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Cancer in Germany: Implementing innovation

When it comes to bringing the best new treatments and techniques to cancer patients, it can sometime..

When it comes to bringing the best new treatments and techniques to cancer patients, it can sometimes take a year or two between when a therapy is approved and when it actually comes into regular use.

Thats actually not bad by the standards of European medicine. But then doctors and health systems face a host of other challenges: finding the money, determining if the treatment is actually worth it and translating lab findings into the real world, where unlike in clinical trials, patients may have other illnesses in addition to cancer.

At the same time, doctors increasingly find themselves explaining to patients why the latest new treatment they saw on TV might not be right for them.

Four cancer experts from various stages of the care spectrum joined me in Berlin for a discussion about these and other issues for the first Global Policy Lab: Decoding Cancer conference call. The discussion kicked off with a reflection about what the most realistic goals should be when we talk about “solving” cancer, before moving on to what works and doesnt in the German system.

Participants:

  • Johannes Bruns, secretary-general of the German Cancer Society (DKG)
  • Petra Feyer, chairwoman of the Berlin Cancer Society
  • Hanno Riess, head of the medical department, Division of Oncology and Hematology at Charité — University Medicine Berlin
  • Carl Janssen, head of oncology for Germany, Pfizer

The POLITICO Global Policy Lab is a collaborative journalism project seeking solutions to pressing policy problems. Join the community.

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Flu vaccine delays for over-65s ‘resolved by weekend’

GPs and patients frustrated by a shortage of the new flu vaccine for over-65s are being told the fin..

GPs and patients frustrated by a shortage of the new flu vaccine for over-65s are being told the final delivery batch will arrive by Saturday.

NHS England said there would be enough vaccines for everyone to be protected ahead of winter.

But doctors' leaders said more guidance should have been given to GPs and patients to avoid disruption over the phased delivery of supplies.

Older adults are advised to get the flu jab by early December.

This gives time for protection before flu starts to circulate, normally later in the month.

However, the staggered delivery of supplies of the over-65s vaccine from the manufacturer Seqirus to GPs and pharmacies means some older patients have not been able to be vaccinated.

Cancelled appointments

In a survey of 650 GPs in Pulse, nearly 70% said there had been a shortage of this flu vaccine at their practice.

That meant they could not vaccinate as many elderly patients as they would have liked.

Some GPs said they had to cancel appointments while others said it had created staffing problems.

But a spokesperson for NHS England said that this week, "100% of vaccines will have been delivered by the manufacturer to those surgeries and pharmacists who placed an order on time". (more…)

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NHS bosses look to overhaul cancer screening

Cancer screening programmes are to be reviewed following high-profile mistakes that have put thousan..

Cancer screening programmes are to be reviewed following high-profile mistakes that have put thousands of patients in England at risk.

NHS England has asked former government cancer tsar Sir Mike Richards to look at what changes are needed.

Three national schemes cover breast, cervical and bowel cancers.

On Wednesday, it emerged letters about the cervical cancer tests that should have gone to 40,000 women between January and June had not been sent.

About 4,000 of them were results of tests, the remainder were letters inviting them for screening or reminding them tests were due.

Between 150 and 200 of the test results that were not sent out detailed abnormal results.

NHS bosses have been able to contact all those affected.

The service in charge of distributing letters is provided for NHS England by Capita.

Looking at the merits of outsourcing screening was going to form part of the review, NHS England said.

The problems come just months after it emerged 174,000 women had not been invited for breast cancer screening, after mistakes had gone undetected for years. (more…)

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Superbug risks fail to dent attitudes to antibiotics

Warnings about drug-resistant superbugs arent enough to change most peoples behavior on using antibi..

Warnings about drug-resistant superbugs arent enough to change most peoples behavior on using antibiotics, according to a Europe-wide poll out Thursday.

The Eurobarometer survey reported seven in 10 people who received information telling them not to take antibiotics unnecessarily said it didnt change their views on using them.

Excess use of the drugs is contributing to a growing threat of antimicrobial resistance and related infections. As germs multiply they can develop the ability to defeat the medicines designed to kill them — and those infections could be killing more than 33,000 people a year in Europe, according to recent estimates.

“It is ridiculous,” European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said in response to the fact that people arent responding to warnings, at an event in Brussels Thursday. “We have science on one hand and lack of trust on the other.”

“Unless we act decisively, immediately and together, we could face a public health and financial disaster,” he added.

The EU is failing to gain traction with its effort to get member countries to combat the rise of resistance.

The Eurobarometer survey showed the number of people who had taken antibiotics in the last 12 months fell from 40 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2017. But less than half of people said they were aware that antibiotics dont work to treat viruses, and 20 percent said they take antibiotics to treat flu or colds.

Seven percent of people said they took antibiotics without having seen a doctor or getting a prescription.

Andriukaitis said the survey, which polled around 27,400 people in 28 countries, shows Europeans “are still not sufficiently aware of the dangers of AMR.”

A report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Thursday raised particular concern about the rise of superbugs in hospitals and care centers — estimating there are around 8.9 million cases of health care-associated infections in European facilities each year, many of them caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria. (more…)

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