‘A timely opportunity to look at the escalating cost of drugs’

Prime Minister and Clive Stone’s constituency MP David Cameron appearing on the BBC1 programme, The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, discussing how ministers engaged with bosses from British-based AstraZeneca about its potential takeover by Pfizer before the

Prime Minister and Clive Stone’s constituency MP David Cameron appearing on the BBC1 programme, The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, discussing how ministers engaged with bosses from British-based AstraZeneca about its potential takeover by Pfizer before the

First published in News

Little to report this month on the health front apart from the removal of two more suspected tumours.

I’ve had the stitches out and all seems to be healing well. I’m just waiting to see where cancer will pop up next as that seems to be the nature of the beast.

We have still not received an answer from NHS England to our email of March 18 asking the reason for the cancellation of the proposed Oxford Gamma Knife Centre, apart from a reply a few days later to say we would be “hearing shortly”.

This is very unsatisfactory as NHS England appears to be playing God with the lives of desperately ill patients. Already some of our senior frontline specialists have challenged this decision on our behalf, but sadly to no avail.

This leaves me with little alternative but to write to a more senior decision maker. I will return to this in a few weeks when hopefully I will have more information to pass on.

Cancer Research UK has also highlighted the fact that cancer patients are not getting the promised advanced radiotherapy treatments.

I am not sure whether these decision makers are aware that in England 11 people are diagnosed with brain cancer and nine die from it every day. In fact, 20-40 per cent of all cancers eventually spread to the brain, which is an alarming fact.

Some 58 per cent of patients with brain cancer die within a year, compared to five per cent of women with breast cancer.

Brain tumours are one of a very few conditions that have become more common now than in 1970. I rest my case. There has been a lot of talk about the proposed takeover of AstraZeneca (AZ) based in the UK, by the huge American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has accumulated a massive war chest. It appears an offer of £63bn has been made.

Apparently, not only is Pfizer keen to secure AZ’s promising cancer drugs pipeline, but Pfizer will also substantially reduce its taxation liability in America as it intends to take advantage of our Government’s ‘patent box’ of tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. If it goes ahead, it will create the world’s biggest drug maker.

With such mergers, redundancies are usually the norm.

Pfizer laid off 2,000 research and development (R&D) workers in Sandwich, Kent, just two years ago – hence the Government now wants to become involved in overseeing negotiations.

According to newspaper reports, Pfizer has reduced R&D budgets in previous takeover deals as well as creating redundancies.

Cancer patients do not want to see the promised AZ cancer drug pipeline put in jeopardy.

In a perfect world, I would like to see our Government use this timely opportunity to negotiate a reduction in some of the escalating high costs of cancer drugs to the NHS, as big pharmaceuticals are making huge margins even after high R&D costs, but then I am sure it could never be as simple as this as drug companies operate in global markets.

I was alarmed to read a report from the World Health Organisation on cancer, which states that the world number of cancer cases is expected to rise by 75 per cent in just 20 years, with the number of new cases expected to be 25 million.

It says: “We can’t treat our way out of the cancer problem but more should be done to prevent cases and detect cases earlier.”

They warn that even the richest countries will struggle to keep up with the increasing treatment costs and this is placing enormous strains on healthcare systems.

“More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed,” it adds.

I have to say it appears that governments now have little choice but to prioritise the introduction of such measures sooner rather than later if we are serious about reducing the incidence of cancer.

Cancer patients have the best of facilities here in Oxford, which is also renowned for research.

In this regard I support an excellent cancer charity that was set up by my consultants at about the time I was diagnosed in 2007 – UCARE. See ucare-oxford.org.uk/index.html for more information.

The charity undertakes research and provides patient information for urological cancers, including my own kidney cancer.

Overheads are well controlled, with a high proportion of funds raised channelled back into research.

A present project is to raise £50,000 to fund a community nurse post to engage the public in disease awareness.

A good friend of mine, Alison Beaver from Freeland, who had breast cancer, will be doing a tandem skydive with others, to raise funds in September.

So please watch out for details in the press if you want to sponsor her or make a donation to this worthwhile cause, or contact UCARE if you wish to join this fundraising event.

NEXT TIME: Clive’s column will appear on Tuesday, June 10

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