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EU countries stop clock on Commissions time change plan

GRAZ, Austria — EU transport ministers stopped the clock Monday on the European Commissions plan to ..

GRAZ, Austria — EU transport ministers stopped the clock Monday on the European Commissions plan to end twice-annual time changes next year.

At an informal meeting in the Austrian city of Graz, the ministers demanded more time to find consensus on whether to scrap daylight saving.

Austrias Transport Minister Norbert Hofer said the plan to scrap the time change in 2019 would “not be supported” by enough countries, and that at least 18 months is needed to prepare for a reform affecting everything from cow milking routines to the scheduling of trains and flights.

His ministry is pushing for countries to be given until 2021 to decide whether they will opt for permanent summer or winter time. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker wanted that decision wrapped up by the end of March.

“If we say goodbye to the time change, it could come to a patchwork that would be devastating to the single market,” said Hofer, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.

“We do have to take on board a possibility that more time will be necessary” — Violeta Bulc, European commissioner for transport

Hofer wants the Commission to appoint a coordinator — a sort of EU-wide time lord — to oversee the reform, and Brussels to include a safeguard clause that would trigger new legislation should problems arise from scrapping the unified time change.

In Graz, three countries — Portugal, Greece and the United Kingdom — said they wanted to continue the annual shift to daylight saving, while Cyprus, the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Denmark said they had not yet reached a position.

Commission officials still say publicly they are hopeful consensus can be reached by a formal Transport Council in December. But privately Junckers grand pledge to compel countries to ditch the time change next year is being soundly rejected as unrealistic.

“The message is clear, no agreement in December,” said one diplomat on the prospect of a final deal at the Transport Council.

Austrian Transport Minister Norbert Hofer | Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

With just months left before the end of the Juncker Commission, the proposal now looks set to slip into 2020 at the earliest, under a new Commission.

More than 80 percent of 4.6 million respondents to an EU survey backed removing the system under which clocks spring forward by an hour in March and fall back in October, with around 3 million responses coming from Germany.

“We do have to take on board a possibility that more time will be necessary,” Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said in Graz after discussing the issue with delegations, although she said she still holds out hope of a deal by 2019.

The meeting in Austria came a day after EU countries moved the clock back Sunday for what Junckers legislative proposal envisaged would be the last time.

“I think many of us are still adjusting to the time change,” quipped Bulc, addressing journalists after the meeting. “The member states need more time to come to a final decision.”

The clock change was introduced to save energy in World War I and became the EU standard in 1996. The Commission has placed an end to the system at the heart of the agenda for its final months in office.

“If you want, you can make this decision fast” — Kadri Simson, Estonias economy minister

“I would question whether or not this is the most important thing for the European Commission [to focus on] these days,” the Czech Republics Transport Minister Dan Ťok said in an interview in Graz.

The decision also has Brexit implications as abolishing daylight saving in the EU could leave the Republic of Ireland out of step with Northern Ireland, since the legislation wouldnt apply to the U.K. once it leaves the EU.

The Commissions September proposal followed pressure from the European Parliament and some countries to scrap the change to maximize the health benefits from sunlight.

Slovakia came out the gate early with the labor ministry recommending permanent winter time to maximize daylight hours. Finland has launched a national consultation to give people a say in the decision.

“If you want, you can make this decision fast,” Estonias Economy Minister Kadri Simson told POLITICO after the Graz discussions. “But if you want to negotiate you can take a few years without any problems.”

Read this next: Muted budget as UK at pivotal moment in Brexit talks

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NHS ‘should not prescribe acne drug’

The parents of young people who have killed themselves and patients unable to have sex are calling f..

The parents of young people who have killed themselves and patients unable to have sex are calling for the NHS to stop prescribing acne drug Roaccutane.

Ed Henthorn said it had caused him erectile dysfunction, psychosis and suicidal thoughts.

And one man who believes his son killed himself after taking the drug said the risks "are just too high".

Manufacturer Roche said "millions of patients worldwide have benefited from taking the drug".

The majority of those who take the drug have a positive experience.

'Pretty overwhelming'

"I used to think about girls… but my feelings, thoughts, just faded away," Ed Henthorn told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

He was 19 when he took Roaccutane. He describes his acne as mild but bad enough to want to treat.

After three weeks he started to experience side-effects, including reduced energy and sex drive.

Then he experienced erectile dysfunction.

"That was why I decided to stop taking it," he said. (more…)

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Spina bifida: Keyhole surgery repairs baby spine in womb

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In a UK first, doctors have used keyhole surgery to su..

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In a UK first, doctors have used keyhole surgery to successfully repair the spine of a baby with spina bifida while it was still inside the womb.

Surgeons at King's College Hospital say the procedure is not a cure, but could be the difference between some children learning to walk or not.

Sherrie Sharp and her son Jaxson had the operation 27 weeks into the pregnancy.

Spina bifida was diagnosed after the routine 20-week pregnancy scans.

They showed Jaxson's spine and spinal cord were not forming correctly.

Gaps in the developing spine meant the cord was bulging out of his back and was left exposed to the amniotic fluid in the womb.

This damages the crucial nerves in the spinal cord and could lead to paralysis, a loss of sensation in the legs and problems controlling the bladder and bowels.

The longer the spinal cord is left exposed, the greater the damage.

Sherrie, 29, and from West Sussex, said the news was a shock, but an abortion was a "definite no". (more…)

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Less chemotherapy better for older or frail patients with advanced stomach and oesophageal cancers

Less chemotherapy is as effective at controlling disease for elderly or frail patients with advanced..

Less chemotherapy is as effective at controlling disease for elderly or frail patients with advanced cancer of the stomach or oesophagus (food pipe), and leads to fewer side effects such as diarrhoea and lethargy. These are the results of a Cancer Research UK funded study, presented prior to the ASCO conference today (Wednesday).

“Increasingly were realising its not just age that affects how well someone can tolerate their treatment and we need to do more work to understand how other conditions or aspects of frailty might play a role.” Dr Peter Hall, Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre[contfnewc]

Results from the GO2 trial could change the standard of care for patients who cant have full dose chemotherapy due to their age, frailty or medical fitness.

The study, which ran at hospitals all over the UK, coordinated from the University of Leeds, involved 514 people with stomach or oesophageal cancer. Their average age was 76 and the oldest was 96 years old. All were either frail, elderly or medically unfit, and for those reasons would be unlikely to tolerate full-strength treatment, which involves three chemotherapy drugs.

Patients went through a careful medical assessment, then went onto chemotherapy with just two drugs* and were allocated at random to receive them at either full-strength, medium-dose or low-dose. They were then carefully monitored to see how well the cancer was controlled, whether they had symptoms and side-effects, whether they felt their treatment was worthwhile, and what overall effect it had on their quality of life.

The researchers reported that the medium and lower doses of chemotherapy were as effective as the full-strength dose for controlling the cancer. But when the researchers looked at the overall effect of treatment, including quality of life, they reported that it was the lowest dose treatment that came out best.**

Around 15,800 people in the UK are diagnosed with stomach and oesophageal cancers every year***. Almost half (45%) of these people are 75 and over****. By 2035, this proportion is projected to rise to 55%*****, because of the UKs ageing population. This study, is one of few phase III trials in the country that seek to address how to best care for and treat this increasing population of elderly or frail cancer patients.

These findings also open up the possibility of more older and frail patients being able to take part in clinical trials.

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UKs chief clinician, said: “These valuable results reduce fears that giving a lower dose chemotherapy regimen is inferior and could make a huge difference for patients with stomach or oesophageal cancer who cant tolerate intensive courses of treatment.

“Older or frail patients are often not considered for new drug trials or standard of care therapy as theyre less able to tolerate combination chemotherapy. These trials are critical to provide much needed evidence on the effectiveness of new therapies and combination approaches, helping us develop new treatments for this growing group of patients.”

The researchers also assessed whether there were differences for the patients in the study who were under 75, or less frail, who might be expected to benefit from stronger treatment; but will be reporting that the lowest dose treatment gave the best results for them as well. (more…)

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