Trauma centres are ‘major success story’

by Admin 1. July 2014 14:31

Trauma centres are declared a ‘major success story’ by NHS England chief executive after data reveals approximately 600 lives have been saved in two years.

A recent report released by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN) reveals that trauma centres are making a significant difference to survival rates across England, reducing the number of deaths from severe injuries.

Since their introduction in April 2012, the 25 trauma centres spread across England have helped raise the chance of surviving a severe injury by 30%, which equates to around 600 lives saved in the past two years.

The TARN suggested that more people are surviving because they are being taken directly to specialist teams working at the trauma centres rather than conventional A&E departments, where suitable help may not be available. This has also resulted in a reduction in the likelihood of patients being left with permanent disabilities following their injury. 

NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, highlighted the work of the trauma centres during a speech at the Age UK annual conference, praising the centres as “a major success story” with “600 fewer lives cut short, 600 fewer bereaved families”.

“This reminds us that healthcare is constantly changing and the NHS needs to adapt with it. Sometimes we need to centralise in order to save lives, at other times we need to make services more local to meet the needs of patients,” he said. 


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News | NHS

AbbVie’s breast cancer drug enters phase III trial

by Admin 1. July 2014 10:21

AbbVie’s researchers have commenced a phase III trial with a drug they hope will to benefit those with advanced-stage breast cancer.

Around 270 patients are involved in a phase III trial of AbbVie’s investigational compound veliparib (ABT-888), which is to be combined with the chemotherapeutic medicines carboplatin and paclitaxel and tested on women with HER2-negative breast cancer.

Michael Severino, executive vice-president of research and development and chief executive officer at AbbVie, said: “This is the third Phase III trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of veliparib, and the second evaluating the addition of veliparib to chemotherapy for the treatment of patients with difficult-to-treat forms of breast cancer.”

He explained that the new trial programme was taking an “innovative approach” to developing anti-cancer compounds, with the team hoping the compound would prove beneficial to women in the advanced-stage of the disease.

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Drugs | News

Diabetes drugs may do more harm than good

by Admin 1. July 2014 09:44

A team of researchers have warned that some type-2 diabetes drugs may have side effects that outweigh the benefits.

According to a research report recently released by a team from University College London (UCL), the risks of taking type-2 diabetes medication may outweigh the benefits for some patients.

The team has called on GPs to make the benefits and the potential side effects clear to patients before prescribing diabetes medication to ensure patients understand the risks.

The UCL team conducted a study on the months of healthy life gained by patients of different ages on type-2 diabetes medication. They found that an average 45-year-old dropping their blood sugar by 1% would only gain 10 months healthy life, while an average 75-year-old would gain just three weeks.

The potential side effects of treatment include indigestion or sickness and the burden of having multiple injections and blood tests each day, prompting the researchers to suggest that side effects could outweigh the benefits for some patients.

Professor John Yudkin, one of the report’s authors, said “if you’re someone with type-2, it’s your right to know what the benefits of the treatment are in terms of gain in life expectancy or reduction in heart attacks or going blind.”

He suggested that GPs had become to “target focussed” on reducing blood sugar levels and needed to be more aware of the cost and benefit of prescribing treatments.

Simon O’Neill, director for health intelligence at Diabetes UK, said the study “highlights the importance of looking at the individual needs of the person with type-2 diabetes rather than adopting a blanket approach.”

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Drugs | News

FDA Breakthrough Therapy Designation for investigational antidote

by Admin 30. June 2014 12:49

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to the investigational antidote idarucizumab* (a humanised antibody fragment), currently being studied as a specific antidote for the oral anticoagulant Pradaxa® (dabigatran etexilate).

The FDA established the Breakthrough Therapy Designation as a means to accelerate the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions if preliminary clinical evidence indicates the therapy may demonstrate a substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints.

Professor Klaus Dugi, Chief Medical Officer, Boehringer Ingelheim, said: “In light of Boehringer Ingelheim’s core mission to provide value through innovation, we are pleased that the FDA has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to idarucizumab to help expedite its development.

“It’s important to note that the positive efficacy and safety profile for Pradaxa® is well-documented in both clinical trials and real-world evaluations, which were all conducted in the absence of an antidote.

“The specific investigational antidote for Pradaxa®, which our scientists at Boehringer Ingelheim are developing, would give physicians an additional and highly targeted option beyond the already existing measures for treatment in case of certain emergency situations.”

Prior clinical research of the antidote in a healthy volunteer study with 145 participants has already demonstrated the potential of the antidote for immediate, complete and sustained reversal of the anticoagulant effect of dabigatran.

In the placebo-controlled study, the antidote was well tolerated and did not cause any clinically relevant side effects. These aspects are especially valuable in clinical situations where rapid reversal of dabigatran-induced anticoagulation may be beneficial for patients taking Pradaxa®.

REVERSE-AD, a global patient study, is now underway to investigate the potential antidote in the clinical setting in patients taking Pradaxa® who have uncontrolled bleeding or require emergency procedures.

The study will be open to eligible patients in more than 35 countries and at over 500 sites and is the first time that an antidote under development for a novel oral anticoagulant is investigated in a study in patients.

The antidote is still under investigation and has not yet been approved for clinical use.


Dying patients should not be denied food

by Admin 30. June 2014 11:37

The UK government has released details of a new regime for end of life care to replace the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway, scrapped in 2013.

The Priorities for Care approach, unveiled recently by the government, will serve as the new regime for end of life care after the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) was heavily criticised and subsequently abandoned last year.

Under the previous Pathway, health workers were recommended to withdraw treatment and deny food or drink to some patients in their final hours, prompting health professionals to raise concerns. An independent review into the LCP was “shocked” by the use of the pathway and suggested some doctors had been using it as an “excuse for poor quality care”.

The new approach, set out in Priorities for Care, “will mean that care is focused on dying people’s wishes – rather than process” explained care minister Norman Lamb.

“The poor care given to some people and their families on the Liverpool Care Pathway must never happen again.”

The new approach stresses the importance of providing patients with food and water for as long as they want it and stipulated that care must be tailored to the individual.

Patients must also be made aware they are nearing the end of their lives, with all decisions about their care made in accordance with their wishes and taking into account the needs of family and friends.

All decisions about a patient’s care must also be reviewed regularly to ensure it continues to best support the patient’s changing condition and needs.

Jane Cummings, chief nursing officer for England, said the new priorities will “promote a culture of compassion that puts people and their families at the centre of decisions about their treatment and care.”

The new priorities, developed by an alliance of 21 organisations known as the Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People, were welcomed by the Royal College of GPs and charities such as Marie Curie.

Claire Henry, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, praised the new approach for offering “a real opportunity” for improving end of life care but stressed “the challenge now is to turn ambitions into action and principles into practice.”

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News | NHS

Potential in new breast cancer blood test

by Admin 30. June 2014 11:23

Researchers have identified a genetic signature that may be useful in predicting whether a woman is likely to develop non-inherited breast cancer.

This study aimed to see whether it was possible to develop a blood test that could predict whether a person was at risk of developing non-hereditary breast cancer.

The BRCA1 gene has long been associated with the risk of breast cancer. People who have inherited mutations of this gene are reported to have an 85 per cent risk of developing breast cancer.

Reliable blood tests for inherited (genetic) cases of breast cancer, which look for mutations in the BRCA gene, may already be used in women with a strong family history of breast cancer. 

The new research focused on a set of DNA methylations that could provide a unique "signature" and potentially predict breast cancer risk in people without BRCA mutations. Fewer than 1 In 10 of all breast cancers are in people with BRCA mutations.

They found the DNA methylation signature predicted breast cancer (and breast cancer deaths) only in the group of women without a family history of breast cancer, but not in the women with a family history.

The study was carried out by researchers from University College London and the University of Manchester in the UK, the First Faculty of Medicine and General University Hospital, Charles University in the Czech Republic, and the Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences in China. It was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Genome Medicine.

Although the research is promising, a reliable blood test for non-inherited breast cancer is not imminent. Much more work is required before such a test can be considered or brought into widespread use. 

Consideration of the possibility of false negative and false positive test results would be part of this work. Even if a test correctly identified a woman as being at risk of breast cancer, the psychological consequences of this risk and what to do about it are significant.


Yorks ambulance staff to strike

by Admin 30. June 2014 10:43

Yorkshire ambulance service workers have voted overwhelmingly for strike action on 5 and 6 July in response to the long-running dispute over patient and staff safety issues.

The workers, employed at Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, are members of Unite, the country’s largest union. They voted by 84 per cent to strike on Saturday 5 July and on Sunday 6 July.

Unite said that it had received ‘a very strong mandate’ to continue the fight to ensure patient care was paramount and that the already over-stretched ambulance staff did not become exhausted while carrying out their vital duties.

Unite regional officer Terry Cunliffe said: “Once again, our members have spoken with a clear voice that concern for patient and staff safety remains absolutely paramount.

“This is a very strong mandate and we urge the trust’s chief executive David Whiting, who recently imposed new draconian conditions without any agreement with the unions, to sit down for urgent and constructive talks.”

Earlier this month the management introduced new working conditions which meant that emergency care assistants (ECAs) with only six weeks training would take on more responsibilities. These include being the first to respond to a ‘red’ (emergency) call.

Unite has repeatedly called for ECAs to receive more training to deal with the more complex tasks they are now being asked to carry out.  

A new meal break system has also been introduced, although Mr Whiting has laid down conditions which mean that Unite members can be refused any breaks when the service is busy – even on a 12 hour shift.

The dispute began 18 months ago with the introduction of elongated shift patterns, which have led to concerns that patient safety will be put at risk as a result of staff exhaustion.

Bosses also withdrew recognition from Unite as a union representing staff, after the union raised concerns about patient safety at the start of last year.

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General | News | NHS

Roche and Inception create new MS-focused company

by Admin 27. June 2014 15:50

Roche has teamed up with Inception Sciences and Versant Ventures to fund a new, MS-focused research company.

The pharma company recently announced its involvement, in collaboration with Inception Sciences and Versant Ventures, in a new multiple sclerosis research company to speed the development of innovative treatments.  

The new company will be tasked with researching and developing novel small molecule remyelinating therapies for those suffering from multiple sclerosis, with suitable molecular targets having already been identified.

Luca Santarelli, global head of neuroscience at Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development, said: “With Inception 5 we look forward to further unravelling the biological basis of nerve myelination and target-repair mechanisms in multiple sclerosis.” 

The new company will be funded by Roche and Inception, with the former retaining the option of purchasing Inception 5 if developments prove profitable.

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General | News

Novartis funds eye treatment on the move

by Admin 27. June 2014 10:43

Novartis has teamed up with the NHS to create a new mobile eye treatment unit, the first of its kind in the country.

Patients across Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire will now be able to access a mobile eye treatment unit courtesy of a collaborative project between Novartis and Frimley Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Under the partnership, a new eye treatment unit offering up to 250 clinic slots per week for people with minor eye problems will travel around the local area. The mobile unit will ensure patients can more easily access services and should serve to reduce the pressure on local hospitals and GPs.

Frederic Guerard, managing director for the UK and Ireland at Novartis, said: “Novartis is committed to supporting the NHS in identifying solutions to address unmet clinical need.”

“As the world’s leader in eye care, we aim to continually work to provide patients and clinicians with the most innovative and sustainable solutions,” he added.  

The first-of-its-kind venture was officially launched by health secretary Jeremy Hunt at the end of June, who spoke at the event to praise the “excellent example of how innovative services lead to better access and improved treatment for patients.” 

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General | News

Mini-hearts grown for research

by Admin 27. June 2014 09:30

Researchers in Scotland have grown mini-hearts to use for testing drugs on currently untreatable diseases

Thousands of mini-hearts, or tiny spheres of heart cells measuring just 1mm in width, have been grown by scientists in Scotland to aid in medical research on currently untreatable heart conditions.

The miniature hearts contain tissue matching that of a human heart muscle and are being injected with diseases such as hypertrophy. While mini hearts have been created before, this is the first time the heart cells have been injected with disease to enable scientists to test for treatments.

Professor Nikolai Zhelev, lead researcher for the team working at Abertay University, said: “They are indeed human cells, which physiologically are the same as human hearts, in this case the size does not matter.”

Professor Zhelev explained how the use of the hearts aided the research by speeding the process and allowing more chemicals to be tested in a short space of time.  

“We can work now, in one experiment, with 1,000 human hearts and test large amounts of compounds, which you can't do in animals.”

The team are presenting the details of their ongoing research at the World Congress on Biotechnology in Spain, revealing that they believe they have identified one cancer drug that could potentially be used to treat hypertrophy.


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