Immune children help develop malaria vaccine

by Admin 23. May 2014 12:40

Scientists are getting closer to developing a malaria vaccine with the assistance of naturally-immune children from Tanzania.

A team of scientists from the US have developed a potential malaria vaccine by using an antibody found in the blood of naturally-immune children in Tanzania.

A form of the same antibody that protects the children was injected into mice with the disease, with the ‘vaccine’ doubling the survival time of the mice and prompting the researchers to describe the antibody as a “bona fida vaccine candidate”.

The researchers plan further experiments and trials to explore the antibody’s potential but stress they are remaining “cautious” about the potential of a suitable vaccination being developed.

Professor Jake Kurtis, director of the Centre for International Health Research at Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University School of Medicine, said: “I am cautious. I’ve seen nothing so far in our data that would cause us to lose enthusiasm. However, it still needs to get through a monkey study and the next phase of human trials.”

In response to the research, Dr Ashley Birkett, director of PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, said: “While these initial results are promising with respect to prevention of severe malaria, a lot more data would be needed before this could be considered a leading vaccine approach – either alone or in combination with other antigens.”  

Malaria, the potentially life-threatening disease prevalent around the equator, claimed more than 600,000 lives in 2012 according the World Health Organisation, with no vaccination for the illness currently available.

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Vaccine price freeze from GSK

by Admin 23. May 2014 12:05

GSK is to freeze the prices on vaccines for developing countries to help support governments’ national immunisation programmes.

GlaxoSmithKline has vowed to freeze the prices of vaccines for those developing nations ‘graduating’ from their alliance scheme to provide support as they manage their own vaccination programmes.

The GAVI Alliance, formed in 2000 to fund vaccinations in developing countries, culminates with countries ‘graduating’ when they are able to support their own national vaccination programmes.

GSK has promised to freeze vaccination prices for their graduates for the next five years to ease the transition for these developing nations, of which there are expected to be 22 by 2020.

Vaccinations covered by the price freeze include pneumococcal disease, rotavirus and cervical cancer immunisations, with governments guaranteed a price that can be up to 90% lower than those charged in developed nations.

Sir Andrew Witty, chief executive office of GSK, said: “I’m pleased that we are able to offer governments a price freeze to help ensure that children continue to be protected by national immunisation programmes.”

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Welsh obese miss out on surgery

by Admin 22. May 2014 11:56

A new report finds ‘disparity’ in weight management services in Wales, with obese patients missing out on surgery.

In a recent report for the Welsh assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee, findings suggested that many obese patients are missing out on help they are entitled to under recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Figures estimated that around 7,000 people in Wales were being denied surgery that could help them due to stricter restrictions than stipulated by NICE being implemented in the country. The report also discovered that six of the seven health boards are failing to provide the full weight management services patients are entitled to.

Jonathan Barry, one of two bariatric surgeons in Wales, described the services as “patchy” and criticised the practice of enforcing stricter restrictions on surgery than those used in England.   

“There is a disparity between entry criteria in England and Wales,” he said, suggesting that at the hospital where he works, the 67 patients scheduled for surgery should be 220. He also lent his support to the report’s recommendation for a second bariatric unit to open in north Wales.

The report was welcomed by the Royal College of Physicians who supported the recommendation for the government to implement its All Wales Obesity Plan fully to ensure all patients could access the full weight management services they are entitled to, from lifestyle support to surgery.

David Rees, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “Sufficient provision of specialist dietary, physical and behavioural support is so important in order to avoid the invasive and drastic option of surgery, which can lead to long-term consequences as well as benefits for patients.”

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News | NHS

Leave mice out of the Alzheimer’s battle, says expert

by Admin 22. May 2014 10:45

A new paper argues that using mice and rats in Alzheimer’s research is a “waste of time”.

In a paper published to coincide with dementia awareness week, a clinician has argued against the current use of rodents in Alzheimer’s research in a bid to improve the chances of understanding the disease and finding a treatment.

Dr Gill Langley, senior science advisor to Humane Society International, published a paper in Drug Discovery Today that described the practice of using mice and rats to study Alzheimer’s as “studying the wrong condition in the wrong animal.”

Mice and rats have been used to research Alzheimer’s for more than a decade and while various potential treatments have been discovered, none have yet proved successful in treating humans.

As the number of people predicted to develop Alzheimer’s rises, Dr Langley said, “continuing to focus on failing animal models is a waste of time and resources that is simple unsustainable.”

“If we want to improve our chances of cracking this debilitating brain disease, we must embark on a new research roadmap that applies the very latest research tools to study the processes involved in the development of Alzheimer’s,” she added.

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New soldier in fungal infection fight

by Admin 22. May 2014 10:18

MSD has launched a new anti-fungal tablet in the UK, offering a new, convenient option to patients.

Merck Sharp and Dohme Ltd (MSD) has announced the arrival of their anti-fungal tablet Noxafil (posaconazole) in the UK, offering those with fungal disease a convenient option for treatment.

Noxafil offers a treatment with the antifungal efficacy of posaconazole oral-suspension in a convenient daily tablet, and is expected to be welcomed by patients countrywide.

The tablets, which are gastro-resistant and represent a new formulation, simplify treatment for patients by offering a once-daily treatment following a twice-daily dose on the first day. The tablets can also be taken without regard to food intake and offer a consistent absorption.

The incidence of invasive fungal infection has risen over the years, with infections serving as a significant source of morbidity.

Professor Antonio Pagliuca from the Department of Haematological Medicine at King’s College Hospital, London, said: “This is a step forward for the prophylaxis and treatment of fungal disease. The new table formulation will ensure patients get appropriate therapeutic levels of the drug due to its consistent absorption.”

The UK launch of Noxafil follows the drug securing European Commission approval in April 2014. 

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Drugs | News

Concerns over Early Access to Medicines Scheme funding

by Admin 21. May 2014 14:02

The Chief Executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has expressed concerns that a lack of detail and funding for the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) need to be addressed before the scheme can begin to benefit patients.

The ABPI and the BioIndustry Association (BIA) recently held a stakeholder event in London to publicise the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) EAMS. 

Held on 28 April 2014, the event provided interested parties with the opportunity to understand and discuss the practicalities of implementing the scheme. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies, as well as patient groups, medical research charities and clinical researchers were invited. The event informed stakeholders on how the guiding principles of EAMS were formulated and how the scheme could benefit them.  

The ABPI’s Chief Executive, Stephen Whitehead, said: “We hosted the event to increase understanding about the scheme to help companies to make an informed decision about their participation.

“The regulation and development time for any new medicine is long and complex and the scheme should ultimately help patients with life-threatening or seriously debilitating conditions, without adequate treatment options, get faster access to innovative medicines.”

The ABPI held the event to help to address the lack of detail available from the government on how the scheme will work in reality. “It soon became apparent that we were far from having the full picture about the scheme, and our member companies fed back to us that much more detail would be needed to allow them to fully evaluate the utility of EAMS,” said Mr Whitehead. “We gathered all the key stakeholders; MHRA, NHS England, Government, patient groups and NICE and also members of the industry who could talk about their own experiences and impressions of the scheme so far. The day was hugely productive.”

The interest in the scheme was evident and stakeholders were keen to work collaboratively, flexibly and, in partnership with, industry. 

According to the ABPI, the event went some way to addressing some of the key questions surrounding the scheme, such as making clear that the EAMS will sit alongside the EMA’s adaptive licensing. However, discussions at the event made it clear that there are still areas that require “greater clarification”, such as: 

The timeline and framework for commissioning within the NHS

How many centres will take part in EAMS

How the pathway for gaining commissioning approval will work

The process for NICE evaluation and at what stage they will be involved in the commissioning.

Mr Whitehead said that the question of how EAMS will be paid for was a significant one for delegates:  “The lack of funding for the scheme…was a much discussed topic and is a key feature which the ABPI and the BIA will continue to push for, particularly at a one-year review.

“We hope these points will now be taken back to organisations and addressed as a matter of urgency so that the scheme can quickly begin to benefit patients.”


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Speedy heart attack test to tackle misdiagnoses

by Admin 21. May 2014 11:59

NICE draft guidance recommends a new test to improve heart attack diagnoses times across the NHS.

Draft guidance recently published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of two tests across the NHS to speed up the detection of heart attacks.

The tests detect levels of a protein released when the heart muscle is damaged, allowing doctors to confirm that a heart attack has taken place and ensure patients get the correct treatment. While a current test already exists for this protein, the new tests can detect lower levels and therefore allow clinicians to make a diagnosis much quicker.

The watchdog hopes the introduction of the new tests would help reduce misdiagnoses rates, as currently up to 50,000 patients are incorrectly sent home after clinicians fail to detect they had suffered a heart attack. The test could also help reduce hospital admissions, with patients receiving a diagnosed and potentially discharged more quickly.

The positive recommendation from NICE follows a trial, conducted last year, that found heart attack diagnoses rates were doubled when one of the two new tests were used on 1,126 patients.

The tests are considered to offer value for money, with NICE estimating a cost of £20 per patient, per test, although the British scientists who developed the tests predicted the cost could be nearer to £5 per person.

Dr Nicholas Mills, a cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh and a member of the test development team, said: “It’s pretty simple, pretty cheap and has huge potential to improve the way we diagnose heart attacks.”

The NICE guidance is currently in draft form, with a final decision on the introduction of the new tests due in October.

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Positive pipeline drug results boost AstraZeneca promises

by Admin 21. May 2014 11:40

AstraZeneca’s biologics research and development subsidiary MedImmune has announced positive Phase IIb clinical trial results for two of its key pipeline biologic agents, adding strength to its pipeline value.

The top-line results included data for mavrilimumab, a potential agent for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and sifalimumab, which targets systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Analysts from research and consulting firm GlobalData say that these results may give the UK firm more ammunition to deliver on promises made to investors during the takeover battle with Pfizer.

The company could position itself as a potential future contender for the lucrative autoimmune biologics space according to the analysts, who have called the timing of AstraZeneca’s announcement “pertinent” in the wake of its rejection of Pfizer’s final bid offer.

Anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF) agents, which achieved an estimated 79 per cent  of sales in the RA market in 2013, are expected to claim 40 per cent 2022. According to GlobalData analyst Dr Heather Leach, this will leave room for new players, such as AstraZeneca’s mavrilimumab. “A strong plus for MedImmune’s mavrilimumab is that it could offer a novel mechanism of action within the highly competitive RA landscape,” said Dr Leach.

MedImmune also announced positive top-line results from the Phase IIb study of sifalimumab, which is currently in development for treating patients with moderate-to-severe SLE. 

Dr Toli Koutsokeras, GlobalData's Senior Analyst, said: “Sifalimumab boasts the potential to offer a new treatment option to patients with SLE, which will allow AstraZeneca to differentiate and market the product efficiently within the SLE arena.”

Koutsokeras and Leach say that the positive results announcement from AstraZeneca for these key pipeline drugs adds weight to the company’s future pipeline portfolio, as well as its potential to be a key future player within these lucrative autoimmune indications.

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Health Secretary hails courage of dementia campaigners

by Admin 21. May 2014 10:46

Speaking at the Alzheimer’s Society inaugural Dementia Friendly Awards in Westminster, Mr Hunt said that locally-led campaigns to improve the lives of those with dementia were shaping Government and international policies towards the condition.

He told the audience: “I want to say a very special thank you to the people with dementia who have had the courage to stand up on stages like this to say ‘I've got dementia’.

 “Governments can do much but in the end change has to come from within - it is societal change that really matters. What you have done is truly inspirational; braver than what any of us have done.”

The awards, supported by the Daily Telegraph, recognise the actions of individuals, businesses and communities to improve the lives of those with dementia.

Award-winning community schemes including those that created links between schools and care homes, where children and elderly people shared activities such as singing and gardening; the training of bus drivers in how to help those with the condition, and sports clubs that brought fans with dementia together to share their sporting memories.

Mr Hunt said the community efforts and a national campaign to recruit one million “dementia friends” was now influencing global policies on the condition. The campaign was one of the key topics under discussion at the World Health Assembly in Geneva earlier this week.

The winners were: Sporting Memories (national initiative); Introduction to Dementia for Bus Drivers, First bus operator (business); Joy Watson (national champion); Dementia Friendly Crawley (local initiative); The Archie Project (regional initiative); Stoke Damerel Community College (school/college); Dementia Friendly Gurudwaras (voluntary initiative).

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NHS Scotland ‘masterchef’ contest

by Admin 21. May 2014 10:24

Scottish chefs are being invited to enter a ‘masterchef’ competition to redesign NHS meals.

The Scottish government is set to launch a new cookery contest that will see chefs and catering teams competing to re-design NHS food.

The Good Food Challenge 2014, to be launched by health secretary Alex Neil, invites cooks to create patient-suitable meals, with the winning menu being rolled out across NHS Scotland next year.

The emphasis will be on nutritional, locally-sourced food, with entrants cooking for 100 people during the contest. Regional heats will take place during the summer months, with the final set for later in the year.

While patient meals across NHS Scotland are regulated by national nutritional standards, a report published in 2010 found that one in five hospitals failed to meet the targets. The government subsequently pledged to tackle patient nutrition, with this new competition part of other plans to reinforce standards across the country.

Other food regulations include “protected mealtimes” to ensure medical procedures don’t prevent patients getting their food, while all patients are screened for malnutrition upon admittance to hospital.

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