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17 September 2021

UK

Vectura barred from medical conference amid backlash over PMI takeover

Two new ministers appointed after four leave DHSC

Sajid Javid promises health shake-up to fight 'disease of disparity'

'Everything up for grabs' as NHS reviews 'long-term plan' goals

Michael Gove: What will he do with beefed-up planning and levelling up job?

International

Pfizer recalls anti-smoking drug over carcinogen presence

Link of the Week

Update to Cochrane review of Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation

UK

Vectura barred from medical conference amid backlash over PMI takeover

 

Vectura has been barred from a major medical conference amid growing backlash over its £1.1bn takeover by tobacco firm Philip Morris International (PMI). The drugmaker had been listed as a sponsor and participant at an Oxford Global event on inhaled drug delivery in London next week but has now been banned from taking part as other speakers threatened to withdraw.

Meanwhile, the scientific community and public health charities have reacted to the takeover news with disappointment and dismay. In a letter to the public health minister, 35 charities, public health experts, and clinicians renewed calls on the Government to intervene, warning the merger could lead to greater tobacco industry influence over public policy. “We think it clear that this deal is not in the public interest and that it creates perverse incentives for PMI to increase harm through smoking so they might then profit again through treating smoking related diseases,” the letter said.

Several respiratory organisations are now poised to cut links with Vectura due to ethical firewalls that prohibit work with the tobacco industry. Jon Foster, Senior Policy Officer at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, told the i newspaper: “They’ve got a monopoly now of the disease lifecycle where they’ll give you the disease in the first place and then they’ll treat it.” The British Thoracic Society said the deal was “inappropriate, unethical and should have been prevented” and added that companies and individuals who maintain a relationship with Vectura now fall foul of its policies. The European Respiratory Society said the merger was “not suitable, ethical, or in the best public interest”.

The takeover also raises questions over Vectura’s tie-ups with universities due to similar rules about academic institutions accepting funding from tobacco firms. It is understood that Imperial College London, which has previously accepted funding from Vectura for research into viral lung inflammation, will not pursue any future partnerships once the deal goes through. Critics have warned the deal could prevent Vectura from publishing articles in top journals like the British Medical Journal and the Lancet.


Source: Telegraph, 17 September 2021

See also:

 
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Two new ministers appointed after four leave DHSC

Two new ministers have been appointed to the Department of Health and Social Care while four ministers have left in the Government’s latest ministerial reshuffle. Maggie Throup has replaced Jo Churchill as a junior health minister, taking on a portfolio that includes prevention, public health, and primary care. Gillian Keegan also today (16 September) replaced Helen Whately as care minister.

The moves follow the announcement yesterday that two ministers were promoted out of the department, with Nadine Dorries appointed culture secretary and Nadhim Zahawi education secretary. Dorries and Zahawi’s replacements have not yet been announced. 


Source: HSJ, 16 September 2021

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Sajid Javid promises health shake-up to fight 'disease of disparity'


Sajid Javid has promised to lead a new approach to public health focused on tackling the “disease of disparity” as he admitted that COVID-19 has exposed the UK’s underlying health inequalities. Javid said that the virus had shown that life chances varies greatly depending on where one lives and noted that the pandemic had made healthy people healthier and unhealthy people unhealthier. He promised that the Government’s levelling up strategy would redress the imbalances in healthcare services.

The health secretary made the announcement in a speech given in Blackpool on Thursday (16 September) organised by the Centre for Social Justice. Javid identified geography, race, weight, and other factors as bearing on how much people have been affected by COVID-19. Hospital Covid admissions in the most deprived parts of England were nearly three times higher than in the least deprived areas and the death rate was 2.4 times higher, while minority ethnic groups made up one-third of critical care admissions for the virus despite comprising one-seventh of the population.

Javid spoke of “tackling our social backlog in mental health and public health with the same spirit and sense of urgency as we tackled the pandemic” and noted that “nowhere is this mission more urgent than when it comes to our mental health and wellbeing.” He said that a new public health approach had been necessary even before the pandemic: “We have an ageing population, and an increase in people with multiple health conditions. We’re living longer yet spending more of our life in poor health. And the poorer you are, the greater the proportion of your life is spent in ill-health.”

Speaking of the need to focus on prevention, Javid also highlighted the value of tackling smoking, noting that “tobacco […] continues to account for the biggest share of avoidable premature death and contributes half the difference in life expectancy between richest and poorest.”
 

Source: The Guardian, 17 September 2021

See also: Speech - The hidden costs of COVID-19: the social backlog

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'Everything up for grabs' as NHS reviews 'long-term plan' goals


The HSJ has learned that senior officials within the NHS believe that many of the commitments made to improve services in the long-term plan cannot now be met following last week’s funding settlement and the damage of the COVID-19 pandemic. HSJ has learned that NHS England is reviewing the commitments made in the long-term plan alongside a review of budgets and service priorities.

The government last week announced that it would increase its pre-covid planned budget for the NHS in 2022-23 by £6.5bn and in 2023-24 by £3.6bn, but this covered only half of what the NHS said was needed to cover covid costs, meet the elective backlog and other increased demand, make up for lost efficiency savings, and to maintain the improvements planned in the 2019 NHS long-term plan. Several senior officials and close partners of the sector told HSJ that this was not enough to meet key long-term plan targets. One director said it was doubtful, for example, that the long-term plan target and government manifesto promise to increase the number of GPs by 5000 could now be met.

NHSE officials will now consider whether they can bid for more government funding, where they can find savings and what efficiencies they can expect from local NHS providers, whether to try to meet targets despite the circumstances, or whether to set out to government or publicly which objectives they cannot meet. One NHSE director said: “Everything is up for grabs.” Long-term plan budgets were set before the pandemic and do not account for increases in activity and demand due to Covid nor the reprioritisation of work during the pandemic.

The long-term plan also indicated that it relied on the government to bring forward multiyear spending plans to invest in training more staff and for capital spending on facilities, including addressing the backlog of repair work, which the Government has not done. Trusts are expected to be asked to plan to make “unrealistic” efficiency savings of 1.5% for the second half of 2021-22 and substantial savings in 2022-23, likely to be confirmed in imminent NHSE planning guidance.
 

Source: HSJ, 16 September 2021

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Michael Gove: What will he do with beefed-up planning and levelling up job?

 

BBC News’ Political Correspondent Alex Forsyth asks how we can expect Michael Gove to impact the Government’s levelling up agenda following his appointment as housing, communities and local government minister.

Forsyth says he has been told that Gove is ''itching’’ to gain control of a department which allows him to lead on operational policy. As Will Tanner, director of the Onward think-tank and former Government advisor put it, Gove is a '"heavy hitter" who is now at the "engine" of the levelling-up agenda. However, Forsyth understands that there was a ‘’distinct sense of uncertainty’’ amongst the leaders of some of the largest Conservative-run councils on a call on Thursday morning (16 September) to discuss what Gove’s appointment might mean.

Forsyth says that there are mixed opinions amongst Labour councillors over Gove’s appointment. Some feel that Gove might boost the profile of local government, which has often felt overlooked, particularly in the debate over social care. Few, however, believe that his arrival will solve what they see as an unfair funding system. One councillor said that the government was "highly political" when it came to funding and that it "can't get much worse".

Gove’s reputation as someone willing to override opposition to achieve his desired outcome is worrying some given the contentious issues now under his charge. Tim Oliver, the Conservative leader of Surrey County Council and chairman of the County Councils Network, said that we could expect Gove to pursue reform. "He will expect us to look at ways we can streamline services and perhaps deliver savings. I don't think he's going to be somebody who's going to provide large bailouts."


Source: BBC News, 17 September 2021

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International

Pfizer recalls anti-smoking drug over carcinogen presence


Pfizer said on Thursday (16 September) that it was recalling its anti-smoking treatment Chantix (also known as varenicline) due to high levels of cancer-causing agents called nitrosamines in the pills. Pfizer asked wholesalers and distributors to stop the use and distribution the tablets immediately having already paused distribution of the drug in June 2021.

Pfizer said that there was no immediate risk to patients taking Chantix but advised them to consult with their healthcare provider to check the availability of alternative treatments. Chantix was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2006 as a prescription medicine to help adults aged over 18 to quit smoking and is typically used for 12 to 24 weeks.


Source: Reuters, 16 September 2021

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Link of the Week

Update to Cochrane review of Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation


Cochrane has updated its Review of Electronic Cigarettes for Smoking Cessation. The Review revises all of the available evidence on e-cigarettes from studies up to 1st May 2021 to provide up to date information on the effect and safety of using electronic cigarettes to help people who smoke to achieve long-term smoking abstinence. The Review’s key findings were: 
 

  • More people probably stop smoking for at least six months using nicotine e-cigarettes than using nicotine replacement therapy or nicotine-free e-cigarettes.

  • Nicotine e-cigarettes may work better than no support for quitting smoking or than behavioural support alone.

  • Nicotine e-cigarettes may not be associated with serious unwanted effects.

  • The unwanted effects reported most often with nicotine e-cigarettes were throat and mouth irritation, headache, cough, and feeling sick. These effects reduced over time as people continued to use nicotine e-cigarettes.

  • We need more, reliable evidence to be confident about the effects of e-cigarettes, particularly the effects of newer types of e-cigarettes that have better nicotine delivery.


You can read the review below. 

Read Review
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