Thursday, June 21, 2007

In the News

Perhaps the most important health news we have come across today is that the vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer has been approved for use in the U.K. by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Department of Health press release here. BBC report here. The Scottish Executive has said it will implement vaccinations of all 12 and 13 year old girls as soon as possible (probably late 2008) but, typically, England is dragging its feet and the government wants an independent cost-effectiveness study before it will (or will not) implement a vaccination programme.

So here are some UK statistics for you culled from the web. I won't vouch for their accuracy but they are approximately correct.

Female population: 30.7 million
Females 12-13 years: c. 380,000
No. of new cases of cervical cancer per annum: 2800
No. of deaths from cervical cancer per annum: 1120
Cost of treatment per case: £2150
Cost of treatment all cases per annum: £6.02 million
Cost of annual pap smear: £12.50
Cost of vaccine: £250
No. of cases prevented by the vaccine: 70% - 1960
Cost of all treatment all cases per annum with a vaccination programme: £1.8 million (saving 4.2 million)

Make up your own mind.

In other news, a reminder that it is not just the high profile tropical diseases that kill in the developing world. An outbreak of measles in northern Nigeria has killed at least 20 children with at least 400 infected.

Staying in Nigeria, its government is suing the multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer for deaths and disabilities caused by the 1996 trial of the meningitis treatment drug Trovan. The company claims that all participants in the trial gave verbal consent and it was acting according to Nigerian regulations. Even if it was, purely verbal consent would not be considered ethical here. Report here.

We have posted before on the importance of biodiversity to the development of new drugs and treatments. Now the drug Trabectadin, developed from a sea squirt, has been shown to control the cancer myoxid liposarcoma.

And finally, the search for a treatment for river blindness, which is thought to effect 18 million people in Africa, is documented in pictures here.

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