and those at high risk of stroke, with evidence indicating its blood-thinning qualities render the risk of side-effects worthwhile.
However, the new research by King’s College London suggests that for middle-aged and older people currently in good health, the benefit of regularly taking the drug is not worth the risk of serious bleeding.
Aspirin is not routinely prescribed for “primary prevention” of heart disease or stroke in the UK.
Nevertheless, experts have estimated that tens of thousands of healthy people take the inexpensive drug anyway.

BMS pulls U.S. filing for lung cancer treatment

Bristol-Myers Squibb has hit a stumbling block in the competitive market for immunotherapies as it withdrew an application for a combination of drugs to treat lung cancer, even as it reported upbeat quarterly earnings, The Telegraph reported on Thursday. (APMHE 61569)
The company withdrew a combination of Yervoy plus Opdivo for treating a certain type of lung cancer.
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