New vector-borne diseases threat in Europe

by IainBate 3. April 2014 11:42

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease are on the increase in the WHO European Region.

WHO is calling on people to protect themselves from vector-borne diseases. Mosquito, sandfly and tick bites passed diseases to more than 1.5 million Europeans between 1990 and 2010. Outbreaks of exotic diseases, such as chikungunya, are now reported in the WHO European Region. 

Locally transmitted cases of dengue fever, absent from Europe for more than 60 years, have reappeared. Despite rapid progress in eliminating locally transmitted malaria, localised outbreaks were reported in recent years and numbers of imported cases are still high. The health impact and geographic distribution of some long-established diseases in the region, such as leishmaniasis and Lyme disease, are growing.

"There is a clear warning signal to the European Region that diseases carried by vectors may spread and intensify in the years ahead. Globalised travel and trade, as well as Europe's increased urbanisation and changing weather patterns, are making this possible," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. "History shows that, when efforts to prevent and control spread are focused and robust, we can contain or even get rid of these diseases. Otherwise, they can come back and risk settling again in Europe. This is not the time to lower our guard."

While many Europeans consider malaria a remote disease, 5000 cases were imported into Europe in 2013. Imported cases and recent outbreaks show malaria's potential to resettle in formerly malaria-free areas, jeopardizing the region's goal of eliminating the disease by 2015.

 The threat of an outbreak of dengue fever now exists in Europe; in 2010 local transmission was reported for the first time in France and Croatia, and imported cases were detected in three other European countries. Mosquito vectors of chikungunya caused the first European outbreak in Italy in 2007, with almost 200 cases.

Vector surveillance and control, and the early detection of cases in human beings are vital to prevent the re-introduction and re-establishment of mosquitoes, and the spread of the diseases they carry. 


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General | News

TaxPayers' Alliance accuses NHS of wasting millions

by Admin 3. April 2014 11:30

The TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) has accused the NHS of “wasting” over £46m last year.

Using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted to every NHS organisation in the UK, the TPA says that it found that the NHS “squandered” over £46 million last year on 1,129 “unnecessary” jobs in areas such as public relations, the EU and "green" staff. They say that the money spent on these positions in could have paid for 1,662 full time nurses. Some trusts did not respond to the TPA’s requests for information. 

Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Taxpayers expect the health budget to be spent on real doctors, not spin doctors. The NHS employs far too many people in jobs that do nothing to deliver frontline patient care. It's time for health chiefs to launch a war on waste and ensure the NHS budget is spent on patients rather than squandered on bureaucrats."

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News | NHS

All the lonely people missed by GPs

by Admin 3. April 2014 10:46

New research has found that many doctors are failing to make the link between loneliness and damaging health behaviours like smoking, drinking, and poor diet.  

Although doctors were well aware of the health risks of smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity and low levels of exercise, some surveyed seemed unaware that loneliness, as well as being a significant health risk in itself, has also been shown to be a significant contributor to the likelihood of risky behaviours. 

The poll of UK GPs found that family doctors are underestimating the health risks of loneliness. 36 per cent of doctors questioned didn’t think that loneliness made a significant contribution to early death. This was despite, for example, evidence that having poor social relationships has a greater influence on risk of early mortality than being obese. 

The research found that:


  • Loneliness is a risk factor for alcohol abuse, and may make it harder to give up excessive drinking.
  • Being single or widowed decreases the daily variety of fruit and vegetables eaten (compared to people who live with a spouse or partner). 
  • Lonely adults are more likely to be smokers and more likely to be overweight.
  • Lonely adults are less likely to engage in physical activity and exercise.


The Campaign to End Loneliness is calling on Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to make more money available for schemes aimed at reducing loneliness, such as the £1 million recently announced by Calderdale council and Calderdale CCG. 

When asked if loneliness should be treated as a public health issue more than half (52 per cent) of the doctors questioned agreed that it should be. However, only three in 10 (28 per cent) thought that CCGs should take responsibility for commissioning services to alleviate and prevent loneliness.

Kate Jopling, Director for the Campaign to End Loneliness, said: “By now most of us are aware that smoking, drinking too much, a poor diet and taking too little exercise is bad for us - but many of us choose to do these things anyway.

“As well as educating us about the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle, doctors need to take an active role in addressing the root causes of poor health choices.

“When we are feeling lonely we are much less likely to look after ourselves. By helping people to maintain their social connections and relationships, or to make new ones, we can also help them to improve their health and ultimately reduce their chances of needing expensive medical care in later life.”

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General | News

New chief financial officer for Merck Sharp and Dohme

by Admin 2. April 2014 11:23

Merck Sharp and Dohme has announced the appointment of Robert Davis as its new executive vice-president and chief financial officer (CFO).

Mr Davis is currently corporate vice-president and president of the medical products business at Baxter. In his new role, effective as of April 23 2014, he will oversee corporate strategy and business development. 

Mr Davis succeeds Peter Kellogg, who has been CFO since 2007. Mr Kellogg is credited with making significant contributions to the business and will remain with the company until mid-May, working closely with his successor to ensure a smooth transition.

Kenneth Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer at Merck Sharp and Dohme, said that Mr Davis' expertise would “be an asset to us in implementing a significantly streamlined, more flexible cost structure and operating model, while enabling us to focus on our highest-potential growth opportunities".


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News | Personnel

New global initiative to improve patient outcomes in metastatic colorectal cancer

by Admin 2. April 2014 10:21

Merck Serono, the biopharmaceutical division of Merck, has announced the formation of the global Oncology Partnership and Education Network (OPEN).

The global initiative, supported by Merck Serono, brings together a multidisciplinary group of stakeholders involved with the management of cancer to help improve patient care. Focusing on metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) as its first priority, 

OPEN aims to reinforce the important role biomarker testing has in personalizing care in mCRC. Based on recent scientific developments in the area of biomarkers in mCRC, OPEN’s first priority will be to establish a global campaign to improve awareness and understanding with the general public, patients and healthcare professionals.

OPEN, chaired by Professor Ciardiello, is supported by an international steering committee of experts in the field of oncology, including healthcare professionals, patient advocacy groups and policy representatives. The launch of OPEN coincides with Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in many countries.


European Medicines Group appoints new chair and more

by Admin 2. April 2014 10:03

Steve Oldfield, Sanofi UK and Ireland’s Managing Director, was elected Chair of the European Medicines Group (EMG) at its AGM last night. 

Mr Oldfield takes over from Lundbeck UK’s Managing Director, Steve Turley, who held the post for the previous two years. He will be supported by new vice-Chair David Garmon-Jones, General Manager, Merck Serono UK and Ireland (who takes over from Actelion’s Robin Bhattacherjee) and re-elected Treasurer, Mike Sumpter, CEO, Servier Laboratories.

Speaking following his appointment Steve Oldfield said, "Our members represent a significant proportion of the research-based industry operating in the UK.  For all, regardless of our size or the areas in which we specialise, either trying to ensure or improving patient access to, or uptake of new medicines is the number one priority. Low and slow uptake of new medicines is systemic in the UK."

He added, "In theory the UK has a framework in place to enable a better operating environment with polices such as Innovation, Health and Wealth and the Strategy for UK Life Sciences and most recently the commitments made as part of the PPRS agreement.  How this will be translated into operational delivery will be a key issue for our group over the coming year."

Commenting on the EMG’s plans Vice-Chair David Garmon-Jones said, "A further priority for us is ensuring policy makers fully recognise the link between the commercial environment – the local use of the medicines we research, develop and manufacture – and inward investment in its various forms.  Globally the UK is viewed as a tough market where innovative new medicines aren’t adopted as readily as similar economies.  The reality is EMG member companies compete with colleagues in other markets for investment share."

Steve Oldfield added, ‘No-one should labour under the illusion that local levels of usage of medicines and the attitude to industry can be separated from commercial policy.  EMG wants to work closely with policy makers and our NHS stakeholder partners to ensure patients can get access to treatments from which they might benefit, and to demonstrate that the UK and the NHS is worth investing in.’

Any company Managing Director interested in joining the European Medicines Group should contact Steve Oldfield or David Garmon-Jones or visit


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News | Personnel

New NHS boss promises to ‘think like a patient’

by Admin 1. April 2014 12:16

On his first day as NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens has promised to ‘think like a patient’ and calls for a “team effort” to ensure the survival of the health service.

As Simon Stevens takes up the role of chief executive of NHS England today, he will make a speech vowing to “think like a patient, act like a tax payer” as he works to steer the NHS through the troubled times ahead.

Stevens, who takes over the top job from Sir David Nicholson, has released the details of his upcoming speech in which he declares his “guiding principle” to be “walk in the shoes of the people we serve.

“Think like a patient, act like a tax payer.”

In his speech, which will be delivered following a visit to health care services in the north of the country, Stevens will accept that the “stakes have never been higher” for the NHS and identify areas of priority to be targeted in the months and years ahead.

Among the areas for action, Stevens will stress that handling the issues connected with the ageing population is key and will require the NHS to “radically transform how care is delivered outside hospitals”. He will call on patients and carers to “help redesign care” and declare that an “NHS with a ‘like it or lump it’ attitude will simply not survive”.

His other areas of attention are expected to be “action to raise standards of care for older people, better joint working between health and social care, and new models of care delivery harnessing new advances in medicine”.

Stevens, whose previous job was with a private healthcare firm in the US, is also expected to stress the importance of team work in handling the difficult years ahead for the NHS.

“Successfully navigating the next few years is going to take a team effort – involving the biggest team in the biggest effort the NHS has ever seen,” he will say.

“Amazing, one in three of the children born across England this very day are likely to live to celebrate their 100th birthday. Our mission is to ensure that a caring, compassionate and modern NHS is there for them throughout their lives, every step of the way.”

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News | NHS

First drug for rare disease arrives in the UK

by Admin 1. April 2014 11:36

The first treatment for a rare heart and lung disease arrives in the UK thanks to a green light from the EMA.

Bayer’s Adempas, a drug to treat those with chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH), has been approved by the European Medicines Association (EMA), becoming the first treatment option for those with an inoperable form of the rare disease available in the UK.

CTEPH, a life-threatening condition of the heart and lungs, affects around 1,300 people in the UK. While surgery offers a potential cure for most with the disease, around 20-40% patients are deemed inoperable and subsequently require treatments to help manage their disease.

Thanks to the recent approval by the EMA, Adempas is now the first treatment option for those with inoperable CTEPH, proving efficacy with improving exercise capacity and offering the first and only option to those denied surgery.

“Until today there were no other treatment options, aside from surgery, for those diagnosed with this disease,” affirmed Iain Armstrong, consultant nurse at Royal Hallamshire Hospital. Armstrong described Adempas’ availability in the UK as the “start of a new era in CTEPH management”.

Professor Johannes-Peter Stasch, chief scientist at Bayer, said: “We are proud to have led the way in this disease area and to be the first company to have succeeded in bringing a proven CTEPH treatment from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside.”

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Drugs | News

AZ+MRC=New Frontiers

by Admin 1. April 2014 10:25

AstraZeneca has teamed up the UK Medicines Research Council to ‘push the boundaries of science’.

As part of a continued effort to upgrade its R&D efforts, AstraZeneca (AZ) has teamed up with the UK Medicines Research Council (MRC) to explore early stage drug discovery and “push the boundaries of science”, creating a “unique collaboration” between industry and academia.

The pair will work alongside one another at the new Centre for Lead Discovery in Cambridge, with AZ granting academic researchers “unprecedented access” to the pharma company’s in-house compound collection as they work together to understand the mechanism behind disease.

The five-year agreement, which will involve up to 15 screening projects each year, has been described by Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC, as a “unique collaboration” that serves as a “long term investment in UK infrastructure”.  

As part of the agreement, the MRC will select and fund screening projects, while AZ will retain first rights to discussing the licensing of any compounds that display potential for further developments.

Menelas Pangalo, executive vice president of innovative medicines and early development at AZ, said the “major strategic alliance” was the “first of its kind” and had high hopes for its success.

“Through this collaboration AZ and the MRC will push the boundaries of science to accelerate drug discovery and the development of new medicines here in the UK,” he said.    

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General | News

Genetic mutations 'warn of risk' of skin cancer

by Admin 31. March 2014 15:46

A newly identified gene mutation causes some cases of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, say UK researchers.

Writing in a report in Nature Genetics, a team of scientists say they have taken a step forward in understanding why some people are at greater risk of skin cancer because of their family history. The team, led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, UK, found that people with mutations in a certain gene were at an extremely high risk of melanoma.

Around one in 20 people with melanoma have an established family history of the disease. The overall risk of the cancer depends on several factors, including sun exposure, skin type and family history. In the UK, almost 12,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma every year.

The mutations switch off a gene known as POT1, which protects against damage to chromosomes. The discovery will pave the way for new screening methods.

Dr Safia Danovi, Cancer Research UK, said: “This is a step forward for people with a strong family history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.”

Co-author Dr David Adams, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, told the BBC: "The mutations in this gene result in damage to the end of the chromosomes and chromosomal damage in general is linked to cancer formation."

The team found that cancers such as leukaemia were common in families with a high incidence of melanoma, which may mean that the gene may underlie other cancers as well.

Dr Danovi added: "It's important to remember that, for most of us, avoiding sunburn and sunbeds is the best way to reduce the risk of this disease."

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