UK pharmas call for debate on drug access


London: The pharmaceutical industry today called for a public debate on access to modern medicines, and how society determines the value of new treatments.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is inviting NICE, patient groups, medical professionals, the NHS and leading healthcare charities to debate the issues amid continuing controversy on the availability and cost of innovative medicines to NHS patients.

“A frank, open and honest debate is clearly in the interests of patients,” said Chris Brinsmead, President of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

“We are calling for the patient groups, healthcare charities, doctors, Government, NICE and the NHS to join with the pharmaceutical industry to debate these crucial issues to hammer out a lasting solution. The time has come to discuss how we best resolve the issue, and where better than on a public platform?”

The pharmaceutical industry spends approximately £3.9billion a year in the UK researching and developing new medicines for patients. This investment has delivered over 90 per cent of the medicines available today and has led to new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, heart disease and HIV to name but a few, Mr Brinsmead added.

He said: “The UK pharmaceutical industry – along with other healthcare professionals and NICE – is committed to developing innovative approaches to pricing, ensuring that patients receive the medicines that they need. Taking the recent example of the four kidney cancer medicines, all these medicines are widely available to patients throughout Europe – where the prices are higher than in the UK.”

Mr Brinsmead said: “We are looking forward to hearing NICE’s response and welcome their contribution to what will be one of the most important debates in the history of modern healthcare.”

Image – Boy and Medicine: courtesy of MedicImage

Exercise may help menopause symptoms


New York: A regular brisk walk may help women going through menopause improve their mental well-being, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that middle-aged women who exercised regularly had lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression around the time of menopause than those who did not exercise regularly.

The findings, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine, add to evidence that physical activity can benefit mental, as well as physical, health.

“With the aging population, physical activity represents one way for women to stay mentally healthy,” Dr. Deborah B. Nelson, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement. “Physical activity can help throughout the menopausal transition and afterwards,” added Nelson, a public health researcher at Temple University in Philadelphia.

The findings are based on data from 380 Philadelphia women who were 42 years old, on average, and premenopausal at the beginning of the study. Eight years later, 20 percent were menopausal and another 18 percent were in the late transitional phase.

The researchers found that women who got moderate to high levels of exercise reported lower stress levels than inactive women did. Among postmenopausal women, those who exercised regularly had lower stress levels and were less likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms.

Exercise did not, however, seem to protect women from the physical symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.

“Physical symptoms like hot flashes will go away when you reach menopause,” Nelson said, “but mental health is something women still need to think about postmenopause.”

Importantly, Nelson pointed out, women need not work out intensely to get a mental and emotional lift.

“In the urban setting, these women walked outside on city blocks or in shopping malls,” she said. “Groups could organize to take walks after dinner. It didn’t require going to the gym.”

Wellcome Collection London – 2008 programme

London: An analysis of 26 skeletons selected from the Museum of London’s collection of 17,000; textile designs based on patterns found in x-ray crystallography, not seen since the 1951 Festival of Britain; a newly commissioned film by Marion Coutts and an exhibition about the thoughts and wishes of the dying – are some of the forthcoming special exhibitions at Wellcome Collection during 2008. [full listings below].

2008 will end with a major exhibition exploring the complex relationship between War & Medicine and the ways in which mankind’s desire to repair and heal has tried to keep pace with its capacity to wound and kill. The exhibition will look back as far as the Crimean War and will be brought up to date by specially commissioned artwork addressing the problems of military medicine in the conflict in Afghanistan. This will be the second part of a two-phase collaboration with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, the first of which, Sleeping & Dreaming, opened on 28 November and closes on 9 March 2008.

Wellcome Collection www.wellcomecollection.orgthe new £30m public venue from the Wellcome Trust opened in June 2007. The building’s three galleries combine medicine, life and art to provide insight into the human condition. Exhibitions, both temporary and permanent, are supported through a public events programme that brings together experts from the arts, science and humanities to further explore human wellbeing. Wellcome Collection has been visited by over 100,000 people during its first five months of opening.

Full information on each temporary exhibition will be posted at www.wellcomecollection.orgthroughout 2008. Entry to all exhibitions is free.

Sleeping & Dreaming (28 November 2007 – 10 March 2008)

Sleeping & Dreaming, the second major temporary exhibition at Wellcome Collection, explores sleep – the mysterious state we inhabit for a third of our lives. 250 objects across five major themes enable visitors to explore the biomedical and neurological processes that take place in the sleeping body and the social and cultural areas of our lives to which sleep and dreams are linked. The exhibition is the first of a two-part collaboration with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden. Exhibits range from artworks by Goya, Catherine Yass, Jane Gifford and Laura Ford, to an interview with a victim of sleep-deprivation interrogation; from a vehicle designed to provide homeless people with a mobile place to sleep to an extraordinary range of alarm clocks and a collection of traditional lullabies from around the world. Sleeping & Dreaming public events are detailed below.

Life Before Death (8 April – 18 May 2008)

The German photographer Walther Schels and journalist Beate Lakotta spent a year talking with terminally ill patients in hospices across Germany. They photographed 24 consenting patients shortly before and just after they died. The resultant portraits are shown side-by-side, accompanied by a short text which describes the patient’s experience of the situation in which they find themselves – having to come to terms with the imminent end to their lives.

Atoms to Patterns (24 April – 10 August 2008)

This exhibition brings to light an extraordinary collection of vibrant textile designs from the early 1950s, most of which have been lying unseen in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum for over 50 years. For the 1951 Festival of Britain a group of designers collaborated with some of the most distinguished scientists of the period to devise a range of fabrics and furnishings based on patterns revealed by x-ray crystallography – a means of visualizing the crystal structure of both organic and inorganic materials.

Marion Coutts (30 May – 29 June 2008)

The artist Marion Coutts will present a new film, commissioned by Wellcome Collection, which will use objects from the collections of Henry Wellcome and
from the Science Museum playfully to explore the workings of memory.

Skeletons (22 July – 28 September 2008)

The Museum of London has approximately 17,000 skeletons in its care, all removed for their preservation, from building sites under different parts of London. This exhibition will present 26 of these skeletons along with all the information about their health and likely social circumstances that can be gleaned from the location in which they were found and from a detailed analysis of their bones. The skeletons featured include some dating back to Roman times and many which reveal a great deal about the health and social conditions of the period in which they lived..

War & Medicine (November 2008 – March 2009)

The third major special exhibition at Wellcome Collection and, following Sleeping & Dreaming, the second of two exhibitions devised in collaboration with the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden. War & Medicine will assess the impact and influence that warfare and medicine have had on one another. It looks at the way mankind’s desire to repair and heal has tried to keep pace with its capacity to maim and kill, meeting sometimes with success and sometimes with failure. As with Sleeping & Dreaming, this exhibition will include the perspectives of artists, writers and filmmakers as well as those of medical scientists and social historians.


Two of Wellcome Collection’s three galleries are permanent. These are:

Medicine Man (350 m2): This exhibition contains more than 500 strange and beautiful artefacts from Sir Henry Wellcome’s original collection, presented in a rich American walnut-panelled gallery, centred on a large ‘Wunderkammer’ cabinet.

Medicine Now (350 m2): The Medicine Now exhibition explores contemporary medical topics through the eyes of scientists, artists and popular culture in a bright contemporary environment.

All temporary exhibitions are supported by a series of public events that enable people to discover more about the subjects they cover. Below are the remaining public events for Sleeping & Dreaming that bring together experts from science, the arts and humanities to explore this twilight world. Events are free unless otherwise stated. All tickets must be booked in advance from < a href="">

Late-night Film Festival
Friday 25 January 2008, 19.00–23.00
Explore Wellcome Collection by night and see rare footage from the Wellcome Library collection screened alongside classic feature films and quirky shorts exploring sleeping and dreaming. Galleries, café and bookshop will be open throughout. A full screening programme will be available in December at

Catherine Yass: Artist in Conversation and premiere of new film work
Thursday 7 February 2008, 19.00–20.30

The first opportunity of seeing a new work by leading British artist Catherine Yass that documents her waking moments and dream recall. Catherine will be joined in conversation by Lux Gallery Curator, Lucy Reynolds, and will discuss her interests in sleeping and dreaming.

Speaker: Catherine Yass, artist featured in exhibition

Facilitator: Lucy Reynolds, Curator, Lux

Sleep Talk

A unique symposium exploring insomnia and sleeplessness
Friday 22 February 2008, 19.00–21.00
Saturday 23 February 2008, 10.30–17.00
Tickets: £30 / £20 concessions

This symposium will explore insomnia and sleeplessness through science, psychology, history, sociology and art. The event will begin with a special performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by innovative classical music group, Manning Cammerata. When Johann Sebastian Bach first composed this music, it was used as a curative for Count von Kaiserling’s insomnia.

Speakers Include
Ann Coxon, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern,
Kenton Kroker, Science and Technology Studies, York University, Toronto
Eluned Sumners Bremner, Department of Women’s Studies, University of Auckland
Kevin Morgan, Director of Clinical Sleep Research Unit, Loughborough University
Chris Idzikowski, Director, Edinburgh Sleep Centre
Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience, University of Oxford

An End To Feeling Shattered? If you could live without sleep, would you?
Friday 28 February 2008, 19.00–20.30
Drugs that enable you to stay awake 24 hours a day have been produced but would you want them? Should they be made available? What would be the impact on your body, your relationships and your life? Join a panel of outspoken speakers to debate whether drugs are the answer to 21st-centruy life.

Simon Williams, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Warwick
Danielle Turner, Neuroscience coordinator, University of Cambridge
John Harris, Professor of Bioethics, University of Manchester

Toby Murcott, Science writer and presenter

What is the Wellcome Collection?

Wellcome Collection is a new £30 million visitor attraction from the Wellcome Trust that opened on 21 June 2007. Wellcome Collection is a world first. It combines three contemporary galleries together with the world-famous Wellcome Library, public events forum, café, bookshop, conference centre and members’ club, to provide visitors with radical insight into the human condition.

Wellcome Collection builds on the vision, legacy and personal collection of Wellcome Trust founder Sir Henry Wellcome and is part of the Wellcome Trust’s mission to foster understanding and promote research to improve human and animal health. The building is centred around three substantial galleries totalling 1350m2 and the world famous Wellcome Library.

About the Wellcome Trust:

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK and the second largest medical research charity in the world. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £500 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing. Wellcome Trust funding has supported a number of major successes, including:

*sequencing the human genome
*establishing the UK Biobank
*development of the antimalarial drug artemisinin
*pioneering cognitive behavioural therapies for psychological disorders
*building the Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum
* the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, the largest ever genetic study of common diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and bipolar disorder

The Wellcome Trust is a charity registered in England, no. 210183

Herbal medicines do work, expert hits back


London: Complementary health expert Jayney Goddard today defended the reputation of herbal medical remedies following a recent study labelling them as “hocus pocus”.

In a new book published by Collins, Goddard, founder and president of The Complementary Medicines Association examined 10,000 scientific trials to reveal that a wide range of herbal medicines are effective.

The evidence in the book Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works, she says, is proof that herbal medicine cannot be ignored by the medical establishment.

“This book is, essentially, a vast encyclopaedia which encompasses virtually every aspect of complementary medicine and draws from data accrued from over 10,000 scientific trials,” says Jayney.

It is a book which will be absolutely invaluable to everyone involved in complementary medicine and alternative therapies. It is also essential reading for anyone who is interested in using complementary therapies and wants to know just what the scientific evidence is, so far, for a particular approach.

One such supplement is St John’s Wort with Passion Flower that has recently been proven in a clinical trial to dramatically reduce depression and anxiety quickly.

The trial shows without a doubt that this herbal supplement comprising 450mg St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) and 350mg Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) per daily dose can ease mild to moderate depression.

Significantly it shows a considerable reduction in depression and anxiety. The results were felt quickly – within two weeks of taking the supplement (St John’s Wort alone is recognised as achieving this reduction within four
to six weeks).

St John’s Wort is renowned for its effectiveness in treating mild depression but patients are advised it can take up to six weeks to take full effect. Passionflower is known to ease anxiety quickly. It is concluded that the combination of these two herbs in this synergistic supplement brings about a reduction in BOTH depression and anxiety.

The trial was double-blind, placebo controlled and randomised and 162 people took part. They were classified as either mildly depressed (14-17 on the Hamilton Scale of Depression – HAMD) or moderately depressed (18-24 on the HAMD).

The Hamilton scale runs from 0-30: In light depression HAMD-17 total scores sum 8-13.

• A score between 14-18 is mild depression
• Between 18-24 is moderate severe depression
• And 25 or more is severe depression

The patients took either the St John’s Wort and Passionflower combination or a placebo for eight weeks during which time their HAMD and HAMA (Hamilton Scale for Anxiety) were measured

– Those on the supplement showed significant improvement

– Those mildly depressed went from around 15 on the scale to 8

– At the same time the placebo group worsened from around 15 to 17

– Those moderately depressed went from around 20 to 8 (within the
time scale)

– At the same time the placebo group worsened from around 20 to 21

– After 56 days the placebo groups were crossed over, so the placebo
group took the supplement.

– When the placebo group switched to taking the supplement they saw a
drop of 39.6% and 31.6% in their HAMD and HAMA ratings respectively with
a major drop in both showing within four weeks


Many herbs, quite clearly, DO work and there are trials to prove it, says Jayney Goddard. “Across Europe and in Germany in particular, we see alternative medicine taken very seriously indeed. It’s about time that sort of attitude was given air time and breathing space in the UK where we have some first class products that can be trusted to work effectively and safely when taken in the recommended way for the specified conditions.


Complementary and Alternative Health: The Scientific Verdict on What Really Works is available at the and good book shops priced £19.99.

Phyto Medicines Fact Sheet


Medicinal plants and their preparations belong to the oldest known health-care products that have been used by human beings all over the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 80% of the population of most developing countries use plant-based medicines. Between 25 and 50% of all modern drugs are derived from plants.

According to IMS research in 1995, the European Market for herbal medicinal products was estimated to be worth US $ 5,600 million. The leading countries are Germany (44 %) and France (28 %), followed by Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium and others.

According to the Allensbach study natural medicines helped people to alleviate various disorders such as cold, flu, digestive troubles, headache, insomnia, stomach trouble, nervousness, circulatory disorders, bronchitis, skin disease and exhaustion.

People are turning to natural and alternative treatments more and more as they become more health-intelligent and aware about what they put into their bodies. The medical profession in the UK is also becoming more accepting of these kinds of treatment as clinical evidence and patient experience is recognised. Alternative therapies are now available on the NHS in many parts of the country.

Ayurvedic treats on beautiful Sri Lanka


London: Holiday on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka and sample the fantastic spas and Indian Ayurvedic medicicine.

The Barberyn Ayurveda resorts on the Island are family run and feature classical treatments such as synchronised full body massage, herbal baths and steams, rejuvenating scrubs and individually freshly prepared remdies.

The food is wholesome and delicious, the rooms spacious and beautifully furnished.

Overlooking stunning, secluded beaches the resort at Weligama, 140km south of the airport, nestles among palm trees and two verdant valleys, giving each balcony a view of lush greenery or the sea. It is ideally situated for exploring the sites of the South and the turtle sanctuary.

The Barberyn is open all year round but February is perhaps the best month to visit. Doubles are from $1,749 (£895,€1,375) per week including Ayurveda treatments. For the best sunsets and sea views request a room on the top floor.

The Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort is located on Sri Lanka’s south-west coast, right by the beach at Beruwala. The resort is sheltered by a long coral reef running the length of the resort, which forms a natural swimming lagoon. Sand stretches for miles on either side. This resort is 85km south of Colombo airport.

To book or obtain more details tel (from the UK) 0870 444 2704 or go to and more lovely holidays at

Regular medicine takers have lower death risk, says new research

Edmonton: People who take their medicine regularly, even dummy (placebo) medicine, have a lower risk of death than those who don’t, finds a study in this week’s British Medical Journal.

This intriguing finding supports the concept of the “healthy adherer” effect, whereby adherence to drug treatment may be a marker for overall healthy behaviour, say the authors.

They analysed 21 studies involving over 46,000 participants. For those with good adherence to drug therapy or placebo, the risk of mortality was about half that of participants with poor adherence.

Possible reasons for this effect are that participants with good adherence to study drugs (even placebo) may also have good adherence to other healthy behaviours, which could independently affect the risk of mortality, explain the authors. Conversely, participants with poor adherence may have consciously chosen to use a lower dosage or have other conditions, such as depression, that affect adherence.

“Our findings support the tenet that good adherence to drug therapy is associated with positive health outcomes,” they write.

“Moreover, the observed association between good adherence to placebo and lower mortality also supports the existence of the healthy adherer effect, whereby adherence to drug therapy may be a surrogate marker for overall healthy behaviour.”

In an accompanying commentary, US researcher Betty Chewning suggests that it is quite possible that people who adhere to healthy lifestyles also tend to take care of themselves by greater adherence to prescribed treatments.

She points to research showing that healing may lie not in the treatment but rather in patients’ emotional and cognitive processes of “feeling cared for” and “caring for oneself.” And she suggests that practice based on these hypotheses “could yield extra value in treatment regimens that patients agree to, believe in, and will sustain over time.”

Chinese medicine warning

London: Traces of deadly poisons may be contained in some traditional Chinese medicines, the most popular alternative treatment, the UK’s Trading Standards Institute has warned.

Traces of deadly arsenic and mercury which if taken in large quanities can kill have been found as well as asbetos and poisonous plant extracts. In addition many of these compounds are taken from endangered animal species such as tigers and rhinos.

Gall bladders from bears and musk from deer are other ingredients which may break conservation laws.

Tradional Chinese medicine treats conditions ranging from obesity, infertility to hairloss and asthma andcreated from a mixture of herbs, minerals, animal and plant ingredients. They are taken orally or rubbed on the skin.

Top doctors urge UK government to stop wasting money on alternative therapies

London: The UK Government has been urged not to waste money on complementary medicine.

A body of top doctors say that spending on these “unproven or disproved treatments” should stop and the money spent on life-saving drugs instead.

Their campaign is launched to coincide with a speech being made by the Prince of Wales in support of such therapies in Geneva today.

The 13 scientists, who include some of the most eminent names in British medicine, have written to the chief executives of all 476 acute and primary care trusts to demand that only evidence-based therapies are provided free to patients.

Their letter, which was sent to The Times newspaper, has been sent as the Prince today steps up his efforts for increased provision of alternative treatments with a controversial speech to the World Health Organisation assembly in Geneva.

The letter criticises two of his flagship initiatives on complementary medicine: a government-funded patient guide prepared by his Foundation for Integrated Medicine, and the Smallwood report last year, which he commissioned to make a financial case for increasing NHS provision.

Both documents, it is claimed, give misleading information about scientific support for therapies such as homoeo-pathy, described as “an implausible treatment for which over a dozen systematic reviews have failed to produce convincing evidence of effectiveness”.

The letter’s signatories include Sir James Black, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988, and Sir Keith Peters, president of the Academy of Medical Science, which represents Britain’s leading clinical researchers.

It was organised by Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at University College London, and other supporters include six Fellows of the Royal Society, Britain’s national academy of science, and Professor Edzard Ernst, of the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, who holds the UK’s first chair in complementary medicine.

The doctors ask trust chief executives to review their policies so that patients are given accurate information, and not to waste scarce resources on therapies that have not been shown to work by rigorous clinical trials.

They conclude: “At a time when the NHS is under intense pressure, patients, the public and the NHS are best served by using the available funds for treatments that are based on solid evidence.”

Professor Baum, a cancer specialist, said that he had organised the letter because of his “utter despair” at growing NHS acceptance of alternative treatments while drugs of proven effectiveness are being withheld. “At a time when we are struggling to gain access for our patients to Herceptin, which is absolutely proven to extend survival in breast cancer, I find it appalling that the NHS should be funding a therapy like homoeopathy that is utterly bogus,” he said.

He said that he was happy for the NHS to offer the treatments once research has proven them effective, such as acupuncture for pain relief, but that very few had reached the required standards.

“If people want to spend their own money on it, fine, but it shouldn’t be NHS money.”

The Department of Health does not keep figures on the total NHS spending on alternative medicine, but Britain’s total market is estimated at Pounds 1.6 billion.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Based on ancient Chinese medicine over 5,000 years old and uses herbs to treat a variety of illnesses. The herbs which are either pungent, sour, sweet, bitter or salty, are boiled in water and drunk several times a day and often used alongside acupuncture. Reputed to be useful for skin diseases, addictions, weight loss,
fertility and breathing problems.

Contact the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine
PO Box 400
Wembley HA9 9NZ, UK.
Tel: 44(0) 7000 790322
Fax: 44(0) 7000 790332
Contact: Mr Melvin Lyons