Monday, June 25, 2007


One gets that impression. See the folly below. The NHS is famous for denying helpful drugs to its patients but has now decided to make one class of drugs widely available -- a class of drug that appears to do as much harm as good. See here and here. "Kill 'em or cure 'em" seems to be their thinking. Note the following crucial sentence in a big review of the evidence on the efficacy of statins: "A second review evaluated only trials in primary prevention and found similar reductions in CHD events and mortality, but a non-significant effect on all cause mortality". In other words, statins saved you from heart attacks but raised your risk of death from other causes -- the two effects cancelling one-another out. THAT is what the NHS now wants to give to millions, regardless of whether they have any current health problems or not. Isn't government wonderful? Note also the negative comments about statins in the first article I cover in today's posts on FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC.

MILLIONS of people are to be prescribed cholesterol-busting drugs on the NHS in Britain’s biggest mass medication programme for adults. The government’s drugs watchdog is expected this week to recommend the systematic screening of all adults at 40, 50 and 60 for heart disease. Those found to have a 20% chance of developing it over the next 10 years will be prescribed statins, the cholesterol-lowering “wonder drugs” that have had dramatic results in preventing heart disease. New research suggests that as many as 14m -- half of all adults aged 40 or over -- could be eligible for the drugs even though they have no symptoms.

Some doctors say a national screening programme could prevent up to 14,000 deaths a year. Heart disease is Britain’s biggest killer, claiming 105,000 lives a year. Other experts fear, however, that a programme of mass medication would make millions of adults dependent on drugs for the rest of their lives. Dr Peter Brindle, a researcher in cardiovascular disease at Bristol University, said: “ This is turning people into patients. They are going to be offered this preventative drug for the rest of their life with all the risks and side effects. There has to be a public debate about whether society feels this should be done.”

Statins are considered to be safe but patients can experience muscle pain or liver problems. Some doctors argue that it is not worth risking these side effects for people who are not suffering symptoms of heart disease.

At present patients who have suffered a heart attack or angina are eligible for statins on the NHS and some of those at risk, but not ill, are already being prescribed statins at their GP’s discretion. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is expected to argue that a systematic screening programme would pick up millions of other people who could benefit from the drugs. GPs would be expected to do the screening, checking patients’ cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight and whether they smoke. Men are at higher risk than women.

If 14m people were subsequently prescribed statins, it would cost the NHS at least 560million pounds a year. But, say cardiologists, it could save billions in treatment costs. Research by Dr Ift-ikhar Haq, a consultant cardiologist in Newcastle upon Tyne, shows that if everyone aged 40 and above was screened for heart disease, 47% of those who show no symptoms would qualify for preventative treatment with statin drugs. Statins work by lowering cholesterol, which can cause fatty desposits in the arteries leading to heart disease.


Australian health bosses adopting British-style dirty tricks to "fiddle" their statistics

HEALTH chiefs have been accused of using "sneaky tactics" to reduce surgery waiting times at Queensland hospitals. Thousands of patients waiting for operations are getting letters from Queensland Health asking them if they still need treatment. If they fail to reply within 30 days, they are automatically taken off the list and forced to return to their GP.

The Sunday Mail can reveal there are about 32,000 Category 2 and 3 patients who currently qualify for a letter from the department. Usually about one person in four fails to respond.

Hospital staff are outraged that as many as 8000 patients could drop off the list, perhaps without realising. They spoke out after Health Minister Stephen Robertson recently boasted how his measures to reduce surgery waits were working. One doctor, who couldn't be named because of a Queensland Health ban on staff speaking out, said it was a dirty trick to play. "It's just more sneaky tactics by the Government to make the waiting times look better", he said. "There is the risk that people could move house or be on holiday and not receive the letter. They could have their letters lost in the post, and others could just forget about replying altogether."

Ross Cartmill, Queensland president of the Australian Medical Association, said it was wrong not to publicly announce the letters were being sent. "I can understand them wanting to cleanse the waiting list by finding out who still needs treatment, but they should be using the media to tell people about it." The letters are sent out to Category 2 patients needing an operation within 90 days, and Category 3, who require surgery within a year. Managers say the letters are sent out to "ensure the highest standard of service to our patients". Patients who fail to specify they still need an operation are sent a follow-up letter. It states: "If you require further treatment for your condition, we urge you to contact your general practitioner."

There are 35,583 patients on the waiting list for operations across the state. More than 10,000 of these are waiting longer than is clinically safe with almost 200 classified as needing urgent treatment within 30 days. Health bosses refused to reveal how many people have failed to respond. Spokeswoman Carolyn Varley said: "We don't collate that." But sources told The Sunday Mail about a quarter of patients do not reply.

A second Queensland Health spokesman said the figure was not "accurate", but was unable to say what the figure was: "This process is not done to reduce waiting lists, but to ensure they are accurate and that resources can be utilised efficiently." Opposition health spokesman John-Paul Langbroek said it would be more ef- ficient and cheaper to phone patients. "This is just an underhand way to try to reduce waiting lists and it's not fair on patients," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: