Online Shopping Customer Service 0300 3033380*

Shopping Cart

Health Advice
Main Menu



Health News


Free, GP-endorsed Menopause Symptoms Tracker helps women monitor their symptoms

Friday, 08 December 2017

A free Menopause Symptoms Tracker™ to help women identify and monitor menopause symptoms over time has been launched by . The online symptoms tracker allows women to identify symptoms, their severity and frequency; monitor their progression over a 90-day period and pinpoint those symptoms that might require special attention.

After a thorough review, Dr Steven Edmunds, MB BS BSc DRCOG FRCGP at Pontesbury Medical Practice, in Shropshire, UK, endorses the Symptoms Tracker, ‘The Menopause Symptoms Tracker is a useful free tool that can help women understand what symptoms are attributed to the menopause and then seek the right options to help alleviate their symptoms.’ ‘I would recommend that menopausal women take advantage of this broad-based support,’ concludes Dr Edmunds.

Although the severity of symptoms vary from woman to woman, according to the NHS, most women will experience some symptoms around menopause. ‘Often, women relate their menopause symptoms with PMS or PMT (Pre-menstrual Syndrome/Tension) and don’t know they have started their peri-menopause,’ explains Isabel Wood, co-founder of BeingEve. ‘By understanding what is happening to their bodies, women are better equipped to find the right solutions to help manage and alleviate their symptoms,’ adds Wood.

The Symptoms Tracker also includes a Daily Journal to record any thoughts, feelings and overall progress. Women can access the Symptoms Tracker by simply going to and registering with their email address. This tracker can also be beneficial to GPs and pharmacies. In a world where GPs struggle for time and pharmacies are becoming first call of care for many patients, the Symptoms Tracker enables better informed patients, facilitates easy data sharing (via a print option) and makes for a more meaningful and efficient conversation between medical professionals and patients. is an independent health and well-being website bringing women the latest expert advice, tools and solutions to live a healthier and happier menopause. BeingEve is owned by Lifestyle51 Media Ltd and was founded by Isabel Campos Wood and Nieves Navarro in April 2017. They are based in Weybridge, Surrey, UK. For more information, visit or you can email them at

Free, GP-endorsed Menopause Symptoms Tracker™ helps women track and monitor their symptoms


One more cup of coffee before I go?

Thursday, 23 November 2017

It seems like drinking three or four cups of coffee a day may have health benefits. Is this just another study into coffee consumption?  They seem to be frequent with conflicting conclusions.  This latest study was by the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh and while it stressed you should not start drinking coffee for health benefits the research was comprehensive and fairly positive for moderate drinkers.


There have been recent studies that suggested people who drank several cups of coffee a day tended to live longer but this research looked at over 200 studies and found that about three cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of heart problems, liver disease and some cancer.


If you are pregnant coffee consumption should be reduced or avoided altogether as it was linked to a higher risk of miscarriage, low birth weight ad pre-term birth.


The conclusions from analysing all the other studies were:

high coffee consumption had benefits in 19 health outcomes and harmful effects in six health outcomes

For the other outcomes investigated no conclusive results could be drawn.

Some of the benefits found included:

A 10% reduced risk of death for those who drank more rather than less coffee

A 18% lower risk of getting most cancers for people who drank more rather than less coffee

A 19% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease (for example heart attack or stroke) for people who regularly drank coffee against those who never did

A 29% lower risk of fatty liver disease not related to alcohol for people who drank coffee compared to those that didn’t

A 30% lower risk of type 2 diabetes for people who drank more compared to less coffee


The effects of a high coffee consumption and beneficial outcomes were identified as best for liver disease, liver cancer, death after heart attack, leukaemia and gout.

The results are mostly positive and it certainly appears a few cups of coffee a day will do you any harm but far more detail and analysis of the variables is needed in the studies to make some definite statements of health benefits or otherwise.


Fantastic new menopause resource launches

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A great and much-needed new menopause website has just launched. is a new inspirational lifestyle website targeted at women between the ages of 40-55 that are going through menopause, bringing the latest expert thinking, advice and solutions to help women take control of their symptoms so they can live a healthier and happier menopause. includes articles, tools and advice from experts in the areas of sleep, nutrition, fitness and overall wellbeing, written exclusively for BeingEve; a free online Symptoms Tracker and Daily Journal to identify and track symptoms on a daily basis; personal stories from other women experiencing menopause; and the latest industry news, research and opinion.

BeingEve also offers the Four Pillar Lifestyle Plan, a monthly membership programme designed by a range of experts and including limited duration Reset Challenges as well as detailed Everyday Living Plans, with comprehensive tools and resources to help women manage their symptoms. The Four Pillars include: Sleep well, Eat well, Get Moving and Feel good.
For more information visit, or contact them at


Winter Flu Warnings – Get The Jab?

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Warnings are appearing that this winter the flu virus could become a serious problem for thousands of people and increase pressure on an already under-strain NHS towards breaking point.

The warnings are based on the winters just experienced in Australia and New Zealand which can give a reasonable indication of what we can expect in the UK during our winter season.  The southern hemisphere have had their worst flu season for many years after, like here, having relatively low levels of flu spreading for the past few years.

The NHS has said this year has been different for them, with double the average flu cases already with some of the season remaining.


The NHS went through the worst winter it had seen for a generation last year and with bed shortages and long waiting times already hospitals are warning things could get worse, particularly for vunerable people such as the elderly.

There is no guarantee this winter flu will be severe across the UK and this current strain is no particularly special just more prevalent.  There are always a few strains around but one normally becomes far more common although not necessarily the same one as the southern hemisphere.


Should you get the flu jab?


Early signs are encouraging and it appears the vaccine available this year is pretty effective against this strain, unlike last year where it was less effective among the elderly.


If you are aged over 65, pregnant or have certain long-term conditions such as heart problems, stroke etc. you can get the flu jab free on the NHS.  Also healthcare workers or children 6 months to three years old at risk such as asthmatics can also get it free – a nasal spray is available free to some children.

You can get the jab from your doctors surgery or most local pharmacies.


Even if you are not eligible for a free jab you can protect yourself against flu by paying for the jab from your local pharmacy, usually for about £10 - £15.  It’s quick and doesn’t hurt.


Even if you had the jab last year strains change and protection decreases so you should get one every year, particularly if in one of the vulnerable groups.

High-risk groups, such older people, pregnant women and those who have long-term medical conditions or a weakened immune system, are at risk of complications.

The most common of which are chest infections.


Symptoms of flu include a high temperature, tiredness, weakness, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough.



Wash your hands for longer and cold water is fine

Sunday, 04 June 2017

A new study looking at washing your hands has come up with some interesting findings, or at least some interesting suggestions that may need further investigation as the sample for the study was small - 20 people, 10 men and 10 women.


The study was carried out by researchers from Rutgers University and GOJO Industries in the US.  It is worth noting GOJO Industries produce hand sanitisers and soaps however, the research suggests these are of no more benefit than regular soap and water and cold water is just as effective as how water.  What can make a difference is how long you wash your hands for.

The research only tested for E. coli bacteria which is a leading cause of food poisoning. They found using cold was just as effective at getting rid of the bacteria as washing with hot water and antibacterial handwash or soap was not significantly more effective at removing the bacteria than normal soap.


It did establish that washing your hands for longer – 30 seconds instead of 15 seconds – is more effective at getting rid of bacteria if you want to protect yourself against food poisoning or infections like the flu.  It has to be said that the research only compared two products and also only studied E. coli.

There would need to be further, more in-depth research covering a wider range of products and other types of bacteria and infections before it can be stated for certain that cold water is just as effective as hot.


Using an antimicrobial soap wasn't found to be significantly more effective than normal soap at removing bacteria during any of the trial washes.  There was no significant reduction in bacteria after handwashing between the lowest and highest water temperatures of 15C or 38C.  Washing for 30 seconds (20 seconds of lathering and 10 seconds rinsing off) was found to notably reduce bacteria compared with washing for 15 seconds (10 seconds of lathering and 5 seconds rinsing off) when using common soap. Lather time didn't affect bacterial count for antimicrobial soap.

Current guidelines recommend that we wash our hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds:


after using the toilet

after handling raw foods like meat, fish and vegetables

before eating

after touching pets or animals


Higher risk of heart attack if non-O blood group?

Monday, 01 May 2017

Latest research suggests people with a non-O blood type have a slightly increased risk of heart attack or stroke.


The researchers think it may be because people with A, B and AB blood groups have a higher level of a blood-clotting protein.


This research should not cause alarm as it is a slightly increased risk and it does not allow for the fact that everyone should focus on giving up smoking, eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking exercise as far more important factors in preventing heart attacks or stroke.


Having said that the research did involve a study of 1.3 million people so has a proper study size and looked at coronary events in more than 770,000 people with  non-O blood group and more than 510,000 people with O blood group.


About 1.5% of non-O blood group and 1.4% in O blood group experienced a heart attack or angina.

They also studied cardiovascular events in 708,000 people with non-O blood and 476,000 with O blood, which affected 2.5% and 2.3% of each group respectively.

Significantly, as opposed to the headlines when the researchers looked at fatal heart events, they found no major difference in risk between the O and non-O blood groups.


It was presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress.


It revealed that 15 in 1,000 people with a non-O blood group suffered a heart attack compared to 14 in 1,000 people with blood group O which although is a small increase in risk becomes more significant when looked at in terms of the whole population as previous research has found that people with the rarest blood group - AB - were the most vulnerable to suffer heart disease, a 23% risk increase.


48% of the population in the UK have blood group O which makes it the most common blood group.


There are a number of factors which can increase the risk of heart disease, such as smoking, being overweight and an unhealthy lifestyle and these can have a far more profound effect on our risk of heart disease.  However, they are all things that we can do something about – we cannot alter our blood group.

Your parents genes determine which blood group you are.


The research was from the University Medical Centre Groningen in the Netherlands and study author, Tessa Kole, said more research was needed to establish the reason cardiovascular risk increased in non-O blood group people.

She said: "In future, blood group should be considered in risk assessment for cardiovascular prevention, together with cholesterol, age, sex and systolic blood pressure."

For example, people with blood group A, who are known to have higher cholesterol in their blood may need a reduced treatment level for high blood pressure.

The associate medical director at The British Heart Foundation, Dr Mike Knapton, said the findings would not have a large impact on the current guidelines used to assess someone's risk of a heart attack.

"Most of a person's risk estimation is determined by age, genetics (family history and ethnicity) and other modifiable risk factors including diet, weight, level of physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

"People with a non-O blood group type - AO, BO and AB - need to take the same steps as anyone wanting to reduce their CVD risk.

"That includes taking sensible steps to improve their diet, weight, level of physical activity and not smoking, and where needed, manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes."


If you would like help in giving up smoking, advice on healthier living, knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes testing, or find out your blood group your local pharmacy is a good place to start.


Don’t spare the Chilli, it's probably good for you

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Chillies are good for you or so it seems!


Although not everyone’s cup of tea many people like a bit of chilli, certainly their popularity has grown massively over the decades as more international cuisine has arrived in the UK.  From a little bit of heat in a pasta to the bravado of a ordering the hottest phall curry after a few beers our liking for chilli has grown.  In fact the phall curry originated in the curry houses of Birmingham and is hotter than a vindaloo by using scotch bonnet or habanero chillies.  Anyone familiar with Caribbean cooking will recognise the scotch bonnet and be aware of the fire they can contain.

Anyone who has ever eaten a really hot chilli will be only too aware that they can cause a lot of pain.

They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and of course, strengths, which is what causes the burning feeling in your mouth, and with hotter ones your eyes, hands and anything they touch.


The hottest part of a chilli is not the seeds but the white spongy layer inside.  The strength of a chilli, how much it will burn, is measured by something called the Scoville Scale, which measures in Scoville heat units. For example, a Bell pepper registers 0, paprika or pimento is 100 – 1000, Jalapeno 3500 – 10,000, Cayenne pepper 30,000 – 50,000, Scotch bonnet and Habanero or Birds Eye are 100,000 – 350,000.  That should be enough for the most ardent fans however, you can move up to the Naga Chilli, one of the hottest in the world with a Scoville score of more than 1.3m and the world record holder for hotness, the Carolina Reaper, first grown in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  This has an eye-watering score of between 1.5 to 2 million!  Never mind eating it, handle with asbestos gloves!


The burning sensation from eating chillies is mainly caused by a chemical called capsaicin which gets into your saliva and then binds on to receptors in your mouth and tongue.  The receptors are in fact actually there to detect the sensation of scalding heat and the capsaicin molecules happen to fit the receptors perfectly making your mouth feel like it is on fire because the receptors are sending a signal to your brain making it think your mouth is literally burning.

Chillies originally produced capsaicin to avoid being eaten by mammals but humans have learned to like or even love the burn they give.


When you eat a chilli your body releases adrenaline in response to the pain, your eyes may begin to water and heart rate increase.  If you tolerate biting some extremely hot chillies it is possible to experience a "chilli endorphin high". Endorphins are natural opiates that act as painkillers which are sometimes released in response to the chilli's sting. Like opiates they are said to induce a pervasive sense of happiness.

But are there any health benefits?

Researchers from the University of Vermont undertook a recent study where they looked at data from more than 16,000 Americans over an average of 18.9 years.

During the research time period, nearly 5,000 of them had died. Those who ate a lot of red hot chillies were 13% less likely to die during that period than those who did not.


Another study carried out in China found similar results. The researchers are not sure but suggest it may be that capsaicin is helping increase blood flow, or even altering the mix of your gut bacteria in a beneficial way.


Either way don’t hold back with the chilli as it won’t do any harm and at the very least release some endorphins to improve your mood.


Can yoga help with lower back pain?

Thursday, 19 January 2017


Back pain is one the most common conditions in the UK and causes millions of people pain.  A recent medical review suggests that yoga may help relieve the discomfort of pain in the lower pack. The review stated that in some people there is evidence that yoga may help relieve pain and improve function associated with chronic lower back pain.  A chronic condition is something that cannot be cured but managed with ongoing treatments etc.

The study looked at 12 trials that compared the effects of yoga with other treatments, such as physiotherapy, or no treatment at all.

Yoga benefitted people with lower back pain compared with those who did do any exercise for their back.

If someone was already doing exercise then the results were not as compelling.


Yoga is a usually slow-paced exercise routine which integrates various positions with

The researchers did say the results should be treated with a little caution as it was not possible to hide the effects of the yoga from the participants so a placebo effect could have come into play.


There are currently quite a few recommended treatments for long-term back pain, including painkillers, physiotherapy, exercise or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If you suffer from back pain you should talk to your doctor.


It is very important to keep active and mobile as much as possible. When it comes to lower back pain yoga could be one of a range of possibly beneficial exercise-based treatments for back pain.  It is worth investigating to find the right treatments for you.


Three universities carried out the research in the UK, US and Yoga Sangeeta in the US.

The UK researchers were much more enthusiastic than the US based Cochrane researchers, who are known to err on the side of caution.

The researchers stated "There is low- to moderate-certainty evidence that yoga compared to non-exercise controls results in small to moderate improvements in back-related function at three and six months. Yoga may also be slightly more effective for pain at three and six months."

They added: "It is uncertain whether there is any difference between yoga and other exercise for back-related function or pain, or whether yoga added to exercise is more effective than exercise alone.”

"Yoga is associated with more adverse events than non-exercise controls, but may have the same risk of adverse events as other back-focused exercise. Yoga is not associated with serious adverse events."


You can find out more about yoga here



Yoga Alliance


The British Wheel of Yoga


Independent Yoga Network


Iyengar Yoga


nuts can reduce risk of heart disease and cancer

Monday, 05 December 2016

People who eat a handful of nuts every day are less likely to develop heart disease and cancer.


Researchers looked at 20 studies that had been conducted previously on the potential benefits of eating nuts and found strong evidence that about 28 grams a day – a handful – provided around 20% reduction in risk of heart disease, cancer and death from any cause.


However, it cannot be proved nuts are solely responsible for the outcomes. It's possible that nuts might be just one part of a healthier lifestyle, including a balanced diet and exercise.  The researchers tried to factor this into the findings but using educated guesswork rather than empirical evidence.

It also means that nuts will not reduce the risk entirely, there are many non-lifestyle factors that can contribute to an individual's risk of disease. For example, if you are a male and have a family history of heart disease, eating a handful of nuts every day coupled with a healthy diet can help, but still may not eliminate the risk entirely.

Eating nuts can still credibly be linked to improved health though they are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and can provide a range of vitamins and minerals but unsalted nuts are definitely the healthiest choice.


The findings were released by researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, Imperial College London, and other institutions in the US and published in the medical journal BMC Medicine and can be viewed for free online.


The researchers studied 20 previous cohort studies, nine from the US, six from Europe, four from Asia and one came from Australia. All studies involved adults; five were in women only, three in men only, and 12 mixed.


Cardiovascular disease

Twelve studies (376,228 adults) found nut consumption reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Each 28 gram/day serving was linked with a 21% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This was for any nuts, but risk reductions were also found when analysing peanuts or tree nuts separately. Increasing intake was associated with reduced risk up to 15grams/day, above which there was no further risk reduction.

Looking at specific outcomes, 12 studies also found a 29% reduced risk of heart disease specifically. However, 11 studies didn't find a significant link with the outcome of stroke specifically.



Nine cohorts (304,285 adults) found that one serving of nuts per day reduced risk of any cancer by 15%. The risk reduction was higher for tree nuts (20%) than peanuts (7%).


All-cause death

Fifteen cohorts (819,448 people) recorded 85,870 deaths. One serving of nuts a day was linked with a 22% reduced risk of death.

Looking at specific causes of death, each serving of nuts a day was linked with reduced risk of respiratory deaths and diabetes deaths.

There was no link with deaths from neurodegenerative diseases, and inconsistent links with deaths from kidney disease and infectious diseases. No other disease-related causes were reported.


The researchers concluded that "Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections."


It does appear that there is a link between nut consumption and improved health, but nuts alone won't reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or cancers, if your lifestyle is still overall unhealthy.


If you want to live a long and healthy life then you should exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in salt, sugar and saturated fats, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation.


Nuts are high in "good fats" and can be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Unsalted nuts are best as excessive amounts of salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and other associated conditions.


To check your blood pressure, get help with weight reduction or giving up smoking your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  In most cases they will offer good advice free of charge and without an appointment.


Treatments that give no or little benefit revealed

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Doctors have revealed a list of treatments they have compiled that give no or little benefit to patients.  Doctors have been advised to cut back on prescribing antibiotics for some time now as the effectiveness has diminished and now the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has drawn up a list of 40 treatments that give little or no benefit to patients.  The list will be updated and added to every year and is part of a ‘Choose Wisely’ campaign to reduce the number of unnecessary medical treatments and encourage people to ask more questions about the procedures helping doctors and patients to talk more frankly.

Medical experts from 11 different countries were asked to suggest five treatments used in their field that were often not necessary or of value.  You should always ask five questions:


  1. 1.Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  2. 2.What are the risks or downsides?
  3. 3.What are the possible side-effects?
  4. 4.Are there simpler, safer options?
  5. 5.What will happen if I do nothing?

Among the highlights are:

X-rays are no real help to those with lower back pain

Women over 45 do not need the menopause diagnosed via a blood

Other advice includes:

Chemotherapy may be used to relieve symptoms of terminal cancer but it cannot cure the disease and may well bring further distress in the final months of life


The routine screening for prostate conditions using a test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, does not lead to longer life and can bring unnecessary anxiety


Children with bronchiolitis, or breathing problems, usually get better without treatment


Tap water is just as effective for cleaning cuts and grazes as saline solution


Small wrist fractures in children do not normally need a plaster cast, and will heal just as quickly with a removable splint


Electronic monitoring of a baby's heart is only needed during labour if the mother has a higher-than-normal risk of complications


Experts say there is evidence that patients often pressure doctors into prescribing or carrying out unnecessary treatments and the NHS is under increasing pressure to reduce this.


Prof Dame Sue Bailey, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said "Some of these treatments can be quite invasive, time-consuming; there are simpler and as-safe options, so why wouldn't you?

"Because I think what we've got is a culture of 'we can do something, therefore we should do something' and we need to stop and reflect and decide what is the best option for the patient in their individual circumstances."


Remember your local pharmacy is a good place to pop into for some quick advice without the need to see your doctor.


Fitness Trackers May Not Help You Lose Weight

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A recent study has looked at whether fitness trackers that people wear helped them lose more weight and suggested they don’t offer any benefit.
The study monitored 471 overweight people aged between 18 and 35 over 2 years. Fitness trackers contain technology normally worn on the wrist like a watch that monitors activity and provides feedback.
The research found they may not offer any benefit over standard weight-loss programmes.
This was one of the first studies into fitness trackers and the participants followed a calorie-controlled diet, an increasing activity plan and had counselling sessions.
After six months, half of the participants were given a wearable tracker that recorded activity into a computer as well as diet.
The other half were simply told to just carry on following the weight loss programme and monitor their activity and diet themselves.
The researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found the volunteers with a fitness tracker lost less weight than the others by the end of the study.  Those with a fitness tracker lost an average of 3.5 kg while those who followed the programme by monitoring themselves lost an average of 5.9 kg.
The research was led by Dr John Jakicic who felt it was possible that those using the fitness trackers felt they could reward themselves with treats more often than those without the wearable technology but there was no conclusive proof.
He said: "People have a tendency to use gadgets like these for a while and then lose interest with time as the novelty wears off.
"And we did see a drop off in the usage data as the study went on."
The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Obesity has increased rapidly across the developed world in recent years and is a major issue public health bodies are trying to tackle.
A whole range of different diets and weight loss programmes and products have come on to the have gained popularity.
It is probably true that fitness trackers are more effective for some people than others, however, someone determined to lose weight will, and following a low-calorie diet combined with regular exercise will work. There are no short cuts, special diets or ‘get thin quick’ schemes.  It takes some effort and determination but there is support and help available to anyone serious about losing weight – and it is just as important to keep the weight off once it has been lost.
Your local pharmacy can be a good place to start for advice.


Do you get long enough with your GP? Are you at risk?

Monday, 29 August 2016

The British Medical Association (BMA) have claimed patients may be at risk as their consultation with their GP is too brief.  They claim the safety of patients is at risk because GPs are forced to conduct consultations in 10 minutes and serious issues cannot be covered in that time and are calling for more support and funding so GPs can spend at least 15 minutes with their patients.


This is at a time when GPs are already under pressure from a shortage of doctors and funding cuts across the NHS.


NHS England said the amount of time doctors spend with patients is up to them and there are no national guidelines suggested or enforced.  Whether this takes into account the practicalities of a GPs everyday workload is open to debate.


Having said that the NHS Choices website states that "GPs spend an average of 8-10 minutes with each patient" and advises patients to "plan ahead to make sure you cover everything you want to discuss".


That is, of course, if you can get an appointment without too much trouble.  In many areas you have to ring on the morning you want an appointment, you cannot book one in advance but have to call that day.  Then when you call at 8.30 or 9 am or whatever your particular surgery of health centre stipulates the phone line/s are engaged and you keep calling until free and then find all the appointments for the day are already gone!  Is there not a more sensible or convenient way to organise GP appointments?


The BMA published a report earlier this month called "safe working in general practice" which wanted a reorganisation of the entire system and warned that GPs face "unsustainable pressure" from increasing workload and staff shortages.

The BMA said the report was intended to "stimulate discussion" and put forward a "model that could be used by localities across the UK".

A GP in Cheshire, Dr Nicola Hulme, said she found NHS England's statement that there is no limit nationally on the amount of time that can be spent with a patient "insulting".


"With the high levels of demand, we have to run 10-minute appointments," she said.  "To offer longer with the same number of appointments would extend our day to beyond the 12 hours we currently routinely work. "I often run late so I can deal thoroughly with my patients' issues. "Paperwork gets started routinely after 7pm. I rarely get home before 8pm, having started generally at 7.30am. "Nobody goes into medicine for an easy ride, we are all hard workers, but the intensity and the demand are now at unsafe levels."


Dr Ali Alibhai, a GP from London, said GPs now had to manage so many chronic diseases such as diabetes that an appointment for as little as eight minutes was "not appropriate any more for safe patient care".

The population is getting older and living longer and Dr Brian Balmer, of the BMA's GPs' committee, said many patients had difficult and complicated conditions, often multiple conditions, that needed longer to treat.  He issued a warning that many GPs had to cut short care and deliver an "unsafe number of consultations".

He said that appointments should be limited to 25 a day, about the same number recommended in many other countries across Europe.  Dr Balmer added: "We need a new approach that shakes up the way patients get their care from their local GP practice. "The consultation time needs to increase to 15 minutes with the government providing on its promised funding to make this work."

NHS England said that it was up to doctors and the tie allocated to appointments was "at the discretion of individual GP practices, based on patient need, and there are no national limits suggesting 10 minutes should be the norm".  It accepted that GPs were "under pressure", and said it was "substantially increasing investment and reforming care to free up GPs to spend more time with patients".

There used to be a rule that GP appointments in England must be for at least 10 minutes but it was scrapped in 2013.


It may well depend on your condition or needs but if you are having difficulty getting an appointment with your GP you may find your local pharmacy can provide much needed support or help, at least in the first instance.


Pharmacies Under Threat

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

High street pharmacies under closure threat

You may already have heard that the government are proposing budget cuts to the funding pharmacies in England receive.  The Department of Health say they want to have less clusters of pharmacies too near each other and have pharmacies nearer to GP surgeries and care homes.

It is feared that thousands of pharmacies could close making it harder to get medicines supplied in a convenient way.

Nick Jephson runs Kennet Pharmacy with his brother Tim and the pharmacy has been in the family for 50 years.  He said  "We went into pharmacy to help people. Giving out medicines is about trust.  Pharmacy has met its efficiency targets and saved the NHS £11bn in the past decade, so we're pretty lean.  This isn't about turning a profit - it's about keeping our heads above water.  There seems to be a policy mismatch. The government puts out adverts telling people to avoid A&E and their GP, and go to pharmacies first - and yet they're pulling the rug out from under our feet."

The pharmacy is taking part in a petition to support community pharmacy which is available nationwide and already has more than two million signatures.  They have set up a display alerting patients of the prospect of reduced opening hours and possible cuts to their medicines delivery service and half the town’s 8000 residents have signed it..

About 85% of the pharmacy’s income comes from their NHS contract with the rest coming from over the counter sales in the store.

Many customers are concerned they will lose the personal touch that comes from knowing their pharmacist so well and the easy accessibility if they have a concern when it can take up to three weeks to see a doctor.

The Department of Health says 40% of pharmacies in England are in a cluster with at least two others 10 minutes' walk away.  There is talk of dispensing medicines becoming more automated and a move towards ‘Amazon-style’ delivery service.

A spokesman from the National Pharmacy Association said: "The Department of Health is conducting a dangerous experiment which could see local pharmacies close. Patients would be the biggest losers.

Alistair Burt's successor as pharmacy minister should be given the opportunity to thoroughly review the Department of Health's plans before any steps are taken towards implementation."

The government conducted a consultation which has now closed and unless there's a major revision the proposed £170m funding will happen in October.  While every sector of the health service is having to do their bit pharmacies face challenging times ahead.


Obesity now second biggest killer and kills more men

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Men are more likely than women to die prematurely from being overweight or obese.

A survey conducted across 32 countries and taking in nearly 4 million people highlighted the trend that being overweight (or underweight) increases the chances of dying early. Obesity is now the second highest cause of premature death in Europe with smoking still the

Being overweight is usually defined As having a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9.

The study set out to analyse the effect BMI had on likelihood of death without other factor such as smoking or existing diseases. The study found that in Europe 1 in 7 (14%) premature deaths could be prevented if people were a healthy weight rather than overweight or obese.
It also found that overweight men were more likely to die early than overweight women.

This does not mean however, that overweight or obese people will die early just that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to die earlier.


There are other factors that need to be taken into account such as exercise, diet, environment, social status and ethnicity that can have an effect on people's risk, as well as their BMI.
The research does pretty much confirm it is not possible to be "fat and fit" as some have claimed in the past and demonstrates the importance a healthy weight plays in living a long and healthy life.

Over 500 researchers from 32 countries worked on the study. Researchers from the University of Cambridge co-ordinated it supported by grants from
organisations such as Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.The study has been published in the The Lancet and is free to read online.


This large group of researchers analysed data about people’s BMI and mortality but excluded people who had ever smoked, had a chronic illness or died in the first five years of the research. They then worked out the chances of dying during the research for people in nine different BMI groups ranging from very underweight to very obese.

The data used was standardised to ensure all results were comparable and included Age, sex, weight and height from the general population.


They didn't include anyone who had smoked or had a chronic illness because this can have an effect on people's BMI and can effect the results. For example, people who smoke often have a lower BMI, but are at increased risk of dying early, so that can skew the effect of them having a higher BMI.

Researchers used information from 3.95 million people. The study showed people with a BMI of 20 to 25 had the lowest chance of death. People with a BMI lower or higher than 20 to 25 had an increased chance of death. For every additional five BMI points there is a 39% increase in risk of death although the risk was slightly lower in the US and Australia.

It was particulalrly notable that men had a higher risk of death from every additional five BMI points than women and the risk of death increased at younger ages. The increased relative risk of death for every additional five BMI points over 25 was 52% for people aged 35 to 49 but 21% for people aged 70 to 89.

Deaths from heart disease and stroke increased strongly for people with a BMI over 25, and death from cancer was increased moderately.
The amount of excess deaths that might be attributed to overweight or obesity varied a lot by region, from 19% in North America to only 5% in east Asia.
How did the researchers interpret the results?

The study suggest strongly that BMI is directly linked to how long you live ut even if that isn’t the case you should aim to achieve a healthy weight by eating healthily and excercising regularly.


If you are concerned about your weight or anyone else's your local pharmacy can be a good place to seek help and advice. Many have weight loss clinics and can usually offer advice without the need to make an appointment.


Can Hot Drinks Cause Cancer?

Thursday, 16 June 2016

It has just been reported that very hot drinks may cause cancer, but coffee does not, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The review was conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialised cancer agency of the WHO.

it was concluded that only hot drinks higher than 65C posed a possible cancer risk.

The report looked at risks associated with coffee, maté (a South American drink like a very strong tea drunk very hot and through a metal straw), and very hot beverages.


Coffee was classified as a possible cause of cancer in 1991 but the report has dismissed this and said any previous link was because of the very hot temperature of the drink.


The researchers concluded there was limited evidence that drinking coffee and maté causes cancer but state that the risk of cancer of the oesophagus may increase with drinks above 65C (149F).

It has been suggested that leaving your cup of tea or coffee for around five minutes should cool it to a safe level.


To give an idea coffee bought from a shop is usually hot, between 66 and 81C so it is best to let it cool a little first although current research says smoking or alcohol pose a bigger, known risk for oesophageal cancer.


The group of researchers look at environmental factors that can increase the risk of cancer.  They reviewed epidemiological studies of exposure to carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer) in humans and used the evidence to classify potential risks as:

group 1 – carcinogenic to humans

group 2A – probably carcinogenic

group 2B – possibly carcinogenic

group 3 – not classifiable (no evidence to make a reliable judgement)

group 4 – probably not carcinogenic


It must be noted that the degree of risk is not apparent.  For example, smoking cigarettes and using a sunbed are both group 1 hazards but the risk of cancer associated with smoking cigarettes is far higher than using a sunbed.


The findings are published to help health agencies in preventing exposure to potential carcinogens.

As part of their research the group assessed more than 1,000 studies.


They concluded:

coffee drinking was "not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans" (group 3)

maté was "not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans" (group 3)

hot drinks above 65C were "probably carcinogenic to humans" (group 2A)


Coffee drinking was evaluated by the IARC in 1991 and classified as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (group 2B).  The latest evaluation was based on a much larger and more robust sample of evidence.  A collection of epidemiological evidence was assessed and the most weight given to case control studies that had controlled for other exposures, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption.

The studies followed people who self-reported their coffee drinking to see how many of them went on to develop cancer and how it was related to their consumption of coffee.


It was found the majority of epidemiological studies showed no association between drinking coffee and cancers of the pancreas, breast, and prostate. Reduced risks were identified for liver and endometrial cancers.

After the study the group concluded the evidence for "coffee drinking causing cancer" was inadequate. Reasons included insufficient data, inconsistency of findings, inadequate control of potential confounders, and bias.


In terms of mate, which as well as being popular in South America is also the national drink of Argentina, the researchers found cancer of the oesophagus was associated with drinking mate at a very hot temperature, rather than maté at warm or cold temperatures.


The researchers also studied the association between oesophageal cancer and other hot drinks.  Previous research from other countries have suggested the risk of cancer may increase with the temperature of the drink.

The results showed that regardless of the amount consumed, the risk of cancer increased with an increase in temperature of the drink.

There were significant differences in the results from drinking very hot maté, but not with warm maté.

The studies suggested the carcinogenic effects occur when drinking at temperatures above 65C.


The assessment is produced so the World Health Organization, health agencies and government departments can consider it when deciding health policies. Whatever they decide to do is their choice.


Professor Tim Underwood, associate professor in surgery at the University of Southampton, said: "The bottom line here is that drinking very hot liquids is a cause of squamous cell cancer of the oesophagus, but the IARC classification can't tell us anything about the size of the risk – so we shouldn't take from this that there's a high risk of developing oesophageal cancer after drinking very hot drinks."

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge, said: "Last year the IARC said that bacon is carcinogenic, but it became clear that when eaten in moderation it is not very risky.

"In the case of very hot drinks, the IARC conclude they are probably hazardous, but can't say how big the risk might be. This may be interesting science, but makes it difficult to construct a sensible response."


It seems the sensible thing to do is not drink anything too hot - a drink that would burn you if spilt on your skin.

If you are concerned at all about a prolonged sore throat or any other health issue you should make an appointment with your doctor.


Syndol for headaches

Monday, 25 April 2016

Syndol was very popular with many people as a headache treatment and pain killer and then became unavailable at the beginning of 2014 and people wondered what had happened to it. A new product was launched later that year call Syndol Headache relief.


Sanofi, who are the makers of Syndol, said they were having difficulty with the manufacture of doxylamine and had to remove it from the formulation.  The original product contained doxylamine as well as caffeine, paracetamol and codeine phosphate.  Doxylamine is an antihistamine with sedating effects but also enhances the effects of codeine.  Sanofi say they are continuing to work on the Syndol ingredients and hope to include doxylamine again in the future.

Many people still ask for the original Syndol as they think it was more effective.


Although some people specifically search out products that don’t contain caffeine if you are happy to take it the treatment may work faster.  Paracetamol and codeine combinations with caffeine are usualy the most effective but if you would rather avoid caffeine as an active ingredient you can try having a cup of coffee or tea at the same tie to help the active ingredients work faster.


Both pack sizes of the new formula are available at the best prices around in our shop along with over 15,000 other health and beauty products.  Take a look.





Health Risks for Middle-Aged

Thursday, 10 March 2016

A new government campaign from Public Health England is warning unhealthy middle-aged people they must improve their health and lifestyle if they want to live longer and enjoy their retirement.  The campaign, called One You, is targeting the over 40’s as a group and encouraging them to live healthier lifestyles by giving up smoking, drink less, eat healthier food and take more exercise.  These are already well-known improvements everyone should make but it is the first time there has been a national campaign to target this group specifically.


There are already over 20% of people aged between 45-64 in England living with an illness or disability.  Although life expectancy has risen in recent decades the amount of time people spend as healthy hasn’t changed much at all.  The One You campaign will warn those who are middle-aged that unless they make some improvements to their health now they could die early or spend their retirement with ill health.


Research has already shown that if you are living healthily in middle age you chances of being healthy at 70 double.

To give some idea of why this is so important according to Public Health England 40%

of deaths are related to lifestyle and the NHS spends £11bn every year treating lifestyle-related conditions.  If middle-aged people can improve their lifestyle and subsequent health the benefits will be significant as they reach old age.

75% of men 66% of women between the ages of 45-64 are overweight or obese.  Nearly 20% of adults smoke and 5% of the heaviest drinkers account for 30% of all the alcohol drunk.

To help people to improve their lifestyle the government's advisory body, Public Health England, is launching an online lifestyle checker under the One You brand.

You can take a simple quiz and get a rating out of 10 about your lifestyle and following that get advice on improving things and where to go for help and further advice.


Prof Sir Muir Gray, an adviser to Public Health England, said: "One you is designed to help every individual identify not only their risks but also the pressures they face in their life and the stress that results and then support them with personalised tools and advice."

England's chief medical officer Prof Dame Sally Davies encouraged people to use it as a springboard for action saying "We all have the power to shape our future health by making simple and small changes now."


If you are looking to make some changes to your lifestyle or just get a review your local pharmacy is a good place to start if it is more convenient than getting an appointment with your doctor.


Winter Vomiting Bug Norovirus Advice

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Norovirus – also known as winter vomiting bug – is one of the most common stomach bugs around but is extremely unpleasant if you catch it causing diarrhoea and vomiting.  Although you can catch anytime of the year it is called the winter vomiting bug as it’s more common in winter.


It normally clears up within a few days and you should be feeling better by then without needing to have treatment.  It is very easily spread from person to person so you are advised not to visit your doctor.  If it hasn’t cleared up after a few days or you are feeling seriously ill you should call your GP or NHS 111 who should be able to give you some advice.


The symptoms you will experience are:

suddenly feeling sick

uncontrolled projectile vomiting

watery diarrhoea

You may also have a headache, slight fever, painful stomach cramps and aching limbs.

These symptoms usually last for two or three days.


If you do catch norovirus there isn’t a cure so stay home and rest.

Drink plenty of fluids – you need to replace the fluid lost from vomiting and diarrhoea.  Water and some fruit juice and soup.  Do not give fruit juice or fizzy drinks to children.

Take paracetamol

Get plenty of rest

If you feel like eating have plain foods

You can get rehydration sachets from your pharmacist

Wash your hands regularly and stay off work for at least 2 days


UK Has Lowest Rate of Breastfeeding in the World

Sunday, 31 January 2016

A report published in the Lancet shows the UK has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the world.


The international study shows that only 0.5% of women – one in every 200 – is still doing any breastfeeding after a year. 81% of mothers had tried breastfeeding but only 34% were still breastfeeding at 6 months and 0.5% after one year.  In Germany 23% were still breastfeeding, in Brazil it was 56% and Senegal 99%.  In the US 79% had begun breastfeeding but 49% were still continuing after six months and 27% after a year.


Breastfeeding is still much more common in poorer countries but it is a common misconception that it is really only important in developing countries.  The UK record is the worst in the world and behind similar countries in Europe.


After 12 months the bottom five countries in the world are: -


UK 0.5%

Saudi Arabia 2%

Denmark 3%

Greece 6%

France 9%


The top five are: -


Senegal 99.4%

The Gambia 98.7%

Malawi 98.3%

Guinea-Bissau 97.8%

Ethiopia 97.3%


The advice to women in the UK is to use breast milk exclusively for the first six months and then introduce a combination of breast milk and other foods but there is no recommended time to stop breast milk altogether.

The Lancet report said breastfeeding in developed countries reduced the risk of sudden infant deaths by more than a third.  It also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.  In developing countries, breastfeeding could avoid half the cases of diarrhoea and a third of respiratory infections.

The report was produced by the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, and the report lead, Professor Cesar Victora, said: "There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries.  "Nothing could be further from the truth, our work clearly shows that breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike."

The report stated that overall if nearly everyone throughout the world adopted breastfeeding it could save over 800,000 children's lives a year.  There is a controversial suggestion that formula milk has been promoted at the expense of breast milk by some companies and organisations.  A commentary, signed by Save the Children UK and the World Health Organization, was critical of this recently. They said: "The active and aggressive promotion of breast milk substitutes by their manufacturers and distributors continues to be a substantial global barrier to breastfeeding. "Promotion and marketing have turned infant formula, which should be seen as a specialised food that is vitally important for those babies who cannot be breastfed, into a normal food for any infant."


Sarah Redshaw, from the BabyCentre website, said: "It is crucial to bear in mind the various barriers and challenges faced by mums when it comes to breastfeeding.  "Generally mums are aware that breastfeeding is best for their baby but often don't get the right support if they encounter problems in the early weeks - which many, many do. As a result, significant numbers give up on breastfeeding."




Hope For Chronic Pain Osteoarthritis Sufferers?

Thursday, 07 January 2016

Some hope for chronic pain sufferers


Researchers from The Arthritis Research UK Pain Centre based at The University of Nottingham City Hospital have found depression and anxiety treatments may be able to help people who suffer from chronic pain.


The researchers are asking volunteers to take part in a clinical trial to determine whether Duloxetine can be used to successful treat osteoarthritis, which is chronic knee pain.


The volunteers will be placed in to two separate groups.  One of the groups will be given Duloxetine and the other group a placebo with no useful properties.
Diane Reckziegel from The University of Nottingham and chief investigator for the study said ‘As we get older or sustain injuries our joints, especially the knees, begin to show signs of deterioration.  This causes pain that may become chronic over time.’
‘The most effective treatments for knee osteoarthritis are typically quite invasive, involving steroid injections into the joint or surgery to remove the diseased joint, which is then replaced with an artificial joint.’


Before taking the medication the volunteer patients will have MRI scans of their brain. After the six-week course of medication they will return and undergo another MRI scan where the effects of the medication will be assessed and complete questionnaires, imaging and sensory tests.


Diane added ‘Duloxetine has already been shown to be effective in relieving different types of chronic pain, however what we don’t know is how this drug works to reduce pain, and to whom it may be more useful.’


‘By comparing the brains of patients with osteoarthritis before and after the treatment we hope to achieve a better understanding of the mechanisms of pain relief. This will help us select patients who might benefit more from Duloxetine treatment, hopefully avoiding the need for invasive procedures.’


The trial started at the beginning of this year and is aiming to recruit 81 patients before May.  44 patients have been recruited so far.  For further information please contact the team at The University of Nottingham.


New Blood Test Provides Early prediction for Arthritis

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A blood test has been developed by scientists at Oxford University that can predict a person’s chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis up to 16 years before it takes hold.  Detecting arthritis early provides a much better chance of effective treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis, as opposed to osteo arthritis, causes painful swelling in your joints and affects about 600,000 people in England and Wales.  It is a far more common disease within elderly people but can affect anyone.


It occurs when some proteins are altered during inflammation which causes an immune response that turns antibodies on themselves.

The scientists tested for antibodies that target a protein which is found in high levels in the joints of people with arthritis..


2000 patients were tested for the antibodies and the results found that this testing could diagnose the disease in around 50 per cent of cases, including some cases not picked up by existing tests. It is also 98 per cent accurate at ruling out RA, according to lead researcher Dr Anja Schwenzer.


“What is particularly exciting is that when we looked at samples taken from people before their arthritis began, we could see these antibodies to cTNC up to 16 years before the disease occurred – on average the antibodies could be found seven years before the disease appeared.

‘‘This early detection is key because early treatment is more effective.’’ Said Professor Kim Midwood from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University.


New Blood Test Provides Early prediction for Arthritis

A blood test has been developed by scientists at Oxford University that can predict a person’s chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis up to 16 years before it takes hold.  Detecting arthritis early provides a much better chance of effective treatment.

Rheumatoid arthritis, as opposed to osteo arthritis, causes painful swelling in your joints and affects about 600,000 people in England and Wales.  It is a far more common disease within elderly people but can affect anyone.

It occurs when some proteins are altered during inflammation which causes an immune response that turns antibodies on themselves.

The scientists tested for antibodies that target a protein which is found in high levels in the joints of people with arthritis..

2000 patients were tested for the antibodies and the results found that this testing could diagnose the disease in around 50 per cent of cases, including some cases not picked up by existing tests. It is also 98 per cent accurate at ruling out RA, according to lead researcher Dr Anja Schwenzer.

“What is particularly exciting is that when we looked at samples taken from people before their arthritis began, we could see these antibodies to cTNC up to 16 years before the disease occurred – on average the antibodies could be found seven years before the disease appeared.

‘‘This early detection is key because early treatment is more effective.’’ Said Professor Kim Midwood from the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at Oxford University.


Can Coffee Help You Live Longer?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

According to a number of reports in the press "Drinking three to five cups of coffee a day could help people live longer, new research has found"


They state research has shown a link between drinking coffee regularly and a reduced risk of heart disease and some other chronic conditions.  It is also suggested decaffeinated coffee had the same effect.


The research was carried out by the Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Indiana University, the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and the National University of Singapore.  It was funded by the US National Institutes of Health.


To be fair the research was the result of three studies involving over 208,000 health professionals over more than 20 years.  It found those who drank one to five cups of coffee a day were slightly less likely to have dies at the end of their study compared to people who didn’t drink coffee.  People who drank more than five cups a day experienced no difference.


The results changed when smokers were included, possibly because heavy coffee drinking and smoking often go together, so the unhealthy effects of smoking may cancel out any small effects from drinking coffee.


That’s not to say the research didn’t show some benefits for those regular drinkers but the differences in the chance of death between coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers weren’t huge, ranging from a 5% to a 9% reduction in risk.

As ever although the results suggest that drinking coffee every day may have some small benefit to your health it won’t do much for your long-term health if your general lifestyle is unhealthy.  So don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, eat healthily, take exercise etc. as all these are far more important.


It is worth highlighting that the reduction in risk of death from drinking coffee, at less than 10% relative risk, is pretty small and there are other good reasons why some people might want to avoid caffeine. It's a stimulant, and can interfere with sleep, especially if you drink it in the evening. It can raise blood pressure for a short time, which can cause problems for people with heart disease. It has also been linked to miscarriage, so pregnant women might want to avoid it.


Sugar Tax Report Published - Obesity and Diabetes Major Concerns

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Public Health England (PHE) published a report this week on sugar called ‘Sugar Reduction: The Evidence For Action.  It said there should be a sugar tax of between 10 – 20% and a crackdown on unhealthy foods and advertising them to children.  Sugar has been linked to obesity and diabetes for some time.  Obesity is a huge problem and rising with the NHS already having to spend more money on ever increasing numbers of obese patients and adapting service and equipment needed to treat them.

The report said sugar was a huge health problem and government should urgently address the damage sugar was doing to the nation’s health.  In particular fizzy drinks and snacks were highlighted as major offenders.  Public Health England made eight recommendations and suggested what it feels are the most effective ways to reduce sugar intake.

PHE says its eight recommendations will help the country achieve a lower recommended daily intake of sugar (5% of total energy, recently down from 10%), save lives from weight-related diseases, cut tooth decay, and save the NHS money.


Specifically, it estimates that if average UK sugar consumption is cut to no more than 5% of total energy intake per person, it would within five years:

  • · prevent 4,700 deaths per year
  • · prevent 242,000 cases of tooth decay per year
  • · save the NHS £576 million per year

One of the most controversial suggestions is the tax on sugar of around 10-20%.  They also suggested a reduction in price promotions at supermarkets like buy one get one free and a reduction in the marketing of high-sugar food and drink to kids. Sugary drinks come under particular fire for boosting sugar consumption without adding any nutritional value, particularly in kids and teenagers, who drink them the most.

The report does make the point that "no single action will be effective in reducing sugar intakes".


The report recommends that:

  • · children aged 4-6 years should eat no more than 19 grams of sugar a day (5 cubes or 4-5 teaspoons)
  • · children aged 7-10 years should eat no more than 24 grams of sugar a day (6 cubes or 5-6 teaspoons)
  • · children and adults aged 11 years or over should eat no more than 30 grams of sugar a day (7 cubes or 6-7 teaspoons)

This now puts pressure on the government, who have ruled out a sugar tax in the short-term, to respond.

Most independent dieticians and experts appear to welcome the suggestions in the report but are cautious of beginning a ‘war on sugar’ that will miss out other important factors in tackling obesity.

Professor of Metabolic Medicine at Glasgow University, Vaeed Sattar, said: "to tackle obesity we must do much, much more [than just reduce sugar intake]. In fact, plentiful evidence still points towards excess fat as a major contributor to excess calories (more so than sugar) so we cannot become distracted by this 'sugar battle'.

Equally, ready access to cheap calorific foods is pervasive and tackling such issues will be difficult. These are difficult issues. Cutting excess calories requires a broader approach and will take many years, but we do have to start somewhere, and ultimately the government needs to take the lead."


The report recommended:


  • Reduce the number and type of price promotions in all retail outlets, including supermarkets and convenience stores and the out-of-home sector (including restaurants, cafés and takeaways).
  • Significantly reduce opportunities to market and advertise high-sugar food and drink products to children and adults across all media, including digital platforms and through sponsorship.
  • The setting of a clear definition for high-sugar foods to aid with actions 1 and 2 above. Currently the only regulatory framework for doing this is via the Ofcom nutrient profiling model, which would benefit from being reviewed and strengthened.
  • Introduction of a broad, structured and transparently monitored programme of gradual sugar reduction in everyday food and drink products, combined with reductions in portion size.
  • Introduction of a price increase of at least 10-20% on high-sugar products through the use of a tax or levy, such as on full-sugar soft drinks, based on the emerging evidence of the impact of such measures in other countries.
  • Adopt, implement and monitor the government buying standards for food and catering services (GBSF) across the public sector, including national and local government, and the NHS to ensure the provision and sale of healthier food and drinks in hospitals, leisure centres, etc.
  • Ensure accredited training in diet and health is routinely delivered to all those who have opportunities to influence food choices in the catering, fitness and leisure sectors, and others within local authorities.
  • Continue to raise awareness of concerns around sugar levels in the diet to the public, as well as health professionals, employers, the food industry etc. Encourage action to reduce intake and provide practical steps to help people lower their own and their family's sugar intake.


You can help yourself and your family from consuming too much sugar by taking responsibility and an interest in what you eat, how often and what it contains.  If you are concerned about weight or diabetes your local pharmacy can be a good place to start.  Advice is free and there can usually offer consultations.


Blood Test Can Predict Heart Attack And Reduce Hospital Admissions By Half

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A simple blood test can predict whether a patient with chest pain will have a heart attack could save the NHS millions of pounds and reduce the number of people admitted to hospital with a suspected heart attack by more than 50%


About a million people go to A & E or hospital emergency departments every year with chest pains but most will not go on to have a heart attack and go home after a lengthy and stressful stay.


The test looks for a chemical in the blood and results are impressive.  From trials on 6304 people an accuracy rate of over 99% was achieved and the test only takes 30 minutes.  The test could reduce stress for patients and save money and ease pressure on the NHS.


The Lancet has published a report on a new blood test which could revolutionise the diagnosis of heart attacks and could halve the number of patients admitted.  When patients are admitted they are tested for levels of troponin which is a chemical released by damaged heart muscle and then tested again 12 hours later.  The new test can detect much lower levels of troponin and usually only needs to be done once so anyone given the all-clear can go straight home.


Dr Atul Anand, one of the researchers and a physician at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said "It's really exciting. When you look at patients who come to medical wards with chest pain, 80% are going home 12 hours later.

"This avoids the hassle, cost and patient stress."

The test costs less than £10 although not all hospitals currently had the facilities to perform the more sensitive test.

However, Dr Anand said it would be "pretty straightforward" to introduce and there was a "clamouring" to do.


Last year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended the NHS uses the new testing kit but it is unknown when the NHS will move from a double to a single test.


The British Heart Foundation funded the study and are planning a bigger trial of 26,000 people across the UK.  They said the test should be rolled out across the NHS.  Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:


"A faster, more accurate diagnosis of whether chest pain is caused by a heart attack would be better for patients and save the NHS money,” said professor Jeremy Pearson from the British Heart Foundation.

"No-one wants to be in hospital unless they have to be.

"What's important about this study is that the evidence shows you can quickly and confidently rule out a heart attack without compromising patient safety."


"We want to ensure no heart attack diagnosis is missed but we equally don’t want to see people go through unnecessary tests and spend extended periods in hospital" he said.


It is thought about 400,000 people could be sent home immediately just be checking for troponin in the heart, saving millions of pounds. Troponin at low levels suggests that a heart attack is unlikely.

“Over the last two decades the number of hospital admissions due to chest pain has tripled but the overwhelming majority of these patients do not have a heart attack,” said lead author Dr Anoop Shah from the University of Edinburgh.

“Until now there were no quick ways to rule out a heart attack within the emergency department.


“These findings could dramatically reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and provide substantial cost savings for healthcare providers.”

At the moment patients who go to hospital suffering from stabbing chest pains are usually admitted to hospital for tests which can last for more than 24 hours. These tests only check to see whether a heart attack has happened, not if one is imminent.

The researchers found when they checked the blood samples of the people admitted to four hospitals in Scotland and the USA and followed their progress over 30 days the level of troponin was directly linked to whether the patients would go on to have a heart attack.


A person has a high sensitivity troponin-concentration of less than 5 nanograms per litre, was at very low risk of having had a heart attack.

Around 188,000 people suffer heart attacks each year, far fewer than the numbers who arrive at Emergency departments suffering from chest pains.

Dr Atul Anand, a BHF Research Fellow and physician, who co-authored the research at University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "It can be a devastating blow to learn you've had a heart attack. We'd much rather be able to rule this diagnosis out early and prevent unnecessary stress and an overnight stay in hospital.

“This research has highlighted a quick way to rule out a heart attack in A&E. With further results from this clinical trial we hope to have enough evidence to change clinical guidelines to ensure more accurate diagnosis of heart attacks.”


Symptoms of a heart attack include:


a dull pain, ache or "heavy" feeling in the chest


mild discomfort in the chest that makes you feel generally unwell


pain that spreads to the back, arm or stomach


pain that feels like bad indigestion


feeling light-headed or dizzy


Most People In Europe Too Fat

Saturday, 26 September 2015

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) most people in Europe are too fat with 59% either overweight or obese.  The number of people who are overweight or obese across the region ranged from 45 to 67%.


The report stated the figures were ‘alarmingly high’ and also said the WHO Europe region had the highest levels of use for alcohol and tobacco in the world, although the region does include parts of Asia.  It highlighted that 30% of people still smoked and alcohol consumption averaged 20 pints of pure alcohol a year, which is more than any other area in the world.  WHO was commenting after the publication of their European Health Report.


For the first time it appears as if young people may not live as long as their grandparents.  The report did praise countries for reducing deaths from cancer, heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.


Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab who is the WHO regional director for Europe said: "This report shows heartening progress.  But there is a very real risk that these gains will be lost if smoking and alcohol consumption continue at the current rate.  This is especially relevant to young people, who may not live as long as their grandparents."


If you are worried about your weight or wish to give up smoking in particular, your local pharmacy can be a good place to seek help.  They will usually offer free advice without an appointment and have a range of products to help you on your way if appropriate.


Having a nap could save your life!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Yes the siesta popular across the Mediterranean and Southern Europe really is good for your health too  According to research a nap can help reduce blood pressure and help prevent a heart attack.


Having a mid-day doze is always nice and often revitalising but it may also reduce your blood pressure and stave off a heart attack.

Some recent research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology which involved nearly 400 middle-aged man and women.  It found that those who had a snooze around mid-day had lower blood pressure later on than those who remained awake throughout the day.  The research found their blood pressure was lower both when awake and later when asleep at night.


The difference in blood pressure was about 5% which although small was enough to have a significant impact on heart attack rates according to the researchers as smaller reductions have been shown to reduce the chance of cardiovascular events by 10 %.


The research was carried out by Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens.  The researchers studied 200 men and 186 women over 60 who had high blood pressure and some of whom had a regular snooze around noon.


They discovered that those who had a nap at lunchtime had an average blood pressure measurement 5% lower than those who didn’t.

The best results were seen by those who have a longer nap of up to an hour.


The lead researcher was cardiologist Dr Manolis Kallistratos who suggested modern lifestyles can be fast-paced and we should be mindful of lessons in the past.

“Two influential UK Prime Ministers were supporters of the midday nap. Winston Churchill said that we must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner while Margaret Thatcher didn’t want to be disturbed at around 3:00 pm,” he said.


“According to our study they were right because midday naps seem to lower blood pressure levels and may probably also decrease the number of required antihypertensive medications.”


He acknowledged that most working people found it difficult to take a nap during the day.

“Μidday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privileged due to a nine to five working culture and intense daily routine” he said.

The findings revealed that overall, the average blood pressure readings of the regular nappers were 4% lower than the non-nappers when they were awake (5 mmHg) and 6% lower while they slept at night (7 mmHg).


When hearts are healthy, Blood pressure should drop when sleeping at night if your heart is healthy.

The researchers found that those who saw a significant drop in pressure when sleeping, had on average 17 minutes more mid-day sleep than those for whom findings remained constant.


There were some other benefits among the regular nappers.  They had pulse wave velocity levels 11% lower than those who stayed awake, while their left atrium diameters, which expand as you get older, were smaller.


“These findings suggest that midday sleepers have less damage from high blood pressure in their arteries and heart,” said Dr Kallistratos.

The researchers who conducted the study did factor in things which can influence blood pressure such as age, gender, smoking, alcohol, weight, salt, exercise etc.

Dr Kallistratos said: “Our study shows that not only is midday sleep associated with lower blood pressure, but longer sleeps are even more beneficial.

“Midday sleepers had greater dips in blood pressure while sleeping at night which is associated with better health outcomes.

“We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn’t sleep midday.”

Blood pressure is often referred to as the hidden killer as it cannot really be felt and doesn’t show itself with symptoms outwardly and many people may not even know it is high if they are not checking.


If you are concerned about high blood pressure or just wish to know what your blood pressure is your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  You can pop in without an appointment and most offer a blood pressure service.


You can also buy blood pressure monitors either in-store or at supermarket beating prices from our online shop.


10% of NHS Drugs Bill Spent on Diabetes

Sunday, 16 August 2015

According to the latest figures diabetes now accounts for 10% of what the NHS spend on drugs every year.

The official figures from The Health and Social Care Information Centre report state £869m was spent on drugs for diabetes last year.

About 10 years ago the spend on diabetes was £514m and accounted for 6.5% of the total drug budget.

Diabetes affects 2.8 million people in England with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes and the figures include both.  The main diabetic drugs are metformin and insulin but there are others.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre report was written by Ian Bullard, who said: "It shows that 10p in the pound of the primary care prescribing bill in England is being spent on managing diabetes.

"Diabetes continues to be one of the most prevalent long-term conditions, and the number of patients being diagnosed with the condition is increasing each year."


It has long been predicted that diabetes would cost the NHS a huge amount over the next 20 years. Much of the money spent on the condition is to avoid complications. By 2035 it is thought over a sixth of the NHS funding will be spent on the disease.


Sanofi, a large healthcare company involved with diabetes funded a study by researchers from the York Health Economic Consortium which was published in Diabetic Medicine, the journal of Diabetes UK charity.

The study reported that the annual NHS cost of the direct treatment of diabetes in the UK will increase from the current £10 billion to £16.9 billion over the next 25 years. The predicted rise equates to the NHS spending 17% of its entire budget on the condition, up from about 10% today.

The study also reported that the cost of treating diabetes complications associated with the condition such as stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation is expected to almost double from £7.7 billion currently to £13.5 billion by 2035.

It is difficult to predict the future and trends can change with better diagnosis, education and weight loss support but while based on data available today the report does highlight the major challenges many nations face in preventing and treating diabetes.


If you are diabetic, unsure of symptoms or are concerned about your weight your local pharmacy can be a good place to start if easier than getting to see your doctor.  You often don’t need an appointment and can pop in for advice, discuss your current treatment to establish if you should have a review and check you are taking it correctly, get tested or discuss ways they may be able to help you shed some pounds.


Students Urged To Have Meningitis Vaccine

Saturday, 01 August 2015

A new meningitis vaccine is to be offered to UK teenagers and students.

The vaccine, MenACWY, will be offered to everyone between 14 and 18 as well as students under 25 attending university or college to protect against meningitis W (MenW), a deadly strain of meningitis.


GPs across the UK are asking teenagers and first-time students to come for a vaccine.


There has been a steep rise in MenW cases in the last 5 years and those in this group are particularly vulnerable.

Meningitis W has a higher death rate than other strains of meningitis.


Public Health England have released a statement saying it is important that anyone going to university this year gets vaccinated because they will be mixing with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly be carrying the meningococcal bacteria.  Health experts in Scotland and Wales are also urging teenages and new students to get vaccinated at their GP surgery this summer.

MenW is a highly aggressive variant of the disease and the MenACWY vaccine is new and shown to be effective in protecting people from the disease.

The new vaccine, replaces the old MenC vaccine.


The rise in MenW cases comes as instances of meningitis C have reduced dramatically since 2002, with so many more people inoculated against that variant but the old MenC vaccine doesn’t protect against new strains.


Since cases of meningitis C have fallen so sharply group B now accounts for the majority of cases.  A MenB vaccination programme targeted at young children will begin next month.  Babies and young children under five are most at risk, but students, who live in close proximity to each other and share residences, kitchens, cigarettes and kisses, are also a high-risk group.


Making an appointment with your doctor to get vaccinated could save your life.


Head of immunisation at Public Health England, Dr Mary Ramsay, said all eligible teenagers would be called in for vaccinations by their GP. University freshers should contact their GP for vaccination before starting their courses.

“First-time university entrants from 19 to 24 years of age inclusive should also contact their GP for the vaccination,” she said. “Meningitis can be deadly and survivors are often left with severe disabilities as a result of this terrible disease. This vaccine will save lives and prevent permanent disability.

“We must all remain alert to the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and seek urgent medical attention if there is any concern. The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms can include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet.

“Be aware of all signs and symptoms and trust your instincts – don’t wait for a rash to develop before seeking urgent medical attention.”


  • Meningitis is an infection of the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
  • Meningococcal bacteria are common and carried harmlessly in the nose or throat by about one in 10 people
  • They are passed on through close contact

  • Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, vomiting and headaches, confusion and agitation
  • If you suspect any symptoms seek medical help before waiting for a rash to develop


A hope for Alzheimer’s?

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

There may be a treatment available that can help with sufferer’s of Alzheimer’s Disease and delay their decline.  Scientists have been searching for a treatment that can help for a long time and have experienced a great deal of frustration however, a trial has shown some promising results in slowing the advance of the disease.  While the impact was mild the drug, solanezumab, appears to target the disease itself rather than just the symptoms.  If the results are confirmed in another trial underway and due to be released in 18 months solanezumab will be the first drug to achieve this.


The drug has been developed by the company Eli Lilly and targets proteins that form plaques which affect the connections between brain cells and are thought to be a significant underlying cause of Alzheimer’s.

Data from the drug company suggests solanezumab can slow the progress of dementia by about a third.

The results of the trial are being met with cautious optimism while the new trial which will report next year should show a more definitive outcome.

Current medication can only manage the symptoms of dementia by trying to keep the dying brain cells functioning.  Solanezumab may be able to keep the brain cells that normally die in Alzheimer’s alive.

It is thought the formation of sticky plaques of amyloid between nerve cells causes the damage that leads to brain cell death.

The company asked over 1,000 patients with mild Alzheimer's in an original trial that was thought not to have been successful to continue taking the drug for another two years and positive results from this were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference.

They show those taking the drugs the longest had the most benefit.


The results are not conclusive and a definite cure is still some way off however, the evidence should be greeted as potentially encouraging.

There is currently no treatment that can slow down dementia but if there was it would drastically change how the disease is managed.  Sufferers would still deteriorate but spend longer in the milder, more manageable phase rather than needing constant care.

After many disappointments over the years of research the results of further trials next year are highly anticipated with the hope this is the breakthrough hoped for.

“The results provide encouraging evidence that solanezumab could indeed be acting on the disease processes that drive Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “Although the effect represents a small improvement for people experiencing mild symptoms, it will be important for longer trials to explore whether this treatment could produce greater benefits in the long-term.”

He said that results from the next trial of 2,100 patients, a phase III study – the last step before a drug can be submitted for regulatory approval – would be awaited with “great interest”.

However, it could be years before solanezumab reaches the market.

Other leading Alzheimer’s scientists have welcomed the study results, but all have also urged caution. Richard Morris, professor of neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh said he thought the solanezumab findings “likely to be significant” but added that a definitive assessment could not be given until after the next trial.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” he said. “From the perspective of the audience, they should be too. This is not a mouse study, it’s a people study and that matters.”

However, Dr Doug Brown, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society said there was now a strong suggestion that treating people at the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s with antibody treatments could be “the best way to slow or stop Alzheimer’s disease”.

“After a decade of no new therapies for dementia, today’s news is an exciting step forward,” he said. “We will have to wait for the ongoing trials to finish to know the full risks and benefits of these drugs. If they are positive, these drugs will be the first identified to directly interfere with the disease process and slow progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing modern healthcare. Largely driven by an increasing, ageing population there are already thought to be 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and 36m worldwide. This figure is expected to double every 20 years.


Missed Doctor Appointments Cost the NHS

Monday, 06 July 2015

If you miss a GP appointment you will find out how much it has cost.  Missed GP and hospital appointments cost the NHS in England nearly £1 billion. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced the plans recently but said there were no plans to charge patients for missed appointments although people need to take responsibility for their effect on NHS funds.

The health secretary said the cost of prescription medicines would be displayed on the packet with the words ‘funded by the UK taxpayer’ if the medicine cost more than £20.  It is hoped this would help reduce the amount of wastage of medicines that are prescribed by never used, thought to be about £300 million.

He said missed GP appointments cost the taxpayer £162m and missed hospital appointments cost £750m.

He said NHS funding and resources are already stretched, some would say almost at breaking point, and the population is getting older and living longer.


There are many reasons why people miss appointments from laziness and they can't be bothered, to difficulty in getting there or deteriorating health.

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said "Patients have a responsibility to attend GP appointments and to let their surgery know if they cannot attend," he said.

"Many GP surgeries already remind patients about appointments using text messages and emails, and the first priority should be to expand the use of these services, rather than cutting the funding for them, as the government is planning to do."

It is not always easy to see your doctor within 48 hours and evening and weekend appointments are rare.  It is significant where you live too.

The role of the pharmacist is often overlooked in these discussions, most people have access to one within reasonable travelling distance, you probably won’t need an appointment , can get trustworthy advice for all minor symptoms and some more serious conditions and can usually purchase medicine to help at the same time.


Suffer From Asthma? Get A Review

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

What inhaler are you using? There are potentially tens of thousands of asthma sufferers not getting the right medication or the correct medication to keep their asthma safely under control.


No asthma sufferer is in immediate danger however, the charity Asthma UK, analysed nearly 100,000 patient records says lives are at risk as some people are taking the wrong types of inhalers.


Everyone should check which inhaler they are prescribed and how often they use them.


Some health professionals aren’t spotting the warning signs that asthma could be spiralling dangerously out of control.

No asthma patient should be prescribed a long-acting reliever inhaler without being given a preventer inhaler too, for example.

Anyone who is using 12 or more short-acting reliever inhalers a year should see their doctor because it means their condition is not under control and needs other medication.


Likewise, anyone who is using their reliever inhaler - which is usually blue in colour - more than three times a week and has not had a recent review should contact their GP or Pharmacist.


The analysis was conducted between 2010 and 2013 and involved over 500 doctors surgeries.  5,000 patients had been prescribed more than 12 reliever inhalers over a 12-month period, 1,965 of them without being reviewed by a nurse or doctor.


And 400 patients had been prescribed long-acting reliever medicines without inhaled steroids.


Applying these findings throughout the UK would suggest tens of thousands of people with asthma could have these medication errors, says Asthma UK.

There are about 5.4 million people in the UK on asthma treatment - a million of these are children and we have one of the highest rates of asthma in the developed world.


Dr Mark Levy, GP and author of the National Review of Asthma Deaths, said deaths could be prevented by better disease management.

"We should be assessing and reviewing every patient and reviewing people every time they have an attack.

"A single review once a year is not acceptable," he said.


Prof Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: "A huge part of this is making sure we intervene early and ensure preventative medication is given as well as used to relieve symptoms in emergencies."


Dr Peter Carter, of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "The role of specialist nurses is vital in supporting better patient and professional education, but the number of specialist nursing posts that have been eroded in recent years is deeply concerning."


The previous National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) report highlighted the need for improvements. Key findings from the report included:

nearly half of those included in the study had not received any medical help during their last attack;

the standard of care received was less than satisfactory in a quarter of those who died;

and there was widespread under-use of preventer inhalers and excessive over-reliance on reliever inhalers.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) which supports and promotes the role of all NHS community pharmacies in England highlighted how community pharmacy could help with many of the NRAD’s recommendations.


Alastair Buxton, PSNC Head of NHS Services, said:


“The NRAD showed once again the need to develop services to better support people with asthma to manage their medicines and conditions. We already have evidence to show that community pharmacy can do exactly that in a way that is convenient for patients and affordable for the NHS and we hope that our report on this topic will help to convince policy-makers and commissioners of that.


Of course what we would like to see is national action to enable community pharmacies across the country to provide the care we describe to asthma patients, and we will continue to make the value of that clear in our ongoing discussions with the NHS and others. However, we recognise the current direction of travel towards local commissioning within the NHS and so we are also looking to work with stakeholders to develop a commissioning framework that could be adopted by CCGs to initiate these sorts of services at a local level. In the meantime, we hope the report may be of use in helping LPCs with any local discussions on community pharmacy asthma care that they have already begun.”


Pharmacy is a good place to seek advice if more convenient than getting to see your GP.  If you haven’t had a review recently ask for an Medicines Use Review (MUR) which are free.  The pharmacist will check your medication on how you are taking it and suggest action if necessary.


Asthma inhalers:

Reliever inhalers, usually blue or green in colour, deliver medication directly into the lungs as you breathe and ease symptoms by relaxing the muscles around the airways to open up the passages


Short-acting relievers include salbutamol and terbutaline


Long-acting relievers include salmeterol, formeterol and tiotropium bromide and should only be used if you've also been prescribed a preventer inhaler

Preventer inhalers, often brown in colour, usually contain a low dose of steroid medicine to prevent and reduce airway swelling and inflammation


Not everyone needs a preventer inhaler - but if you have started on one, it may take days for you to notice any difference. Patients should nonetheless continue using it.


Blood Needed

Saturday, 06 June 2015

There has been a big drop in the number of people who are giving blood.  In the last 10 years the number of volunteers has dropped by 40%.  NHS Blood and Transplant has launched a campaign to increase awareness and recruit more volunteers.  They state 120,000 fewer people have joined the register in 2014 - 15 than 2004 - 5.  They are trying to recruit another 200,000 volunteers.


One of the main causes for the decline is thought to be the reduction in people’s free time, in part due to busier lives, working longer hours, longer commutes, social media distractions and the fact that the blood donation centres aren’t always open at times to fit in with busy lives too.  You also need to make an appointment now which may put people off doing it spontaneously.


"We simply can't ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward - a trend seen across the world," said Jon Latham, assistant director for donor services and marketing at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which provides blood supplies for England and north Wales.

If is often people who have never previously been donors but are affected in some way either directly or by someone they know who then become donors and encourage family and friends to give blood too.


Only about 4% of the population are regular donors.  There appears to be enough stock for this year but supplies for the future need to be ensured so the situation doesn’t become severe.


About 50% of donors are over 45 years of age and younger people are particularly sought to help safeguard supplies in the future.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are also particularly important as donors.  Conditions such as sickle cell disease and thalassaemia are more prevalent among these group and those affected need regular blood transfusions, ideally from donors with similar ethnic backgrounds.

NHS Blood and Transplant are particularly keen for anyone with O-negative blood to donate as this type of blood can be given to anyone, regardless of their own blood group.


You can donate if you are a healthy 17 – 65 year old person.  Man can donate four times a year and women three.


To find out where or for more information click here


Children becoming obese at a younger age

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

New research from University College London has produced figures that show children in the UK are becoming obese at a younger age.  The average age at which people become obese is decreasing.  The researchers looked at over 56,000 people born between 1946 and 2001 in Britain.  They found a clear pattern of people becoming fatter more often and at an earlier age.  One possible positive from the latest research is that obesity appears to be stabilising among the under 10’ age group.


Obese children often go on to become obese adults and suffer from many of the associated problems such as diabetes and heart disease.


The research was carried out by Professor Rebecca Hardy and her team who published their findings in PLOS Medicine.  They studied five generations. For men, the first post-war babies didn’t become overweight until they reached around 40 years of age.  The next two generations of male babies became fatter younger, at an average of 33 and 30 respectively.


The trend was the same for women.  The third generation of babies born in the 70’s were overweight by 41 on average, compared with 48 for those born in 1946 and 44 for those bron in 1958.


By the fourth generation for both sexes, obesity was becoming common in childhood.

Children born since the 1980s are up to three times more likely to be overweight or obese by the age of 10 than previous generations.

Worringly, a fifth of children joining primary school in England are now obese or overweight.


Prof Hardy said: "Our work shows this coincided with the onset of an obesogenic environment in the 1980s, where there was easy access to high-calorie food.

"The onset of obesity has been getting earlier and earlier and this does have implications if people are not losing that weight.

"Being overweight over a lifetime means you accumulate risks for things like heart disease and diabetes."


Eustace De Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families, at Public Health England, said: "Evidence shows that children of obese parents are much more likely to have weight problems, which is a major concern when almost two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

"Almost one in 10 children in Reception are obese - but what's even more shocking is that by the time they leave primary school, this doubles to nearly one in five."


If you are concerned about your or your child’s weight you should make an appointment at your GP.  Your local pharmacy can often be a good place to pop into for advice without an appointment too.


Folic Acid Awareness Day

Friday, 01 May 2015

Today is Folic Acid Awareness Day, it is the third year the national spina bifida charity, Shine has held the event.

The annual event is part of an ongoing campaign by the charity to promote folic acid as a way to help improve health in pregnancy.  The day will feature giveaways and promotions throughout the country, with support from Shine members, local MPs, council leaders, midwives, pharmacists.


There is still a 1 in 1,000 chance of an unborn baby developing spina bifida or anencephaly meaning every week 14 couples in the UK receive the devastating news that their baby is affected. However, up to 72% of these cases could be reduced by taking the right amount of folic acid at the right time.


Martine Austin, Head of Prevention at Shine said, ‘It’s vital that folic acid is taken BEFORE conception to reduce the risk of these severe conditions. The neural tube, which goes on to form the brain and spine forms in the first 28 days, before many women are even aware that they’re pregnant. So, starting to take it once you’re already pregnant is too late.’


Despite the great success of the Go Folic! campaign and Folic Acid Awareness Day, Martine warns that there is still much more work that needs to be done to ensure that all women are aware of this important information.


Martine continues, ‘Although we’re actively raising awareness throughout the year, it’s amazing to have this annual day when women can really come together as a community to share this important message with one another. We know that women will change their behaviour if they’re made aware of the information in time, in a way in which they can relate to, but we need all women to help one another in this. That’s what’s so special about today!’


For more information on the importance of folic acid in pregnancy you can contact shine or visit your local pharmacy.


Allergy Awareness Week 20 – 26 April

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

It’s Allergy Awareness Week from 20 to the 26 of April.  It is organised by Allergy UK and this year they are more focussed on severe allergies but all allergies are included.  The campaign is called ‘Living in Fear’ and three are more details on their website as well as a number of events taking place around the UK>


Allergies can affect most people with hay fever one of the most common and the season about to start but some of the severe allergies can have a devasting effect on peoples’ lives.


If you have an allergy or think you may have one your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  No appointment is usually necessary and they can often offer help from good advice to a whole range of products.


Meningitis B Vaccine Deal Announced

Sunday, 05 April 2015

The Government has now reached agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) who produce the vaccine Bexsero that will allow all babies in the UK to be vaccinated against Meningitis B which is caused by meningococcal group B bacteria.  The vaccination programme now has the go-ahead to be made available on the NHS for every baby from two months old.  The committee responsible for the decision had previously ruled it was not cost effective.

As long as Bexsero can be provided at a cost-effective price, the meningitis B (Men B) vaccine will be given to babies as part of the routine childhood vaccination programme.


While Bexsero has been available privately for some time, the UK will become the first country in the world to introduce a national Men B vaccination routinely to its childhood programme.


In response to this announcement, Dr Ian Maconichie, Registrar, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:

"I'm delighted that the meningitis B vaccine is going to be made available for all babies in the UK.

"Meningitis is a very serious infectious disease and is a leading killer of children and young people in the UK - one in ten cases prove fatal and of those who survive, many are left with life long disabilities.

"This decision will undoubtedly decrease mortality and morbidity rates and reduce the burden meningitis can have on children and their families."


World Tuberculosis Day 24 March 2015

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tuesday 24 March is World Tuberculosis Day


World Tuberculosis Day aims to raise awareness of Tuberculosis (TB).  Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection which can be caught by inhaling the tiny droplets emitted by other infected peoples coughs and sneezes.


It is a serious condition but can be cured with proper treatment, usually a course of antibiotics for about 6 months although TB is resistant to some antibiotics.  It is not common in the UK, largely due to the introduction of the BCG vaccination, but has seen a gradual increase here in the last 20 years.  This, in part, is due to people from other countries where TB is more common, in particular Africa and South East Asia.  In 2013 approximately 8000 cases of TB were reported in the UK and over 5000 of those infected were born abroad.


You should make an appointment to see your doctor if you have a persistent cough lasting more than 3 weeks of if you cough up blood.



No Smoking Day Today

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Today 11 March 2015 is National No Smoking Day


Today is the day to give up smoking or help someone who wants to give up.  There are numerous and varied events going on around the country where you can seek help and advice.  Pop in your local pharmacy today for ideas.


WHO Help To Reduce Children’s Consumption of bad foods

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Children are still being confronted with marketing for foods and drinks that contain far too much fat, sugar or salt.  Some progress has been made but there is still much to do. It is hard to identify the foods and marketing that should be restricted across television, internet, magazines and outdoor advertising.  To help governments develop strategies to restrict the advertising to children The World Health Organisation (WHO) have established a way of identifying the harmful foods and drinks.  The European Office has developed a model for countries to adapt and use to classify foods. The tool can be used to help determine whether a product should be marketed to children.


Marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or salt has a proven harmful effect on children and encourages a preference for unhealthy food and poor diets which can lead to the development of diet-related conditions. Childhood obesity is a serious problem and growing and tighter controls on the marketing of foods to children will be a vital element to help fight it.


“Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity across Europe, there is no justification for marketing products that have little nutritional value and contribute to unhealthy diets. The tool that we are offering to countries to adapt and use would protect children from the harmful effects of marketing of foods high in energy, saturated fats, trans fatty acids, free sugars and salt” says Dr Gauden Galea, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.


The WHO nutrient profile model has been developed to reduce the pressure of marketing on children by helping countries identify foods for which marketing shouldn’t be allowed. This task was set by the WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020.


Unhealthy diets are a leading factor affecting health and well-being in every European country; rising overweight and obesity among children is particularly concerning. Affecting up to 27% of 13-year-olds and 33% of 11-year-olds. There is strong evidence of a link between exposure to food advertising and unhealthy diets and obesity in children. The leading categories of marketed foods are soft drinks, breakfast cereals, fast food, biscuits, confectionery, ready meals and snack foods. The ability to recognise brands starts very early and children who can identify multiple brands by the age of 4 are more likely to eat unhealthily and be overweight. Research has shown that overweight children in particular respond to branded food packaging by increasing their consumption.


The WHO European Office developed its nutrient profile model after looking at models already in place in Denmark and Norway which are used to restrict food marketing to children and are seen as successful.  The Norwegian model was developed by health authorities but the Danish one was developed by a trade association for responsible food marketing communication.


Countries will be able to use the WHO model to develop and implement policies to restrict food marketing to children in two ways:

  • use as it is, or after adapting it to their circumstances, to identify foods not to be marketed to children; or
  • to monitor the extent and nature of food marketing.


If you are concerned about your child’s weight or even your own or someone else’s your local pharmacy os a good place to start.  Often with a private consultation room, they offer free advice and a range of options to help.


Strong Cannabis Use Linked To Big Increase In Risk Of Pychosis

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Kings College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience carried out research by studying 780 people which found that a almost a quarter (24%) of the new cases of psychosis were linked to smoking ‘skunk’ cannabis.


The research suggests users of ‘skunk-type’ cannabis are three times more at risk of developing psychosis and for those using it everyday the risk is five times higher than non-users.  The researchers also found that hashish, a milder solid resin type drug was not associated with increased risk of psychosis.

The condition psychosis includes delusions or hallucinations that can be present in certain psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.


The lead author of the researcha Di Forti said "Compared with those who had never tried cannabis, users of high potency skunk-like cannabis had a threefold increase in risk of psychosis, And added: "The results show that psychosis risk in cannabis users depends on both the frequency of use and cannabis potency."

The availability of skunk-like cannabis was becoming more widespread.


Skunk is a highly potent dense form of cannabis plant with an extremely strong smell.  It contains more THC - the main psychoactive ingredient - than other types of cannabis such as. Unlike skunk, hashish - cannabis resin - contains substantial quantities of another chemical called cannabidiol or CBD and research suggests this can act as an antidote to the THC, counteracting psychotic side effects.


Sir Robin Murray, professor of psychiatric research at King's, commented: "This paper suggests that we could prevent almost one quarter of cases of psychosis if no-one smoked high potency cannabis. "This could save young patients a lot of suffering and the NHS a lot of money."

The research was carried out over several years, comparing 410 patients aged 18-65 who reported a first episode of psychosis at a south London psychiatric hospital with 370 healthy participants within the same age range from the same area of London.

It will be published in the Lancet Psychiatry.


Rosanna O'Connor, director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England, responded: "No drug use is without risk as this report demonstrates.

"Anyone having problems with drug use should seek help from their local specialist drug services. It is important to remember that treatment for all types


Accu-Chek Spirit Combo insulin infusion pumps warning

Friday, 16 January 2015

Do you use a the Accu-Check Spirit Combo insulin pump?

The manufacturer, Roche and the MHRA have re-issued a warning with regards to a problem that occurs if the pump's power supply is interrupted, for example, to change the battery. This may reset the default date and time. If this change goes unnoticed, and the user confirms the default settings, there will be a shift in the basal rate time block and this may affect insulin delivery. Patients with impaired vision are at particular risk as they may be less likely to notice the change.


Talk to us or review the advice in the manufacturer’s Field Safety Notice (FSN) or call the Roche Accu-Chek Pump Careline on Freephone 0800 731 2291.

Make sure you have a syringe or insulin pen available as a back-up. If the problem arises contact Roche for a replacement pump.


Diabetics at risk of eating disorders

Friday, 12 December 2014 have highlighted results from a recent survey they conducted where over 500 people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes took part.  The survey shows over 87% of those surveyed had experienced symptoms of eating disorders related to diabetes.  The survey showed 72%, nearly three quarters, of the respondents are affected by perceptions of their body image but only 12% sought professional advice or help.  97% of the respondents to the survey believe more could be done to raise awareness of diabulimia in particular as many people still do not know what it is or much about it.

So what is diabulimia?

Although not officially recognised as a medical condition yet, diabulimia is a similar type of eating disorder to bulimia that affects people with diabetes, most commonly type 1 diabetes. It has been estimated by experts that as many as third of young female diabetics could be suffering with the condition. Diabetics will deliberately reduce their insulin level in order to lose weight. Although diabulimia is generally associated with the use of insulin, a person with diabetes may also suffer from an eating disorder as well.

The physical and emotional effects of dealing with type 1 diabetes can increase the risk of diabulimia, as well as depression, anxiety and poor self-esteem.

Reducing the amount of insulin needed can be very dangerous and can cause serious health risks, such as:

High glucose levels



Wearing of the muscle tissue

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Long-term, the effects can be the same as badly managed diabetes, and can lead to retinopathy, neuropathy, kidney failure and even death.

Charlotte Summers, COO of comments:
“Diabulimia is a serious condition that often gets overlooked. Being diagnosed with diabetes can have a serious impact on self-image. For people with type 1 diabetes, the stress of injecting can have a detrimental effect; whilst in people with type 2 diabetes, the negative portrayal of diabetes in the media causes anxiety and a lack of self-esteem. It is something that affects both men and women and requires more awareness and research in order to determine the best way to address the emotional impact of diabetes.”

If you are concerned about diabetes, blood glucose levels or know someone that may be at risk your local pharmacist is a good and easily accessible place to seek advice.


Surgery Inspection Data Now Available

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Information on every general practice in England has been analysed and published by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for the first time to show how it will decide which surgeries it will inspect and what areas it will focus on.

The 'intelligent monitoring' of general practices published on Monday (17 November) are made up of different types of evidence on patient experience, care and treatment, based on sources including surveys and official statistics.

They help the CQC decide where it should focus its inspections to try and ensure people receive care that is safe, caring and effective.

It is part of CQC's new regulatory approach that features specialist inspection teams, including GPs or practice nurses and trained members of the public who inspect services while considering what matters most to the people who use them. CQC has been using evidence to prioritise its inspections of acute NHS trusts since last October.

The analysis shows that almost eight out of ten general practices in England appear to be of low concern, based on the available data and almost 3,800 are in the lowest category.

While CQC can only judge the quality of care within a service once it has carried out an inspection, the analysis indicates which services appear to be doing well, alongside where people may not be receiving high-quality and compassionate care.

The publication follows the regulator's announcement of the first general practices to be awarded ratings of Outstanding – Salford Health Matters in Eccles and Irlam Medical Practice 2 in Salford.

Within the next two years, CQC will have inspected and rated every general practice in England as Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate to help people make informed choices about their care and encourage improvement in quality.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said: “There is a lot of good and outstanding care taking place across the country as our data and recent reports show.

“While it is positive that 78% of general practices are currently a low concern based on the available data, there is no reason for complacency and standards must continue to improve.

“It is important to remember that the data is not a judgement as it is only when we inspect we can determine if a practice provides safe, high-quality and compassionate care.

“The data is a further tool that will help us to decide where to inspect and when.”

Mike Bewick, Deputy Medical Director at NHS England and former GP, said: “General practice, with everyone having access to a family doctor, is one of the great strengths of the NHS. We're pleased this report shows that despite the increased pressure on GPs there are so many good and outstanding practices across the country.

“As with all parts of the NHS there is some variation, this data will help GPs understand where there could be improvement. The Five Year Forward View published by the NHS highlighted the need for an increase in the share of funding for General Practice.”

Dr Charles Alessi, Co-chairman of the National Association of Primary Care, said: "We welcome the emphasis on transparency and quality in the new inspection regime for General Practice. 

"The fact that outstanding practice has already been identified is very encouraging and we looking forward to working closely with CQC to further develop models of monitoring to both lessen the burden of inspection and enrich the experience on the practices."

Norman Williams, Immediate Past President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “I am pleased that CQC is being transparent by making data on all aspects of health and care available.

“During my time as president this is something that I championed as information helps to drive improvements. It is absolutely right that patients are aware of the quality of the services that are provided so they can make choices about their care”.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients' Association, said:“We often hear about the difficulties people have trying to get an appointment with their GP. It is an area that general practice has to get right.

“Our own reports have highlighted the access that people have that matches CQC's analysis.  We hope that CQC's work in highlighting this major issue will act as a catalyst and there will be some positive changes.”

CQC has produced thirty-eight indicators on whether patients at the surgery could be at 'risk' or 'elevated risk' beyond what would be expected normally for each of these.

CQC has then placed every practice into bandings from one (highest perceived concern) to six (lowest perceived concern) to help plan inspections from next year.

Within this, 78% (6,076 practices) are in the lowest four bands; 3,797 of which are in band six.

The 1,200 practices that are in bands one and two will be considered for inspection from next year, so that CQC can determine the quality and safety of care within them.

The bandings are not judgements: these only happen following inspections.

CQC plans to update this information every three months so that it can continue to respond to issues as they emerge and to share these with providers and the public.


  • When CQC identifies a 'risk' or 'elevated risk', it does not necessarily mean that people using the practice are at risk, but where patients may be at risk. Our inspections will determine whether GP practices are providing safe and effective care.
  • Each general practice has been categorised into one of six priority bands, with band one representing the highest perceived risk and band six the lowest risk. The bands have been assigned based on the proportion of indicators that have been identified as 'risk' or 'elevated risk'.

The data sources include:


About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive care, and we encourage care services to improve. We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.


Plan Needed To Address High Rate Of Premature Death In Men

Friday, 07 November 2014

Last week some new mortality data was published which highlighted:

  • One in five men still dies before 65
  • Men are 71% of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease
  • Men are 80% of suicides

  • The charity Men's Health Forum called for a national action plan to tackle the problem.Other countries such as Ireland and Australia who also have high rates of men dying young have implemented health policies to help tackle the problem. Men account for 71% of premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and the Men's Health Forum has asked Public Health England to ensure men make up at least 50% of those receiving a NHS Health Check. According to the Freedom of Information Act only 35% of local areas running NHS Health Checks know how many men have the check up.

Men's Health Manifesto was launched in parliament by the Men's Health Forum at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Men's Health.

Martin Tod, chief executive of the Men's Health Forum, commented while launching their manifesto:

'So many men die young and it continues to be ignored. Men deserve better. We need an explicit men's health policy to tackle this. Last month, both NHS England and Public Health England published plans for their own work but these will not put in place the action we need.'

'Too many men who do seek help find that drug or alcohol problems act as a barrier to getting mental health treatment. We must invest in integrated care for dual diagnosis.'

'We need the NHS to sort out opening times and access so they work for full-time workers. They must improve online access, booking and other interaction.'

The Men's Health Manifesto includes challenges to:

  • NHS England
  • Public Health England
  • CCGs and local authorities
  • GPs
  • Men
  • The scale of the challenge



More than one in five men are dying between the ages 16 and 65 on average, and more than two in five before the age of 75 – with death rates amongst men in the poorest areas of the country being much worse.


  • Men are more likely to die of circulatory diseases and cancer.
  • Men account for 75% of premature deaths from heart disease.
  • Men have a 37% higher risk of dying from cancer and a 67% higher chance of dying from cancers that affect both men and women (Excluding breast cancer and those cancers that affect either women only or men only).


67% of men are overweight or obese.


Middle-aged men are twice as likely to have diabetes as women – and twice as likely not to know they have diabetes.


Four in five suicides are by men – suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 35 and there has been a sharp increase in the rate among men aged 35-64.


Men are more likely than women to:

  • smoke, smoke more cigarettes per day and smoke hand-rolled tobacco
  • eat too much salt
  • eat too much red and processed meat
  • eat too little fruit and too few vegetables
  • drink alcohol and drink at hazardous levels. Men are twice as likely to have liver disease.


So men have a great deal of room for improvement, with much of these problems down to lifestyle factors.  Men are notorious for not visiting the doctor when something is wrong or taking their health seriously often citing the old-fashioned view that ‘it’ll be alright’ or too busy.

Your local pharmacy can provide help on most of the factors that can cause problems such as weight issues, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.  They can be more accessible, an appointment usually isn’t needed and offer free advice.  It can be a much more comfortable experience to begin here than a visit to the doctor and get you on the right track.


The Clocks Change So Check Your Sleep Patterns

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Switching the clocks back on 26 October 2014 could signal the perfect time to reset your body clock and cleanse your body of habits that are getting in the way of good sleep and good health.


In our 24/7 constantly connected world with always-on lifestyles, it is all too easy to succumb to the temptation to skip sleep. However, deep sleep is a necessity, not just a luxury. According to a growing number of experts, including the British Medical Association and Mental Health Foundation, more and more of us could be compromising the amount of sleep we need to maintain a healthy mind and healthy body.

This is a view endorsed by the experts at luxury bed company DUX of Sweden. With over 80 years experience in the science of sleep, they have blended the science of sleep with advanced technology to create beds that offer up to 10% more deep sleep

To mark the end of British Summer Time, luxury bed company DUX of Sweeden has published a series of top tips to help achieve deeper, better sleep.

  • Remind yourself that sleep is not a guilty pleasure, it is vital to good health and wellbeing
  • Keep your room dark to help your body produce more of the sleep hormone melatonin
  • Minimise the number of electronic devices close to your bed – the blue light in these devices can affect the production of melatonin
  • Replace tired out-of-shape pillows with ones that fully support your head
  • Avoid caffeine and keep alcohol to a minimum as bedtime approaches
  • Maintain a balanced diet – fluctuating blood sugar levels can trigger early waking
  • Lie on your back and practice some simple meditation exercises: breathe deeply in and out and concentrate on your hands slowly rising and falling on your abdomen, then visualise your body relaxing, bit by bit from the tips of your toes to the top of your head
  • Don't dwell on anxieties – deal with them tomorrow
  • Invest in the best bed you can afford – you will spend a third of your life here, so it's well worth finding one that's just right for you.

Pat Duckworth, master NLP practitioner and cognitive hypnotherapist adds that contrary to popular belief cheese can help you sleep.  The tryptophan in cheese is triggered when eaten with carbohydrate and this can aid relaxation and sleep.  Tryptophan is also contained in chicken breast, turkey, tuna, soya beans and salmon.  So that is why you feel sleepy after your Christmas dinner!

The facts about sleep speak for themselves:

  • Insomnia in Britain affects over 50% of people – with women more prone to suffer*
  • The leading physical cause of sleeplessness is bodily discomfort*
  • Poor sleep can affect our moods, energy levels and ability to concentrate.

In scientifically controlled tests people in a DUX bed reached deep sleep faster and remained there for approximately an extra hour longer each night. Combining outstanding Swedish quality and design, DUX beds are crafted from the finest materials and built to last a lifetime. The range offers a variety of features that can be personalised to suit different body shapes and preferences, including lumbar support and personal comfort zones. The range is available to view at Harrods on Brompton Road, Knightsbridge and at DUXIANA's flagship UK store at 46 George Street, London. For more information about DUXIANA and the DUX range of beds:


Smoke gets in your eyes!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Eye surgeon, Milind Pande is marking Stoptober, the UK's mass 28 day stop smoking attempt by urging smokers to think about their eye sight! Smoking significantly increases the risk of impaired vision due to macular degeneration.

The campaign comes as new research shows the extra years of life that can be gained by giving up smoking and staying smokefree.  Milind Pande said: “It is now becoming clear that smoking is a bad thing for eye sight. It greatly increase the chance of age related macular degeneration which is one of the most common causes of loss of vision in the UK today.

“Smoking damages blood vessels and the structure of the eye and smokers are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers. The part of the eye responsible for central vision is the part of the retina called themacula.  Age related macular degeneration is a common ageing process in the macula which causes vision loss. There is now convincing evidence that tobacco smoking increases the risk of severe loss of vision from AMD.“

Mr Pande, who is medical director and consultant ophthalmologist at Vision Surgery in East Yorkshire concluded: “Along with stopping smoking, diet is key for reducing your risk. Antioxidants in fruit and vegetables protect the body against the effects of 'free radicals' which damage cells or prevent cell repair. Alcohol destroys these as does a diet with lots of hydrogenated or saturated fats. These things also increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.”
Stoptober 2014 takes place for the whole of the month of October. Visit


October 18th is National Menopause Day

Saturday, 11 October 2014

There are now more menopausal women in the UK than ever before.  This is due to the boom in births after World War 2.

There are about 2 million menopausal women currently living in the UK and October 18th will mark National Menopause Day.  There has never been more demand from women looking for information and support to help with coping and the side effects and symptoms.  There is also demand to find out more about the medications available as different treatments have different effects on women and it is important to find the right one for you.

If you are experiencing signs of the menopause or know someone who is it is important to make an appointment with your GP to discuss further.  Most women find the right treatment can make the whole experience of going through the menopause so much more comfortable.  


It’s Stoptober throughout this month

Tuesday, 07 October 2014

Throughout the month of October every smoker is being encouraged and given support to stop smoking for 28 days.  Stop smoking for 28 days and you’re 5 times more likely to stop for good. There are lots of free support tools from apps to packs - all the help you need from the NHS.

To register


You can also visit your pharmacy at any time for advice, support and products to help you quit for good.


Many infertile women not receiving support

Monday, 22 September 2014

40% of women with fertility issues who visit their GP don’t feel they get an explanation as to why they are finding it difficult to get pregnant.  More concerning still is the fact that 70% are unsure if they are ovulating regularly with their cycles.

This is according to recent research carried out for a fertility monitor company.  500 women with known fertility issues were surveyed and many of the respondents were told they may have common conditions but weren’t given any formal diagnosis and left to feel in the dark.  The respondents were told they may have common issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis.

The latest research indicates that up to 20% of women have PCOS – the most common cause of ovulatory problems - but that up to half of all cases go undetected.   

Under the current NICE (National Institute for Health & Care Excellence) guidelines, women under the age of 35 who seek help from their doctor about fertility concerns should continue trying to get pregnant for two years before they should be considered for treatment on the NHS. 

Kate Davies, Fertility Practitioner RN BSc (HONS) FP Cert, said: “I hear from scores of women who are confused, upset and frustrated. They pluck up the courage to go and talk to the GP and often leave feeling very blamed, let down by a lack of information, and without a diagnosis.”

Kate continued: “Diagnosis is the key to being able to manage any medical condition or illness, we all know that, but with something as precious as childbirth the current guidance is to keep trying. Whilst it is vital couples aim for a really healthy lifestyle and are managing their weight, it seems almost cruel to send couples away after having gone to their GP for help and proactive support. Even if they did everything recommended for NICE 'expectant management' 20% of couples of would never get pregnant, yet they are left out in the dark for up to two years - those two years could be vital"

Statistics from the IVF treatment body which regulates IVF treatment in the UK show that over 40% of couples reach the end of that pathway with 'unexplained infertility'. That is two in every five of those receiving each £5000 IVF treatment at an estimated cost of £120m to the NHS every year.  Many women don't know why they can't get pregnant naturally, and neither do their clinicians.

Delaying treatment can significantly reduce the chances of pregnancy. The vast majority of couples who visit their doctor have an issue conceiving which often will not be helped by waiting.

There are women throughout the UK, desperately trying to conceive but being left without support or advice or a proper diagnosis to help them address the issues. 

If you are having trouble conceiving go to your GP right away and get it looked into. There are a number of products available at your local pharmacy that can help identify ovulation cycles as well as pregnancy tests and other helpful accessories.  Any information you have for your doctor will be very helpful and should allow you to receive help more quickly.


Trying to reduce your salt intake? Think about cheese

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A recent research paper was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) which was put together by Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) and the amount of salt contained in some cheese may surprise you.  There are some very high levels of salt in cheese and a big difference between different types of cheese.


Reducing salt intake is generally very important and there is often more than we need hidden in many foods, even if you think you have a reasonable diet already but it is particularly important for anyone who suffers from high blood pressure or is at risk of a stroke or heart attack.  Too much salt is known to raise blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.


The research revealed that some cheese brands aren’t going far enough to reduce salt content putting consumers health at risk.

Supermarkets own brand was in fact usually lower than branded cheddar and cheddar-style cheese.


Although many cheeses were within the recommended Department of Health guidelines amazingly some cheeses contained more salt than seawater!

Particularly salty were blue cheese Roquefort, feta and halloumi.  The cheeses with the lowest salt content were emmental, Wensleydale and mozzarella.  Within the different varieties there was also a large variation in salt content between brands / products.  The survey found one variety of gorgonzola was nearly six times saltier than the least salty, and large differences were also seen in Wensleydale and cheddar.

Cash said salt intake should be less than 6g a day - about a teaspoon - and urged consumers to choose either a lower salt version or eat less cheese.

The chairman of Cash, Prof Graham MacGregor said: "Even small reductions will have large health benefits. For every one gram reduction in population salt intake we can prevent 12,000 heart attacks, stroke and heart failure, half of which would have been fatal.


"The Department of Health must now stop its delaying tactics and set new much lower targets for cheese manufacturers, and make sure they achieve them. The cheese industry must comply if we are to save the maximum number of lives"


Cash said that you should have less than 6g of salt a day - about a teaspoon.  With the recommended daily maximum intake of salt for an adult is 6g the list below shows the salt content of a 30g portion


  • Roquefort: 1.06g salt
  • Bacon rasher: 0.9g
  • Halloumi : 0.81g
  • Seawater: 0.75g
  • Cheddar: 0.52g
  • Packet of crisps: 0.5g
  • Mozzarella: 0.30g

It is worth remembering cheese can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet and like anything a little of what you like will do you no harm but it is worth being mindful of th salt content of some varieties and brands  The  most important thing is to watch your overall salt intake.


If you don’t know your blood pressure, are concerned about it or want to monitor it pop into your local pharmacy where they will be happy to give you free advice and measure your blood pressure.


Smoking in Cars

Thursday, 17 July 2014

So it looks like smoking in cars that are carrying children is to be banned in Wales. Would be very surprised it this particular piece of legislation doesn't become law in the rest of the UK at some point in the future. Without wishing to appear sanctimonious do people really feel it is still acceptable to smoke while driving their children around? Unfortunately, it appears that some people do. You still see plenty of people smoking while driving with children in the car.


Maybe they think it’s ok if you have the window open? Or they aren’t fully aware of the dangers of passive smoking? It can’t be a case of not caring so surely the children come first. It was only a few decades ago that we realised smoking was actually really bad for our health. It was actually considered good for your health before then! So passive smoking has more research to be conducted but who knows what conclusions will be drawn and is it that hard to not smoke in the car? There is often the argument that we don‘t want a ‘nanny state’ or to be told what to do by the Government but aren’t Wales making a positive move?


A consultation on the proposal has just been launched. The ban will protect children from passive smoking, which can lead to a number of diseases. Children are particularly at risk from exposure to smoke in a confined space. Research recently published shows the number of children being exposed to smoking in private vehicles has gone down but there is still a significant minority of young people who are being exposed to tobacco smoke and adults are still smoking in their cars when children are present.


The research also shows:

• More than four out of five people agreed smoking should be banned in cars carrying children across all surveys carried out, reaching 84% in November 2013

• Awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke has increased over the last three years; in November 2013, 88% of people agreed second-hand smoke can cause significant health problems

• The number of people who do not allow smoking in their main car has increased, from 71% in September 2011 to 76% in November 2013

• Fewer than 10% of respondents agreed it was acceptable to smoke in a car with either non-smokers or children, including with a window open

• Some 90% of respondents did not think a ban on smoking in cars carrying children would affect them in any way.


Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “In 2012, we launched the Fresh Start Wales campaign to promote smoke-free cars carrying children and raise awareness to parents and others the risk their smoking poses to the health of children. We made clear throughout that campaign we would consider the possibility of legislation when evidence of prevalence of smoking in cars carrying children in Wales is available in the summer of 2014. “While I welcome the fact the number of children being exposed to smoking in cars has declined, a sizeable minority of young people are still being exposed and adults continue to smoke in their cars when children are present. “There is also evidence from the primary school survey that inequalities in children's exposure to second hand smoke remains, so we will press ahead with plans to ban people smoking in cars carrying children.”


Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford said: “The research findings clearly show there is public support for not allowing smoking in cars when carrying children and that this support - and awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke - have increased over the last three years. “Although the research findings show that progress has been made in reducing children's exposure to second-hand smoke in cars, we now believe the introduction of regulations to prohibit smoking in private vehicles carrying under-18s is needed as the final piece in the jigsaw to eliminate the harm and end persistent inequalities in exposure. “We will now consult on these proposals and I urge people to have their say.”


If you or anyone you know would like to give up smoking or just discuss the possibility your local pharmacy is a good place to start. The pharmacist will be able to offer free advice and there is a range of schemes and products available, some free.


The World Cup Can Damage Your Sexual Health

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Anyone drinking more than usual during the World Cup could well be taking a risk with their sexual health. According to a survey of more than 2000 adults in the UK commissioned by The Family Planning Association (FPA) alcohol plays an increasing role in risky sexual behaviour. Amongst the Key findings were: • 32% of respondents have taken part in a sexual activity with someone and then regretted it later. Just over half (51%) of these people who drink alcohol said it had an impact. • 31% of respondents said they had sexual intercourse with someone new without using a condom (when not intending to become pregnant). Of those who drink alcohol, 41% said it had an impact. • Just under a quarter of all respondents (24%) said they had taken part in a sexual activity with someone they wouldn't normally find attractive. Of these who drink alcohol, more than half (53%) said it had played a part. FPA commissioned the YouGov survey as part of its Play safe World Cup campaign, with sexual health safety advice for football fans enjoying the tournament both at home and away in Brazil. Policy Manager Harry Walker said: “We know people don't set out to take risks. But even with the best intentions, drinking alcohol can reduce the chance of you using a condom if you have sex with someone new, and it can impair sexual decision-making. “With pubs staying open later and so many supermarket alcohol deals to tempt football fans during the tournament, there will no doubt be a knock-on effect on the sorts of risks people take with their sexual health. “We were concerned to see that 6% of people in our survey said they were unable to remember whether or not they had sexual intercourse, or what sexual activity had taken place the day after. Of these people who drink alcohol, 68% said it had an impact. “And 6% of our respondents said having sexual intercourse without using a condom had resulted in a sexually transmitted infection – in a third of cases amongst those that drink alcohol (33%), it had an impact. These results are very worrying.” Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of people in the survey said they agreed that drinking alcohol reduces people's inhibitions about having sex (89%), and that people tend to think less about the risk of sexually transmitted infections when they take part in sexual activity after drinking alcohol (90%). “Whether you are watching the games down the pub or at home with friends, or even in the terraces in Brazil, if you are drinking alcohol know your limits,” Harry added. “While it's easy to get carried away with World Cup fever, the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections may well be a sobering thought.” Anyone concerned they may have taken a risk can find their local sexual health clinic using FPA's find a clinic tool. FPA has lots of information and advice about contraception and STIs at Your local pharmacy is also a good, easily accessible place you can get advice from. Many offer sexually transmitted diseases testing in a private consultation and they all stock a good range of condoms.


Cervical Screening Awareness Week 8 - 14 June

Monday, 02 June 2014

It is Cervical Screening Awareness Week 8 – 14 June 2014 and still over 20% of women in the UK do not turn up for a cervical screening when they are invited. After the high profile case of Jade Goody in the media it is still important to encourage more women to attend. During the last decade there has been a reduction in the number of women screened; apart from an increase in 2009 which is linked to the media attention around Jade's death, coverage has fallen or stayed the same since 2003. Cervical screening is estimated to save up to 5,000 lives each year but attendance is still falling. Each year over 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK and more than half of these are in women under the age of 50. Although very rare in women under 25, it is the second most common cancer in women under 35. The best way of reducing your risk of developing cervical cancer is regular screening and in England, Wales and N. Ireland women aged 25 to 49 get invited for screening from the age of 25 and Scotland will be amended to come in line with the rest of the UK next year. However it is important to understand that cervical screening is not screening for gynaecological cancers, rather for abnormal cells on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer. Abnormal cells on the cervix don't usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to go for screenings regularly. If there are signs of abnormal cells, treating them is often simple and can prevent cancer developing. Robert Marsh, CEO of The Eve Appeal, which aims to highlight the importance of attending screening and awareness of cervical cancer among women said “Our hopes are that increased awareness around the importance of regular screening, along with further understanding as to what the screening is set out to detect, will help dispel any outstanding myths and encourage women to attend their cervical screening promptly when invited.” Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV) which most women have at some time but usually clears up on its own. If the infection doesn't clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time. There is now a vaccination against HPV which is offered to girls. Almost all cases of cervical cancer can be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination. Robert Marsh, of The Eve Appeal said “The earlier cervical cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome will be. Screening is free and can save your life so please, pick up the phone as soon as that letter drops through the letterbox.” To reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer: • Go for screening when invited • Have the HPV vaccine if you are offered it • If you smoke, try to stop • Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections


It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 12 – 18 May

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 12 – 18 May 2014
This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is anxiety, which i one of the leading causes of mental ill-health in the UK.  Almost one in five people from around the UK feel anxious a lot or all the time.
According to the charity Mental Health Foundation, the levels of anxiety are increasing.  Nearly half of Britons feel more anxious than they used to according to a survey by the charity.  About 60% of the 2,300 British adults asked said that they experience anxiety on a daily basis.  The charity said that financial worries were the most frequently reason given as the cause of anxiety.  A spokeswoman for the charity said more must be done to raise awareness of anxiety and understand  its potentially debilitating effect on the nation's mental health and  wellbeing.
"Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK and it is increasing, yet it remains under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated," said Jenny Edwards, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.
"A good ability to cope with anxiety is key to our resilience in the face of whatever life throws at us. However, experiencing it too much or too often means we risk becoming overwhelmed. Anxiety at this level can have a truly distressing and debilitating impact on our lives and impact on our physical as well as mental health.
"As individuals and as a society we need to be more anxiety aware. If we truly recognised the cost anxiety has on society, as well as the mounting distress it causes to individuals, communities and employers, we would act now."
Mental health charity Mind added: "If the anxiety stays at a high level for a long time, you may feel that it is difficult to deal with everyday life. The anxiety maybecome severe; you may feel powerless, out of control, as if you are about to die or go mad. Sometimes, if the feelings of fear overwhelm you, you may experience a panic attack."
Symptoms of a panic attack, says the NHS, are: "shaking, feeling confused or disorientated, rapid heartbeats, dry mouth, sweating, dizziness and chest pain."
If you are feeling the onset of a panic attack, they quote Professor Paul Salkovskis, a psychologist at King's College London, as saying: "Many people have a sense of impending disaster, and think they're going to faint, lose control or even die. You need to tell yourself that this is not going to happen and the symptoms you're experiencing are caused by anxiety.
"Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, don't leave the situation until the anxiety has subsided. Confront your fear. If you don't run away from it you're giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing's going to happen."
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.
Find out more:



Product Warning - do not use Ayurvedic herbal medicine Shwasa Sanjeevani

Wednesday, 07 May 2014

MHRA is advising consumers not to use Ayurvedic herbal medicine Shwasa Sanjeevani as it has been found to contain dexamethasone, a prescription only medicine which has not been declared on the packaging. Prescription only drugs should be taken under the supervision of a healthcare professional.


Side effects associated with dexamethasone include irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, stomach ulcer, blood disorders, skin, muscle and bone damage, and nervous system disorders. Consult with your healthcare professional before you stop using it, as sudden discontinuation of dexamethasone may cause symptoms of withdrawal.


Shwasa Sanjeevani is a dark liquid in a labeled brown bottle. Indications include chronic bronchitis, allergy, wheezing asthma, coughs and colds. The liquid is manufactured by Valiyeri Vaidyasala, Kerala.


Overweight Adults Dont't Know The Risks

Friday, 02 May 2014

According to the latest report carried out for Aviva, overweight people in the UK are unaware of the risks to them.  About half of the adults in the UK are now classified overweight (31%) or obese (19%) according to their BMI and a high proportion of them think they are in very good or excellent health.  They are unaware of the potential risks to their health that their condition or lifestyle brings.


The Health Check UK report also shows that increased BMI levels are affecting happiness and self-esteem. While lack of exercise and poor diet are expanding waistlines, it also found that financial problems are increasing the country’s poor health and causing an increase in anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.

The new report aims to track the physical and mental health of the country over time using trends in diet, exercise, body mass index (BMI), illness and general wellbeing. It surveys 2,000 adults to identify patterns of health and wellbeing across regions, generations and different body types. The report also considers the effect that finances, work and family pressures are having on the health of the nation.


Denial of weight-related health issues

A high proportion of people with an unhealthy BMI think they are healthy, with nearly a third (32%) of obese people and half (48%) of those who are overweight believing they are in very good or even excellent health.

This is despite a much higher proportion of obese adults visiting their doctor for conditions known to be weight-related such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

A quarter (26%) of those who are obese sought treatment for high blood pressure in the last 12 months, compared to 19% of those who are overweight and 9% who have a healthy BMI. A fifth (19%) visited their GP for diabetes or thyroid complaints (compared with 9% for those overweight and 3% for those who have a healthy weight.) Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain are also more frequent amongst the obese.

Mental health issues such as depression are more common too: 17% of those who are obese sought help for a mental health condition from their GP in the last year, compared with a UK average of 13%. Most surprisingly, few of those who are obese - just 12% - sought help for managing their weight.

5 a day: caffeine consumption greater than fruit and veg

A quarter of the UK population (25%) do not even have a single portion of fruit or vegetable each day – despite the high profile 5 a day recommended and more recently the call for a minimum of 7 a day. Just one fifth (20%) meet the target of 5 a day.

More Britons however have at least five shots of caffeine every day, with 28% having at least five cups of tea or coffee as part of their daily routine.

A third (34%) have at least one portion of chocolate or crisps every day and a quarter (25%) have daily cakes, biscuits and pastries. The nation's sugar intake is further supplemented with a quarter (26%) having at least one fizzy drink a day – rising to 33% amongst the obese.

Exercise levels

The UK is generally making efforts to keep fit, with 58% saying they exercise at least twice a week, though one in six (17%) count housework or jobs around the house as a workout, meaning some respondents may not be as active as they think.

Amongst the obese, around a third (29%) never exercise, compared to a UK average of 17%. Over a third of the UK, 35%, also say they don't know how much exercise they should be taking, while over half (56%) say they know they should do more but find it boring or hard work. Four out of 10 (39%) say they're too tired.

Mental wellbeing

Over a third of the UK population (34%) has suffered from stress in the last year and a fifth (21%) has experienced anxiety. Similar numbers of people have faced depression (21%) and been affected by insomnia (20%).

Of Britons who say their health is poor, over half (53%) have suffered from stress compared with a quarter of people who are in good health. Rates of insomnia, anxiety and depression are also higher for those with poor health.

With a continued squeeze on finances as people struggle out of recession, it is no surprise that financial concerns and work pressures are the two highest causes of stress. 37% of people with stress say work pressure is the cause, while money worries are cited as the main reason for anxiety (33%), depression (26%) and insomnia (22%).

The report also shows how happiness declines as BMI increases, with self-esteem clearly affected by weight. Just a third of obese people (33%) are happy with how they look compared with 79% of people with a healthy BMI. Two fifths (39%) of obese and a quarter (25%) of overweight people also say they are depressed about their weight.

Good intentions, lack of motivation

The nation's biggest health ambition is losing weight, with two in five people (39%) saying they want to improve their BMI. However, half (47%) of those classed as overweight and over a quarter (28%) of those who are obese have no desire to lose weight and are ignoring the need to change their diet and do more exercise.

Just a quarter (24%) of those who are obese want to feel more physically fit and while the majority (81%) are aware that they should eat more healthily, just a fifth (21%) say they actively want to eat a more balanced diet.

Half of those who are obese (49%) and a third who are overweight (35%) also state that they are unhappy with how they look but lack motivation to do anything about it.

Who is more at risk of poor BMI?

Women are more likely to be a healthy weight, 46% compared with 41% of men, and not surprisingly people gain weight as they age, with 23% of over-55s spoken to falling into the obese range. However, there is a significant acceleration in the rates of poor BMI in the mid-30s, with 37% of 25-34 year olds either overweight or obese, rising sharply to 54% of 35-44 year-olds.

There is also a clear north-south divide when it comes to healthy BMI, with those living in the north more likely to be overweight or obese. Wales, the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber top the table as the heaviest regions in the UK, with 56% of residents being overweight or obese. Scotland comes in just below at 54%. London has the highest proportion of people with a healthy BMI (50%), followed by the South West (49%).


If you are worried about your weight, or someone else who is overweight or even unsure if you are overweight or want to know what your BMI is, your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  You don’t need an appointment and can usually pop in at any time for a free, friendly chat.  Most pharmacies also offer confidential consultation rooms.

They can offer help with losing weight as well as a range of associated conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes or pain.  You can get checked out and then decide on the next steps if necessary.


Two thirds of women still not taking folic acid before pregnancy

Thursday, 01 May 2014

Today is Folic Acid Awareness day and it has been revealed that over 70% of women are not taking folic acid before or during pregnancy.


All women have been asked by the charity Shine to tell at least one other woman about the benefits of taking the supplement.


The awareness day today aims to reduce the chances of a baby developing spina bifida or related condition while growing in the womb  – currently a 1 in 1000 chance.

On average 14 women in the UK are told the heartbreaking news that their baby is affected every week. Over 70% of these cases could well be reduced by a mother taking the right amount of folic acid at the right time, however, latest research highlights that only one third of women take the vitamin correctly.


Shine have launched the Thumbs up for Folic! Campaign and are asking women to upload a ‘selfie’ or photograph of themselves, friends or family giving a ‘thumbs up’, onto any social media platform using the hashtag #fumbsUp4Folic. They want people to share the message with as many people as possible .


Folic Acid Awareness Day is part of a campaign by Shine to promote awareness of and access to folic acid to significantly reduce the incidences of serious disability and the distress it can cause to expectant parents.  They will be organising giveaways in city centres, promotions in supermarkets and other retail outlets, and colleges, with hands on support from Shine members, local MPs, council leaders, midwives, and pharmacists.


Campaign Co-ordinator Martine Austin said: ‘We urge women to take notice of this important message. We have evidence that women will listen to other women, especially those who are willing to share their experience of having a baby with an neural tube defect (NTD). We know that through social media, our lively accessible on-line information, and targeted messages that women will change their behaviour but we need all women to help each other in this. Basically, make sure your friends, relatives, employees, and colleagues know that they should be taking a folic acid or B9 vitamin pill each day if there is any chance that they might conceive.’

If you are thinking of getting pregnant, are pregnant or would like to discuss the importance and benefits of taking folic acid you can pop into your local pharmacist without an appointment.  They can offer free and friendly advice and stock a range of folic supplements.


Further Information

In 1991 scientists proved that a simple B vitamin, folic acid (B9), could help to reduce the risk of serious birth defects of the brain and spine (Neural Tube Defects or NTDs) like spina bifida and anencephaly by up to 72%. Yet, new studies show that two out of three women in the UK are still not taking folic acid before they conceive. (Jonathan P. Bestwick, Wayne J. Huttly, Joan K. Morris, Nicholas J. Wald. Prevention of Neural Tube Defects: A Cross-Sectional Study of the Uptake of Folic Acid Supplementation in Nearly Half a Million Women. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (2): e89354 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0089354)


An NTD occurs at around day 28 of pregnancy (before many women are even aware that they are pregnant) but are not usually diagnosed until the 20+ week antenatal scan when pregnancy is well established. Many cases would be prevented if women knew to take folic acid at the vital time before they conceive.

Ideally folic acid should be taken from three months before conception until the 12th week of pregnancy: women have not got this message, and take the vitamin too late or not at all.


Approximately 80% of affected pregnancies will end in late terminations which cause significant distress to parents and families.

Folic Acid Awareness Day was initiated on 1st May 2013 by the charity Shine, the national organisation dedicated to individuals and families affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus.


More information at


Folic Acid Awareness Day 1 May

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

1 May 2014 is Folic Acid Awareness Day.


Folic acid is a natural supplement any pregnant woman can take and is recommended pretty much universally to help the health of your baby.  Research has shown folic acid can significantly reduce the possibility of a baby being born with spina bifida.


The majority of parents, over 80%, who are told their pregnancy is affected by spina bifida elect to have a termination – a traumatic and often psychologically damaging experience where they have to give birth to the well developed foetus.

Many of the estimated 800 women every year who go through this could be spared this heart-breaking experience if statutory authorities would put more into raising the message that Folic Acid can be a huge help – something the World Health Authority urges all Governments to address.

The charity Shine campaigns continually for better awareness and a change in behaviour. See


If you are trying to get pregnant or already pregnant you can visit your local pharmacy to but folic acid or to discuss any issues further with the pharmacist.


some good ideas to help cut down on calories

Tuesday, 08 April 2014

It is not easy at the best of times trying to watch what you eat and shed a few pounds but always harder during the cold months when nothing beats comfort food and that warm glow it gives you inside.  At last it is starting to feel like summer is round the corner - yes, spring can disappear in a heartbeat and we know the weather can be as unpredictable as the.........well, British weather; particularly lately with some extreme examples, however, things have definitely felt warmer lately.


If the weather is better it can be easier to eat better.  A little more salad, a little more fruit - we all know that - but the NHS came up with a few interesting snacks. Suggestions included plenty of cheese, even a cheese and tomato toastie, popcorn and some great ideas for hot chocolate or strawberries and cream and all 100 calories each!


Take a look here


If you are looking to shed a few pounds, worried about your weight or someone elses or need some advice your local pharmacy is a good place to start. You don't need an appointment and can usually have a private consultation.  The pharmacist has a good understanding of the issue and a range of modern programmes and products to help.


No Smoke Means Better For Baby And You

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Lancet published some research today confirming what, I think, all of us already know and is pretty obvious.  The ban on smoking in public has had positive effects not least of which is the rapid falls in preterm births – babies born early before the usual 40 weeks.

Louise Silverton , director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, commented on the research saying: "This shows how important a smoke free environment is for pregnant women, babies and children.

"There is a pressing need to support partners and family members to stop smoking and if we encourage a smoke free home, there can be further improvements. We recognise it is hard to stop smoking but if the family does it together, they can provide support to each other."


Hardly ground-breaking but people are still smoke in circumstances they shouldn’t without realising the effects it can have on others.  If you smoke go outide away from anyone that could be affected by your smoke.  Do not smoke inside or in cars - it is not just you being harmed.


If you want to give up, want to help someone give up or are worried about any effect this could be having on health you can pop in to your local pharmacist for advice.


Safety Warning: Older Freestyle Diabetes Monitors

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency warned this week that FreeStyle Blood Glucose Meters and FreeStyle Mini Blood Glucose Meters sold in the UK up until 2007 could produce a false low blood sugar reading when used with FreeStyle Lite and Freestyle testing strips.


If you bought one of these meters up until 2007 you should contact Abbott Diabetes Care immediately on 0500 467 466.

You can find out more  here.





Fybogel Recall

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Reckitt Benkiser has issued a product recall for Fybogel sachets supplied to pharmacies from February 26th expiring on 1st Jan 2017 over worries there may have been contamintation with metal particles. Reckitt Benkiser has not as yet issued any consumer advice so if you are concerned, please contact your pharmacist.


Statins – Yay or Nay?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Statins are drugs that lower cholesterol and are often recommended to those in high – risk groups to help protect against heart-attacks and strokes.  There is currently a consulation going on discussing whether far more people should be put on statins as a matter of course.  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says statin treatment should be offered to more people to save more lives.  Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer in the UK claiming about 180,000 lives every year.  Currently doctors are meant to offer statins to those with a high risk based on risk factors such as age, smoker and previous heart attack.  NICE are now suggesting those at lower risk should also be offered statins.  Statins can have side effects and doctors are pretty much split 50 / 50 on whether treating patients in lower risk groups would be beneficial.

Former GP and deputy chairman of the British Medical Association Dr Kailash Chand has first-hand experience of the side effects of statins.

"A few years ago I started taking statins knowing that it has all the benefits and after perhaps a few weeks I started having muscle aches, sleep disturbance."

Common side effects can include headache, nausea and sleep problems and can affect between one in 10 and one in 100 people and the doseage of stating can play a significant role ie. A very low dose should have little or no noticeable side – effects where as a high dose is more likely to cause problems.

For between one in 100 and one in 1,000 people taking a statin can result in inflammation of the liver, blurred vision and weakness.

Severe side effects such as memory problems, jaundice and damage to nerves and muscles are rare, affecting fewer than one in 1,000 people.

Each person will need to weigh these risks against any potential gains, and some may decide that it's not worth taking statins preventatively.

NICE guidelines are not compulsory, so even if they recommned lower-risk people should take statins you do not have to and some doctors may not recommend this either.

Prof Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation says that ultimately it will be up to patients and their doctors to decide.

"Life-threatening side effects are thankfully extraordinarily rare. But troublesome side effects are relatively common, although that's true of any drug."

It is important to remember that while statins may offer many people a significant benefit in the prevention of a possible heart attack or stroke it has to be in conjunction with lifestyle factors like giving up smoking, a healthier diet and exercise.

If you would like to discuss statins, their benefits and possible side effects or get help in giving up smoking your local pharmacy is a good place to begin, you can pop in without an appointment and the pharmacist should be able to steer you in the right direction.


Apparently One In Four Men Would Get An Impotence Treatment From An Unknown Source

Thursday, 27 February 2014

There’s some recent research that suggests men who suffer from erectile dysfunction would not only consider buying treatments from an unknown or unofficial source but over half of them have actually already done so!


This means there are men in the UK who suffer from erectile dysfunction that are buying treatments online that could harm them.  A quarter of men who suffer from the condition admit they would take impotence treatments from an unknown source to help boost their sex lives. The majority of these men confirmed they would do this to avoid the ‘embarrassment’ of having to discuss this with a health professional.

Those taking part in the study were asked, “Would you take impotence treatments from an unknown source when suffering from erectile dysfunction?” defined as a retail source whose reputability was unclear or completely unknown (including being given treatment by friends). According to the results, just over a quarter, 26%, of the men taking part said ‘yes’.

When the respondents were asked why they would do so, the top three reasons given were revealed to be as follows:

1)      Avoid embarrassment of seeking medical help- 62%

2)      Cheaper than paying for prescription- 35%

3)      Don’t want partner to know I’m taking impotence treatments- 25%

On further probing the respondents were asked, “Have you ever taken impotence treatments from an unknown source?” over half, 58%, said ‘yes’. The most common ‘unknown source’ was revealed to be having been ‘given the treatment by a friend’ for 62%, whilst 40% had purchased a treatment from a ‘website of unknown reputability’. 12% had taken impotence treatment from a friend’s home without their knowledge.

It’s important that no one ever buys medication for any treatment from a source that is not reputable however it appears to you.  It is dangerous as you do not know what the product you are buying contains, it may be the wrong treatment for your condition and there may be underlying conditions or reactions caused that are not highlighted or picked up upon.


Always ensure if buying through a website that it is a reputable company and registered with the GPHC, if in doubt check with them

You can pop in your local pharmacy without an appointment and usually find a friendly and private conversation can reassure you and many pharmacies can now supply the treatment without a prescription from you doctor.


Sharing your health information put back 6 months

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Did you know your personal health information will be shared via the NHS unless you opt out?  Mmmm not everyone seems aware.  It’s not necessarily something to worry about but if you aren’t aware you haven’t got the option to make the decision.


Most doctors seem to think patients are inadequatel informed about the plans for the NHS to share your medical records and think more needs to be done to raise awareness of the scheme.


Well today it’s been announced that the scheme has been delayed by 6 months as the awareness is so low and the intended mass leaflet mailing to over 25 million homes has not happened in time.


Surveys show that nearly half of the public don’t understand what entails and 80% of GP’s aren’t sure how or waht the data will be used for.

The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) recently warned of a "crisis of public confidence" in the new system.  It supports the plan in principle but was worried that the public had not been informed properly.

The idea of is to link health information from your doctors records with information from hospitals to follow what happens along the way.

This data includes things like family history, conditions, diagnoses, vaccinations, referrals for treatment and prescriptions.

It can also include information such as blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels.

Personal information like date of birth, postcode, NHS number and gender will also be included.


The chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, Chaand Nagpaul, said "The BMA is deeply concerned with the Government's public information campaign for With just weeks to go until the uploading of patient data is scheduled to begin, patients remain inadequately informed about these proposals. As shown in a recent survey only 29 per cent of the public recall receiving a leaflet, while 45 per cent remain unaware of plans to share their data.

"GPs across the country are telling us that large numbers of their patients have not received any information, and therefore remain completely unaware that their data will be will be uploaded, whilst others remain worried about who will have access to it and what it will be used for.


"The BMA continues to support the principle of using anonymised data to plan and improve the quality of NHS care for patients. However, this must be done with the support and consent of the public, therefore patients must be made aware of what is happening to their personal information, what the proposals mean and what their rights are if they do not wish their data to be extracted.


"The public awareness campaign has clearly not worked and today we call on the Government to ensure public trust in the system by properly informing the public about before the currently planned data extracts commence, and produce evidence this has been achieved prior to uploads taking place.

"As a result we will be having urgent discussions with NHS England about what it can do to address the situation to improve patient awareness, so that patients are able to make a fully informed choice."

The NHS have assured us that insurance companies and other such commercial companies won’t be sold the data but it does mean that private health providers that happen to have an insurance arm could gain access.

There is also the possibility being discussed that pharmaceutical companies could gain access to the data.


The opt in or out has been delayed by 6 months so there is time to research and consider your position.


If you would like to discuss further speak to your local pharmacist.


Cancer rates set to explode, what’s the real story?

Wednesday, 05 February 2014

Don't panic too much, the main reason for this is good news!  It’s because we are living longer; we all have to die from something and as life expectancy has increased so have incidences of cancer. However, the message is the battle against cancer won't be won with just treatment and new advances.  We urgently need to embrace prevention.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the specialised cancer agency of the WHO (World Health Organization), has just launched World Cancer Report 2014, a collaboration of over 250 leading scientists from more than 40 countries.


Based on the latest statistics and trends in cancer the new report highlights how  cancer rates are growing at an alarming pace and emphasizes the need for urgent prevention strategies to curb the spread of the disease.

"Despite exciting advances, this Report shows that we cannot treat our way out of the cancer problem," states Dr Christopher Wild, Director of IARC and co-editor of the book. "More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in cancer burden globally."


Increasing incidences of cancer globally


In 2012, cancer rates worldwide rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades. Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million annually to 13 million per year. Globally, in 2012 the most common cancers diagnosed were those of the lung (1.8 million cases, 13.0% of the total), breast (1.7 million, 11.9%), and large bowel (1.4 million, 9.7%). The most common causes of cancer death were cancers of the lung (1.6 million, 19.4% of the total), liver (0.8 million, 9.1%), and stomach (0.7 million, 8.8%).

The cancer divide

Due to growing and ageing populations, developing countries are disproportionately affected by the increasing numbers of cancers. More than 60% of the world's total cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, and these regions account for about 70% of the world's cancer deaths, a situation that is made worse by the lack of accessible healthcare, early detection and access to treatment.


Avoidable deaths


Access to effective and affordable cancer treatments in developing countries, including for childhood cancers, would significantly reduce mortality, even in settings where healthcare services are less well developed.

However, the spiralling costs of the cancer burden are damaging the economies of even the richest countries and are way beyond the reach of developing countries, as well as placing impossible strains on health-care systems. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated to reach approximately US$ 1.16 trillion. Yet about half of all cancers could be avoided if education was properly available.

"The rise of cancer worldwide is a major obstacle to human development and well-being. These new figures and projections send a strong signal that immediate action is needed to confront this human disaster, which touches every community worldwide, without exception," stresses Dr Wild.


Effective vaccination campaigns and health promotion


Many developing countries continue to be disproportionately affected by the double burden of high infection-related cancers (including those of the cervix, liver, and stomach) and the rising incidence of cancers (such as those of the lung, breast, and large bowel) associated with modern lifestyles.

Yet the implementation of effective vaccination programmes against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) can markedly reduce cancers of the liver and cervix, respectively. Preventing the spread of tobacco use in low-and middle-income countries is of crucial importance to cancer prevention. In developed countries the promotion of physical activity and the avoidance of obesity should also be prioritized.


Early detection, diagnosis, and treatment


In addition, low-tech approaches to early detection and screening have proven their efficacy in developing countries. A prime example is cervical cancer screening using visual inspection with acetic acid and cryotherapy or cold coagulation treatment of precancerous lesions. This type of "screen-and-treat" programme has been successfully implemented in India and Costa Rica, for example.

"Governments must show political commitment to progressively step up the implementation of high-quality screening and early detection programmes, which are an investment rather than a cost," says Dr Bernard W. Stewart, co-editor of World Cancer Report 2014.


Adequate legislation to reduce exposure and risk behaviours


Lessons from cancer control measures in developed countries show that prevention works but that health promotion alone is insufficient. Sensible legislation also plays an important role in reducing exposure and risk behaviours.

For instance, the first international treaty sponsored by WHO, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, has been critical in reducing tobacco consumption through taxes, advertising restrictions, and other regulations and measures to control and discourage the use of tobacco.

Similar approaches also need to be evaluated in other areas, notably consumption of alcohol and sugar-sweetened products, and in limiting exposure to occupational and environmental carcinogenic risks, including air pollution.

"Adequate legislation can encourage healthier behaviour, as well as having its recognized role in protecting people from workplace hazards and environmental pollutants," stresses Dr Stewart. "In low- and middle-income countries, it is critical that governments commit to enforcing regulatory measures to protect their populations and implement cancer prevention plans."


Take a look at your lifestyle; is there something you would like to improve?  Give up smoking, drink a little less or lose some weight?

Your local pharmacy is a good place to start, there are always available with friendly advice you can trust, stock a whole range of health products that may help and you don’t need an appointment.  


Lazy, Inactive Men More At Risk Of Gum Disease

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Inactive, middle aged men are more likely to develop gum disease compared to men who are active and exercise regularly.


Researchers from Hannover Medical School studied over 70 healthy men who did no sports, took little exercise and did a desk-based job which involved predominantly sitting down.  They discovered moderate to severe gum disease was associated with these men aged 45-65, most of who worked in offices.


The results showed high age and low levels of physical activity were associated with moderate to severe gum disease.


Gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults and most people have some form of it but it develops very slowly in most people and can be slowed down that should mean you keep most of your teeth for life.


There has been research carried out previously that has also confirmed people who exercise regularly, lead a healthy lifestyle and have a normal weight are 40 per cent less likely to develop gum disease.


Dr Nigel Carter OBE, who is the Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation reminded people, especially those mentioned in the study, about the importance of good oral health.


Dr Carter said: "People see the health of their mouth and the health of their body as two very different things, but it is becoming increasingly clear that this just isn't the case. This research pinpoints a very high-risk group who need to review their current habits.


"Whether you have concerns about the state of your teeth or your general health and fitness, you need to consider the bigger picture.


"Gum disease affects around 19 out of 20 of us at some point in our lives. As well as links to a whole host of general health conditions, it is also by far the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.


"Desk grazing may seem relatively harmless, but constantly snacking on crisps, chocolate, dried fruit and sugary drinks cause teeth a whole host of nightmares. Frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks naturally weakens the enamel on the teeth, and as a result, the Foundation recommends eating three square meals a day instead of having seven to ten 'snack attacks'. If people do snack between meals, choose foods and drinks that do not contain sugar, limiting the amount of time the mouth is at risk."


Dr Carter continued: "We already know that poor oral health can have a negative effect on the rest of your body and the fact that gum disease increases your chances of developing heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes and low birth weight babies needs to be taken very seriously indeed.


"To stay healthy you need to adopt a good routine that includes, but isn't limited to, brushing for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, cutting down how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.


"If you are serious about your health - and your teeth - you should also clean in between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss. If your gums do start to bleed this is a sign that you may have not been cleaning well enough so increase your toothbrushing. If things do not settle within a few days get along to the dentist before the problem becomes irreversible and you start to lose teeth."


If you are concerned about your oral health you should make an appointment at your dentist and remember to attend regular check ups.  You can also always visit your local pharmacy for some good, free advice about looking after your teeth and gums at any time and they also stock a comprehensive range of products to help keep your mouth in tip top condition.



Over Two Million People May Be Eligible For Weight Loss Surgery

Sunday, 19 January 2014


According to new research just published by an open access companion publication to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine two million people in England could be eligible for weight loss surgery.


The number is much more than previously thought and highlights the growing seriousness of the situation.  It was the first study to assess the number of people in the country who may be eligible for bariatric surgery and researchers from Imperial College London concluded that the people meeting the criteria were more likely to be women who are retired, have lower educational qualifications and lower socioeconomic status.


Bariatric surgery – which is a surgical procedure obese people can undergo to reduce the size of their stomach - can greatly decrease the likelihood of death from obesity and related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.


Some of the recent data shows how surgery rates have increased each year in England but the amount of operations still fall significantly below the level needed to help all those who could potentially benefit from the surgery.


Dr Sonia Saxena of Imperial College London said: "Despite clear guidelines outlining who can undergo such surgery with the NHS, and evidence that these procedures are cost-effective in the long run, less than one per cent of those eligible have weight loss surgery each year. This raises questions about why more procedures are not currently being carried out."


Those who conducted the research highlighted a number of factors that could help explain the low surgery rates. "At the patient level, this study could be consistent with an inverse care law whereby those most in need of bariatric surgery are in socioeconomic groups who tend to make less use of healthcare services" said Dr Saxena. "Another barrier might be patient awareness of bariatric surgery and commitment to complete lifestyle intervention programmes prior to surgery." It has been reported recently that in some areas of the country where weight loss programmes may be a prerequisite to the operation there have been funding cuts leading to decommissioning.


More investment in providing the service may be required as obesity rates continue to rise. In conclusion Dr Saxena says: "Since those eligible are more likely to be of a lower social class and have lower qualifications, resources would need careful allocation to ensure equitable access on the basis of need."


If you are concerned about your weight, or know anyone that is, you should make an appointment with your doctor.  Your local pharmacy is also a good place to start.  They will offer trustworthy, free advice and normally have a private consultation room.  They have a range of good weight loss programmes and stock a number of products and can also help in further signposting to get the correct help needed.  Many of the programmes and help available are free.


Superfoods? beware the hype in New Year

Friday, 27 December 2013

Many people will be making New Year resolutions and at the top of the lit is likely to be an effort to become healthier and this will include eating healthier foods.  The start of the New Year is prime time for marketing ‘health’ products and millions of pounds will be spent on advertising them.  Advertisers will come up with new trendy terms and the British Dietetic Association feels the need to reveal the truth behind some of the hype of so called 'superfoods'.


The British Dietetic Association (BDA) was founded in 1936 and is the professional association for dietitians.  It is the country’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members.


Firstly, it is important to understand that there is no official definition of a 'Superfood' so is there such a thing?

"Absolutely," said Sioned Quirke, British Dietetic Association spokesperson.  "However, the BDA's ideas may differ greatly from what most companies and marketing teams claim and what the general public may have been lead to believe.


"The main thing to keep in mind is that, despite its common use, the term 'superfood' has no regulatory approval and is not a legally recognised term.

"'Superfood' is simply a marketing term that has become trendy over the last few years.  Companies and marketing teams will often put whatever they can on a label to hook you into a purchase.  Marketing is a multi-billion pound industry and health products are a major player in this.  Many claims can give us false expectations of the benefits or they aren't fully substantiated.


"Research has found that 61% of people questioned about 'superfoods' had purchased, eaten or drank a specific food because they had been labelled as a 'superfood'.  If you tell people often enough that something is a 'superfood', chances are some will start to believe.  Claims around curing and preventing diseases, fighting off cancer, even prolonging your life make these foods sound like we couldn't possibly live without them.

"Anyone worth their degree in nutrition will tell you that no one food provides everything the body needs, therefore, the so called 'superfoods' are by no means the magic wand companies market them as.  We need to dispel the myths.


"The foods claiming 'superfood' status may have some health benefits but, that's true for the majority of naturally occurring foods.  Just because something is labelled as a 'superfood' does not mean it is superior and deserving of this elite sounding status.  When we think about it, most foods are super in their own way - fruit & veg provide vitamins, minerals and fibre, meat and fish provide protein, grains provide energy and dairy products provide calcium - all of which are essential for optimum health.  If we analysed every food individually, we could probably market them all as being 'high' in something, as there are different nutrients in all foods.

"Some 'superfoods' can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet but there again, so can things like chocolate and alcohol.  A 'superfood', in isolation, will never be the key to optimum health.  Companies love to bring us exotic foods, such as goji berries but, look closer to home, as more traditional foods such as salmon, eggs, berries, nuts and veg are just as super but simply aren't marketed that way.


"Some 'superfood' products, especially the exotic varieties, are very expensive and have poor availability.  We often find that people who can afford to buy these products are following a relatively healthy, balanced diet already and don't need any additions.  It's also worth knowing that if a 'scientist' or 'specialist' endorses a product they are usually being paid to do so.  Even if a claim is made that a particular fruit has a high antioxidant level, the human body may not be able to absorb it well.  Also, it's worth checking exactly how much of the product one would have to consume to see the 'benefit' claimed.  Sometimes the amounts are very large.  Consumer group Choice found that you would need to drink about 13-30ml serves of Goji juice in order to obtain the same antioxidant benefit of eating one medium sized red delicious apple!

"We live in a society that looks for a 'magic wand' type product that simply does not exist.  If it did, we would probably be providing it on prescription!  It seems that good old healthy eating is too boring, for some, although it's certainly what we need to be doing.  Don't get caught up in the hype, these trendy terms are simply adding to the confusion around what a healthy, balanced diet is.  If something seems too good to be true it usually is.


"The bottom line is, many foods are 'superfoods' in their own way, but let's ditch that phrase.  No so-called 'superfoods' are going to guide you to the promised land, so aim to have a healthy balanced diet with everything in moderation.  Nothing can substitute healthy eating, but many a marketing person can make your wallet lighter!"


Remember a great place to start to plan for a healthier 2014 is your local pharmacy where you can pop in without an appointment for a discussion that can be followed up with a more formal meeting and a plan devised.  Whether losing weight, giving up smoking to improving your diet they will be able to offer free advice, a whole range of products (some free with NHS support) and regular monitoring and motivation to help you achieve your goals.


See Some Good News For Those That Like A Tipple At Christmas

Thursday, 05 December 2013

Most of us forget diets over Christmas and over-indulge, however, there is a little bit of good news from one of the UK’s leading eye surgeons.  A glass of red wine could actually be of benefit for your vision and help prevent eye problems.  What’s more if you include some curly Kale to your meals over Christmas you could be reducing your chances of suffering eye problems now, keep it up and into the future too!


Mr Milind Pande, is consultant ophthalmologist at Vision Surgery in East Yorkshire and also part of European vision advisory groups, he said: "Resveratrol is a plant polyphenol found in red wine and grapes and it is this compound that is suggested by some to be helpful in the fight against age related macular degeneration. It is thought that resveratrol stops out-of-control blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in the eye and this means resveratrol could help to preserve vision in age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the UK and in cases of diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss in people with diabetes.


"Certain foods are also excellent for the eyes and can also help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneraton so if you can incorporate these into your Christmas dinner, you will be helping your eyes. Leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach are full of lutein, which is thought to prevent damage to the macula of the eye, the part needed for tasks like reading and driving. A diet, rich in vitamins A, C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin and essential fatty acids may also help protect against eye disease and these can be found in brightly coloured fruit and veg such as corn, orange peppers, tangerines and oranges."


Mr Pande also mentions other foods that can be just as helpful for maintaining healthy vision: "Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to help decrease the risk of developing AMD (Age-related macular degeneration) and may slow down its progression. Most people don't realise that what we eat and drink may affect the health of our eyes but our intake has a very profound effect on our vision now and in later life. There are also nutritional supplements available which combines many of the aforementioned nutrients, which may help to protect your eyes and can counter the effects of ageing on your eyes."


The health benefits of diet and supplements are usually highlighted in relation to other parts of our bodies and our eyes are often overlooked yet provide a key sense we should cherish.


There is a range of supplements and medicines designed to help with most aspects of eye health available at your local pharmacy where you can always call in for advice.  It is also important you have a regular eye test at your local opticians.



November is Mouth Cancer Awareness Month

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

This month is Mouth Cancer Action Month but a new survey highlights the fact that many people are still completely unaware of the risks.


In a recent survey over 2000 respondents were asked if they knew the four main risk factors for mouth cancer and no-one could name all four – smoking, excess drinking, bad diet and HPV (The Human Papillomvirus), which is often transmitted by oral sex.


Unfortunately, a lot of people wrongly thought bad oral health and not brushing teeth was responsible while others thought stress, anaemia or snoring could cause the disease.


Cases of mouth cancer exceeded 7500 last year (2012) and these are expected to increase.  Mouth Cancer Action Month in November is organised by the British Dental Health Foundation and is dedicated to raising awareness of the disease, including the risk factors and the signs and symptoms.


Dr Nigel Carter OBE, The Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, hopes the campaign will raise awareness of mouth cancer across the UK.


Dr Carter said: "For no-one to be able to correctly identify what the four causes of the disease are is both surprising and worrying. The campaign continues to play a crucial role in educating the public about the disease, and it's clear from the survey we still have some way to go.
"Tobacco use and drinking alcohol to excess can increase the risk of developing mouth cancer by up to 30 times. Experts forecast the human papillomavirus (HPV) will overtake smoking as the principle cause of the disease within the next ten years, and almost half of cases in the UK have been linked to poor diet.

"The campaign is a great opportunity for the public to learn about the risks and what to look out for. Ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth should not be ignored. Our advice is clear - if in doubt, get checked out."


Your local pharmacy is a great place to seek advice.  Open at convenient times, accessible and you don’t need an appointment.  The pharmacist will be able to advise you on health issues and point you in the direction of products that may help – they usually stock a large range.  They will also be able to offer support and advice with free products to help give up smoking for good.


• Around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade.
• Sufferers of the condition include American actor Michael Douglas, and ex England cricketer Geoffrey Boycott.
• Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness - including mouth cancer.
• Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times.  Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.
• Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.
• Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.
• Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases, and experts suggest the human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.


Is Rest Making Your Aches And Pains Worse?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

40% of Britons tend to rest and go to bed hoping to ease the pain associated with muscle and joints, even though studies show that this can make the pain last longer and reduce mobility.  It also means it takes longer to recover.


Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) recently commissioned a survey of 1000 25-65 year olds which found that 35% thought it was best to go to bed and rest.


Paul Hobrough, who is a Team GB kayaker and a sports scientist and physiotherapist from the Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel (ShARP) said: "People get trapped in a cycle where their lack of exercise not only exacerbates their pain and stiffness, it also leads to muscle wastage. This in turn can result in weight gain, placing even more stress on already painful joints.  He added: "Prevention, timely treatment and ongoing advice from a health professional can make a real difference in terms of heading off problems."


The survey also found:
That the lower back is the biggest cause of pain throughout the country.
People who are overweight suffer joint pain daily
99% of those over 50 experience back pain
Sitting down and working at the computer for long periods causes problems

More women than men are suffering from musculoskeletal health issues


For hundreds of thousands of people in the UK aches and pains associated with joints and muscles are an everday fact of life.  Back pain affects 80% of people at some time in their lives.  Musculoskeletal conditions cost the UK £5.7 billion a year and 10 million working days are lost from them.


While people visit the dentist when they have toothache and see an optician if they think they need glasses, 90% of people with lower back pain appear to be reluctant to consult a physiotherapist who could diagnose and devise a tailored exercise programme to help them.

Physiotherapists can help with pain management options and more importantly, treat the problem. Workouts designed by a physiotherapist can improve symptoms, according to a BMJ report but only 6% of respondents in the study visit them which is surprising as 42% said pain stopped them from exercising as much as they would like.


Unfortunately, three out of four did not seek advice from a physiotherapist for musculoskeletal problems as they mistakenly thought they needed a GP referral.

90% are aware that certain exercises can help with muscle and joint pain such as yoga, swimming and pilates but over 50% admitted to doing nothing to help their musculoskeletal health.


It is the under 40’s who most recognise the benefit of physiotherapy with one in five going for treatment compared with one in seven of those over 40.

Pain can have an impact on your relationship.  According to the study the lower back is the country’s number one pain spot with seven out of ten complaining of problems there. It also shows that those who weigh more than 14 stone are much more likely to suffer pain on a daily basis.


A quarter of participants could not lift things, 20% could not walk very far, 9% said they couldn’t play with their children or climb stairs because of their pain
25% worried about their future health because of their pain and nearly as many felt they could do nothing to deal with it.  Also, possibly most striking but unsurprising is the impact on respondents love life, with 13% saying they are less interested in the relationship with their partner because of their pain.


Weight problem
The most common cause of musculoskeletal problems in the UK is Arthritis and over 10 million people consult a doctor every year about it.  The fact people are growing more obese is causing this to rise.
The combination of being overweight and joint pain is dangerous and can be a vicious circle, as the pain often reduces physical activity which increases weight gain, which puts even more pressure on the back and joints. The ShARP study highlights a direct link between weight and back problems, with nearly everyone (99.5%) weighing 14 stone or over experiencing problems. People weighing 14 stone and over  (33%) were also twice as likely to suffer from knee complaints compared to those who weigh 9.5 stone or under (19%).


Your stature can cause problems
The ShARP survey found that lower back pain affects 90% of people who are six foot or taller compared with an average of 70% for those under six foot. Height can also trigger problems around the neck and shoulders.
People who have pain in their neck and shoulders tended to spend more time at a computer, with 71% saying they sat over a screen for more than six hours a day.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of those suffering from musculoskeletal problems blamed the fact they remained in the same position for long periods and 16% believed their work chair was a factor. However, more than a third (34%) put musculoskeletal pain down to the fact they are just getting older.


Gender inequality
Women suffer more pain than men. In the ShARP study one in three of the women had painful knees compared with one in five men.
Around 40% of women said their joint problems made them feel old before their time and 28% were depressed and frustrated. Only 25% of men said pain made them feel older and 23% reported being depressed.


Age takes its toll
The ShARP study shows back pain is more common as we get older, with 99% of over 50s reporting a problem in their back. Pain and stiffness doubles with age, with one in three over 55s reporting daily problems compared with just one in six 25-30s.
However, it does appear younger people suffer more neck and shoulder pain with 30% reporting pain in this area compared to 17% of over 55s. Being hunched over a computer screen could be the reason in the Facebook, Twitter and internet generation.


Where to get help
The most commonly used treatments for back pain by over 50s are painkillers with 63% using them. Long term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause gastric problems and are linked with a slightly increased risk of heart attack or stroke and therefore not recommended for anyone with a history of heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Over the counter painkillers can be very useful but should not be taken for long periods without consulting your GP, particularly if you have any other medical conditions. You can consult your local pharmacist for advice and to purchase the appropriate treatment and discuss your options with your physiotherapist.


Is Cow's Milk Responsible For Your Baby's Eczema?

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Cow’s Milk May Be The Cause Of Your Baby's Eczema


It is National Eczema Week 14 – 22 September and as part of the week a new campaign is hoping to highlight the fact that cow’s milk can be a possible cause of eczema in babies.  There are hundreds of thousands of babies with eczema and parents may be surprised to discover that their child’s eczema could be caused by a cow’s milk allergy (CMA), as eczema is one of the primary symptoms of the condition.


CMA is the most common allergy that affects babies and one of the most common symptoms of CMA in babies is eczema, alongside colicky abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.


The actress, Jennifer Ellison, has firsthand experience of CMA as her first child, Bobby, has the allergy.
“When I stopped breastfeeding Bobby he had a spotted, eczema like rash around his mouth, reflux and diarrhoea. He was also really uncomfortable and agitated. If it hadn’t of been for my mother-in-law who experienced CMA with my husband, I probably would have put it down to reflux but armed with the knowledge, I could go to the GP and tell him the signs. I also told him that I suspected it could be CMA. He referred Bobby to a specialist and he had a prick test to confirm the allergy, so it was diagnosed quickly.
I feel CMA needs to be spoken about and mums need to be aware of the allergy because the side effects are quite bad and people might just put them down to colic and don’t necessarily think or even know about CMA.”


With National Eczema Week from 14-22 September, a new campaign called Is It Cow’s Milk Allergy? Is running to highlight symptoms and help parents discuss symptoms with their GP and receive a quicker diagnosis.


To help prepare for a GP appointment, you can download a questionnaire from – which has been designed to be taken along to the appointment to help explain the symptoms your child has been experiencing.
Your local pharmacy is a good place to go initially for advice if you have any concerns on allergies or eczema without needind an appointment.


Do not rely on EHIC when travelling with a medical condition

Friday, 23 August 2013

UK travellers are warned not to rely solely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for emergency treatment when abroad, particularly if they have pre-exiting medical conditions.


This is especially true for those heading to Spain, and it can be adviseable to ensure you have travel insurance to cover your medical condition. While the EHIC does cover some occurances of pre-existing conditions, there's confusion about what treatment the EHIC will cover and not all countries are abiding by the agreement.


The EHIC should entitle travellers to emergency treatment for new and pre-existing conditions in countries that are part of the reciprocal Health Agreement. However, in July the European Commission issued legal proceedings against the Spanish government in response to 100s of cases of UK travellers in possession of an EHIC being asked to pay in cash, claim on their insurance or being turned away from public hospitals. ABTA has also reported of isolated incidents in other parts of the Mediterranean.


The other major issue is that in some holiday areas, there's limited public hospitals. As the EHIC is not accepted in private hospitals, you may be faced with the choice of a long journey at your own cost to get emergency treatment or a big bill to be treated privately.


The EHIC may give travellers with pre-existing conditions a false sense of security that if they need treatment, it will be available at no cost. You also need to consider the costs for rescheduled flights and accommodation not covered by the card.


You should consider comprehensive travel insurance specifically covering any pre-existing medical conditions and check the terms and conditions of the policy.
The EHIC will NOT cover:


- Private hospitals
- Any additional costs incurred to travel to and from a state/public hospital (this could be miles away)
- Replacement flights if you are advised not to fly or cannot fly on your return date
- Additional hotel and accommodation costs for you or your family


The importance of Melatonin for good night’s sleep

Tuesday, 06 August 2013

Melatonin is a powerful sleeping hormone that is not just helpful for your circadian rhythm and helping your body and mind to recover;  it also controls your ageing process. Unfortunately, some people cannot produce the amount of melatonin the body needs.  Too little daylight, stress and poor diet can harm melatonin production in the body. Below are four tips to boost your melatonin.


Get out in the sunlight

This doesn’t mean sunbathing every day (chance would be a fine thing!) but light is the most important factor in helping the biorhythm of your body.  The first rule for beneficial sleep is getting enough sunlight during the day. You can only produce high amounts of melatonin when it is dark if you get a lot of light in the daytime.  I t is also vital to get enough exercise in daylight especially during the darker seasons for healthy sleep.


The right diet is essential: Cherries, nuts and fish can be sources of additional melatonin and also stimulate the body's own melatonin production. Salmon or mackerel or most oily fish contain the unsaturated fatty acid docosahexaen, helping the production of melatonin in the body. Walnuts and cherries provide natural sources of melatonin.  Milk contains natural melatonin.
Reduce stress
Stress is an effective melatonin killer. The stress hormone cortisol is released in times of physical and psychological stress. It keeps the body from resting and blocks melatonin production.  Simple exercise, yoga, Tai Chi and small, consciously timed breaks during the day can help reduce stress.
Avoid ‘bad’ light.
People are often exposed to ‘bad’ light in the evening or at night and should carefully choose appropriate lamps. The blue light in many energy-saving light bulbs is damaging to the natural melatonin production in the body. Televisions, computer screens and smartphones have the same effect. The light emitted by these devices is also in the blue spectrum and inhibits melatonin release.
If you are having difficulties establishing a good sleep pattern your pharmacist is a good place to start for help and advice.


surgeon warns wear sunglasses

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


A leading eye surgeon, Milind Pande, is urging adults and children to wear sunglasses to avoid eye damage such as cataracts and cornea damage as a result of exposure to UV rays.  He is highlighting the dangers while we experience the current prolonged heatwave throughout most of the UK.


Milind Pande is consultant surgeon at Vision Surgery & Research Centre in Hull and a distinguished UK cataract specialist and last year he was President of the UK cataract society. Mr Pande said: “UV radiation can also increase the chance of developing cataracts, damage to the cornea and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. In the UK, over 600,000 people suffer from AMD and cases of the disease are expected to increase by a quarter in the next 10 years.”


You can buy sunglasses in all sorts of styles, colours and tints nowadays and many of us have more than one pair or change them in tune with the fashion of the day.  All glasses with plastic lenses offer some degree of protection against the harmful ultra-violet rays however, be aware that the colour and darkness of the lenses do not indicate the level of UV protection.  Good sunglasses should block all the UVA and UVB rays so when looking to purchase make sure they block 100 per cent of UVA and UVB.  Neutral grey or brown lenses are good as they have less effect on the way we see colours, some pink or blue tints or trendy 'funky' colours can distort colours and are not recommended for driving.


However much we may want to look fashionable and own various pairs of sunglasses to complement various occasions or outfits your eyes are far more valuable than short term appearance!


Mr Pande offers the following top tips to avoid damage to the eyes from UV light:

· stay out of the direct sun as much as possible, wear a brimmed hat or a cap and wear good quality sunglasses with the CE British Standards mark BSEN 1836:1997.

· sunglasses sold under BS 2724 have a shade number which relates to the amount of UV light allowed through. The higher the number the better.

· sunglasses should block out 75-90% of visible light and 99-100% of UV rays.

· wraparound styles are effective as they prevent light from getting behind your sunglasses and into your eyes.

- neutral grey or brown lenses are good as they have less effect on the way we see colours,

- some pink or blue tints can distort colours and are not recommended for driving.

- Photochromic lenses that automatically go darker in the sun are also very good.


New guidelines and drug treatments for women at high risk of breast cancer

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has just issued some new guidelines for women who have a high risk of breast cancer due to their family history and genes. One of the main changes to the original guidance from 2004 is that NICE now recommends drug treatment with tamoxifen or raloxifene to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at increased risk of breast cancer.

NICE suggests these treatments could help prevent breast cancer in about 488,000 women aged 35 and older.
The revised guidelines also made changes to the recommended level of risk at which relatives of a woman with familial breast cancer can be offered genetic testing and screening.
'Familial' breast cancer is when there are an unusually high number of cases of breast, ovarian or related cancers in a family – more than would be expected by chance alone.

This may be an indication that faulty genes have caused or contributed to the development of the cancer. Three of the genes that are known to be involved in causing this type of familial breast cancer are BRCA1, BRCA2 and TP53.


How can I assess my risk?
If breast cancer runs in the family, doctors can estimate a woman’s risk based on:
• age
• the age at which relatives developed breast cancer
• the number of relatives that have developed breast, ovarian or a related cancer

• the exact nature of her family history (e.g. who has been affected)


The NICE guideline detail how doctors should carry out this assessment and estimate a woman’s risk. It recommends that women who have not had breast cancer who meet the following criteria should be offered referral to secondary care by their GP:
• one first-degree female relative (mother, daughter or sister) diagnosed with breast cancer at younger than the age of 40, or
• one first-degree male relative (father, son, or brother) diagnosed with breast cancer at any age, or
• one first-degree relative with bilateral breast cancer where the first primary was diagnosed at younger than 50, or
• two first-degree relatives, or one first-degree and one second-degree relative (grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, half-sister or half-brother), diagnosed with breast cancer at any age, or
• one first-degree or second-degree relative diagnosed with breast cancer at any age and one first-degree or second-degree relative diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age (one of these should be a first-degree relative), or

• three first-degree or second-degree relatives diagnosed with breast cancer at any age


If the woman has relatives with breast cancer but does not meet these criteria, if her family history includes any of the following the GP should seek advice from secondary care:
• breast cancer in both breasts
• ovarian cancer
• male breast cancer
• Jewish ancestry
• sarcoma before the age of 45
• glioma or childhood adrenal cortical carcinomas
• multiple cancers at a young age

• two or more relatives on the father’s side with breast cancer


Women with mutations in BRCA1, BRCA2 or TP53 should be referred directly to a specialist genetics clinic.


The NICE guidelines also gives detailed family history criteria that suggest that a woman should be offered referral to a specialist genetics clinic for further assessment and possibly genetic counselling and genetic testing. Women should be offered referral if their risk assessment establishes:
• a 10% or greater chance of a gene mutation being present in their family
• a greater than 8% risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years, or

• a 30% or greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer


The NICE guideline gives recommendations to doctors on methods to use to calculate a woman’s breast cancer risk.

Women whose lifetime risk from age 20 is estimated to be more than 17% but less than 30% are considered to be at moderate risk, and those at 30% or greater risk are considered to be at high risk. Women whose risk between the ages of 40 and 50 is estimated to be 3-8% are considered to be moderate risk and those at more than 8% risk are considered to be high risk.


NICE’s guideline gives recommendations on what kind of surveillance should or should not be offered to women with familial breast cancer for early detection. This is based on their specific levels of risk, age and genetic make-up.  This includes:
• offering annual mammographic surveillance to women aged 40-69 with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
• offering annual mammographic surveillance to all women aged 50-69 who have or have had breast cancer who remain at high risk of the disease and do not have TP53 mutation

• offering annual MRI surveillance to all women aged 30-49 who have or have had breast cancer who remain at high risk of the disease, including those who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.


NICE recommends that genetic testing for a family should first be carried out on an affected family member if possible, to try and identify whether they carry a mutation in genes such as BRCA1, BRCA2 or TP53.


If an affected relative is not available, NICE’s new recommendation is that genetic testing can be offered to relatives of people affected by familial breast cancer if their combined risk of carrying a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 is 10% or more. Previously this was recommended only if their combined risk was 20% or more. Genetic testing can also be offered to individuals with breast or ovarian cancer if their combined BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carrier probability is 10% or more.


What changes are there in drug treatment?


The main change is that NICE now recommends offering tamoxifen or raloxifene to specific groups of women at risk to reduce their chances of getting the disease.
NICE recommends that:
• Healthcare professionals in specialist genetic clinics should discuss with women who have not had breast cancer, but are at high or moderate risk of developing it, the absolute risks and benefits of all options for preventive drug therapy. This should include the side effects of drugs, the extent of risk reduction and the risks and benefits of alternative approaches, such as risk-reducing surgery and surveillance. They should also give the women written information on these issues.
• Premenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer are offered a five-year course of tamoxifen, unless they have a past history of breast cancer or may be at increased risk of thromboembolic disease (disease caused by blood clots such as stroke) or endometrial cancer.
• Postmenopausal women without a uterus and at high risk of breast cancer are offered a five-year course of tamoxifen, unless they have a past history of breast cancer or may be at increased risk of thromboembolic disease or they have a past history of endometrial cancer.
• Postmenopausal women with a uterus and at high risk of breast cancer are offered either tamoxifen or raloxifene for five years, unless they have a past history or may be at increased risk of thromboembolic disease or endometrial cancer.
• Doctors can consider the same drug treatments in women in the three groups above who are at moderate (rather than high) risk of developing breast cancer.
• Women who were at high risk of breast cancer but have had a bilateral mastectomy are not offered tamoxifen or raloxifene.
• Treatment with tamoxifen or raloxifene are not continued for longer than five years.

• Women are informed that they should stop tamoxifen at least:two months before trying to conceive and six weeks before elective surgery.


Like all drug treatments both tamoxifen and raloxifene can cause side effects.


The most common side effects of tamoxifen are menopausal-type symptoms, such as:
• hot flushes and sweats
• nausea and vomiting
• tiredness
• vaginal problems such as itching
• hair loss
• aching joints and bone pain
• headaches

• blood clots (thromboembolism)


Common side effects of raloxifene include:
• flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore
• hot flushes
• throat and joint pain
• leg cramps

• gallstones


What other options are there?
As well as risk assessment and preventive drug treatment, the guideline does discuss risk reducing surgery such as bilateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts) and breast reconstruction surgery.
This is the type of surgery that the actress Angelina Jolie recently went public on after genetic testing showed that she was at high risk of developing breast cancer. The NICE guideline notes that bilateral mastectomy is appropriate only for a small proportion of women who are from high-risk families.

The guideline also includes recommendations on less radical approaches to risk reduction in women with a family history of breast cancer. This includes informing women about factors which could increase their risk of breast cancer, such as taking the oral contraceptive pill in women aged over 35, taking hormone replacement therapy, drinking alcohol, or being overweight.


NICE also recommend that women with a family history of breast cancer:
• breastfeed whenever possible
• avoid smoking.




fizzy drinks as bad for you as crack

Monday, 03 June 2013

Fizzy Drinks Can Be 'As Bad' As Crack or Meth



Crack cocaine and crystal meth use is widely acknowledged to have an extremely negative impact on health but the effect it can have on your teeth is not always highlighted but a heavy user will normally  suffer from poor dental health and missing teeth.  Which is why a new study comparing fizzy drinks to the use of these drugs was a little surprising.  The recent study suggests diet and regular fizzy drinks are just as bad for your teeth as crack cocaine and meth.

The study discovered that a woman in her 30s who drank two litres of diet fizzy drinks per day for three to five years had tooth decay remarkably similar to that suffered by a 29-year-old methamphetamine addict and a 51-year-old regular crack cocaine user.


Methamphetamine, crack cocaine and fizzy drinks - both diet and regular - can cause similar dental problems, the most common of which is dental erosion. Methamphetamine and crack are known to severely affect the mouths of users, while frequent consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of tooth decay.

Besides exposing teeth to damaging acid, these illegal drugs reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth, providing less opportunity for the acids to wash away. Previous studies have linked 'meth mouth' with a number of diseases that are increasingly associated with poor oral health.


Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, commented: "The key part of this research is the fact the damage was caused by frequent consumption of fizzy drinks. This is exactly the message the Foundation tries to make the public aware of.

"Cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks is one of our key messages, and this research highlights the possible damage not following this rule can cause.

"Every time we eat or drink anything sugary, teeth are under attack for up to one hour. Saliva plays a major role in neutralising acid in the mouth, and it takes up to an hour for that to happen. If sugary items are constantly being consumed, the mouth is constantly under attack and does not get the chance to recover.

"The increase in consumption of sugary drinks is one of the key reasons for dental decay, particularly in children. The tendency to sip on sugary drinks and constantly graze throughout the day is one reason why improvements in oral health in the UK have slowed down.

"The Foundation recommends that if you do wish to graze during the day, choose foods and drinks that are going to benefit your oral health, including cheese, nuts, water or diluted juice drinks. Chewing on sugar-free gum can help to speed up the time that is takes for the saliva to neutralise plaque acids and lessen the damage that these can cause if you choose not to indulge in healthy snacking."

If you would like advice on improving your oral hygiene or preventing tooth decay it is easy to pop into your local pharmacist for a chat.  They will be pleased to advise and stock a range of products from good toothbrushes and toothpaste with active ingredients to reduce tooth decay to mouthwashes and treatments that can tackle more serious conditions.  Having an oral hygiene plan can make a significant difference in reducing the likelihood of probelms.


And cut out your and your families consumption of sugary, fizzy drinks of course.


You can also visit for more information or call the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188


Alarming Variation In Asthma Hospital Admissions Warns Asthma UK

Monday, 13 May 2013

Asthma UK has identified huge differences in how many people are rushed to hospital with an asthma attack, depending on where they live. They have launched Compare Your Care campaign to establish why this variation exists and to obtain better care for people with asthma.

Figures show a shocking 19-fold difference in children's emergency asthma admission rates in England, with Liverpool having the highest rates for children, and Tower Hamlets having the lowest. Adult hospital admissions also vary widely, with people in Newham being six times more likely to be hospitalised with their asthma than those in Bromley.

200 people every day are hospitalised in the UK because of their asthma. Three of these people will die. But with the right care three-quarters of hospital admissions could be prevented.

Asthma UK's Compare Your Care campaign aims to build a picture of where people with asthma are receiving good care and where it may be falling behind. People with asthma are being urged to take an online quiz to find out if their care is meeting national standards and, if not, how they can help improve this. Rate your asthma care at

Dr Samantha Walker, Director of Policy and Research at Asthma UK, says: "Everyone with asthma deserves good quality care from knowledgeable healthcare professionals, irrespective of where they live. Guidelines are in place to give doctors and nurses the information and advice they need to prevent asthma attacks and save lives. But if these are not put into practice, they're just a piece of paper. The Compare Your Care campaign will tell us for the first time how close we are to meeting the standards - and will help people with asthma to demand better care if theirs is falling short."

According to national guidelines, everyone with asthma should receive a written asthma action plan from their doctor or asthma nurse, so they know what steps to take when their symptoms get worse, However, only 12% actually have one. Those without an action plan are four times more likely to end up in hospital because of their asthma.

People with asthma should also have an asthma review at least once a year, which can help them understand their 'triggers' and make sure their inhaler technique is correct. But worryingly, one in five patients has not been invited by their doctor or nurse to have an annual check-up.

Shannon Batt-Hilliard was a young child when she was diagnosed with asthma. Her mother Glynnis, who also has asthma, was never particularly happy with the care her daughter received in Kent, but it wasn't until the family moved to Northampton when Shannon was five that she realised quite how substandard it had been.

She says: "The difference was unbelievable. Until that point Shannon had never been given an inhaler and we'd received no care or support following her asthma attacks. Once we were in Northampton, she was put on nebulisers, given an inhaler and referred to an asthma nurse. The doctors were far more attentive and were keen to help improve and manage her asthma.

"I too have received brilliant care and fantastic medical support in Northampton - so much so that I don't think I would be alive today if we hadn't moved. For us as a family, relocating was the best thing we could have done health wise and I dread to think what would have happened if we'd stayed in Kent."

Asthma UK wants to see a world where no-one dies from asthma, and over the next five years, aims to halve the number of people who are admitted to hospital for an asthma attack.

If you feel you would like to check your inhaler is working correctly or have any questions about your treatment your local pharmacy is a good place to pop in and have a chat with the pharmacist who can then advise whether to see your doctor or nurse.

About Asthma UK

  • Asthma UK is the UK's leading asthma charity to support people with asthma and fund world-leading research to find better treatments and ultimately a cure.
  • Their goal is to prevent asthma attacks, especially those that result in death and emergency hospitalisation.
  • The Asthma UK Adviceline offers independent advice about asthma for anyone worried or who would like to talk confidentially to a specialist asthma nurse. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0800 121 62 44.
  • For more information about asthma please visit

Background information on asthma

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Asthma prevalence is thought to have plateaued since the late 1990s, although the UK still has some of the highest rates in Europe and on average three people a day die from asthma.
  • There were 1,143 deaths from asthma in the UK in 2010 (16 of these were children aged 14 and under).
  • An estimated 75% of hospital admissions for asthma are avoidable and the majority of deaths from asthma are preventable.
  • In Northern Ireland, 182,000 people (1 in 10) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 36,000 children and 146,000 adults.
  • In Scotland, 368,000 people (1 in 14) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 72,000 children and 296,000 adults.
  • In Wales 314,000 people (1 in 10) are currently receiving treatment for asthma. This includes 59,000 children and 256,000 adults.
  • The NHS spends more than £1 billion a year treating and caring for people with asthma.
  • In 2008/09 up to 1.1 million working days were lost due to breathing or lung problems.


Be careful of that thing that's just appeared in the sky

Monday, 29 April 2013

At last Spring seems to be arriving.  This also means that for many people, however, sun allergy can be an unwelcome addition to the first rays of sun. 

Most people's skin hasn't been exposed to sunlight for many months, and given the recent very low temperatures this spring, the appearance of the sun can be too abrupt. This can give rise to red patches, itchy spots and small blisters appearing on the skin after exposure to the UV light.  Twenty percent of European people suffer from this allergy. Various scientific studies have revealed that prevention is the best remedy. Gradually increasing exposure to sunlight allows the skin to get used to the sun again.

PLE is an over-reaction by the immune system caused by exposure to ultraviolet light. According to scientists, this "photosensitivity" or "sun allergy" can be prevented by a gradual increase in exposure to sunlight.  If your skin is allowed to get used to sunlight gradually, the normal reaction (the natural colouring of the skin) will occur and an over-reaction such as PLE can be avoided. This gives the immune system and the skin time to adapt to the varying levels of sunlight.


PLE often occurs in early spring because the skin has gone without exposure to UV light for months and the immune system no longer retains the ability it had in summer to process UV light correctly. Sun allergy can still occur even in the middle of summer when the skin has already taken on some colour. An example of this could be when the skin has been exposed to the weak Northern European sun and is suddenly overwhelmed by full exposure to stronger sunlight in Southern Europe when holidaying in, for instance, Spain.


Your local pharmacy will be able to advise you on what you can do to prevent PLE as well as suggest some treatments to help with sun allergy and some sun block or sun screen to help you adjust safely.


First Morning Cigarette 'Doubles Mouth Cancer Risk'

Monday, 22 April 2013

People who reach straight for a cigarette in the morning are doubling their risk of developing lung and mouth cancer.


New research suggests people who smoke within five minutes of waking up are more at risk from the harmful effects of tobacco compared to those who wait for at least one hour.


The time it takes for a person to light up is also an indicator of their addiction to smoking. With tobacco use still the biggest cause of mouth cancer and up to half of all smokers eventually dying of a tobacco-related illness, the research presents a clear warning to morning smokers.


The news is further bad news for morning smokers, adding to research that discovered morning smokers have a harder time quitting. Given that mouth cancer is one of the few cancers predicted to rise over the next decade, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, hopes smokers will take notice of the warning.


Dr Carter said: "A cigarette in the morning isn't an easy thing to give up. Research has shown this. However, if a morning cigarette exposes people to twice the amount of harmful chemicals caused by smoking, it is something people musty ditch immediately.

"Mouth cancer is a very real problem in the UK. Latest figures show that it claims more lives than road traffic accidents do, and of more concern is that the disease is on the rise.


"Despite the predicted rise in mortalities and cases, there is not always a great deal of publicity surrounding the disease. This is why it is important to take action through campaigns like Mouth Cancer Action Month every November in the UK, raising awareness of the risk factors and what to look out for.


"Indulging in a poor diet and the emergence of the Human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, are further lifestyle behaviours that are known risk factors for mouth cancer. The changing demographics of mouth cancer sufferers mean more people than ever before need to be aware of what these risk factors are.


"As early detection plays such a pivotal role in survival rates, it is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include mouth ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth. Our advice to everyone is this - if in doubt, get checked out."


Obviously the most important and positive thing any smoker can do it to give up cigarettes!  Your local pharmacist is often a good place to start if you have any concerns and of course they also offer good advice and stock a range of products that may help you give up smoking for good.
Note: The study, presented in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, included 1,945 participants from the 2007/2008 and 2009/2010 National Health and Nutrition and Examination Survey.



National BV Day for Women 16 April

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Women across the UK are being encouraged to put taboos to one side on Tuesday 16th April and talk openly about intimate health as part of this year's National BV Day.


The event wants to raise awareness of a common, but little known, vaginal condition that causes misery to millions of women in the UK.


Bacterial Vaginosis, or BV as it's more commonly known, affects one in three women, is twice as prevalent as thrush and is the most widespread cause of abnormal vaginal discharge. Crucially, because very few women know about BV, its symptoms are often confused with thrush and many women wrongly treat the condition as such.


The condition causes distress to millions because of the unpleasantness of its symptoms; primarily a grey-white discharge and a strong fishy odour. These symptoms cause extreme embarrassment, discomfort and stress to the women suffering from them, and if left untreated can even lead to an increased risk of contracting STIs, including HIV, Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia. If undetected in pregnant women, BV can lead to premature birth and even miscarriage.


As part of National BV Day women will be able to access online videos featuring Dr Dawn Harper who will explain the key symptoms of BV to look out for and how these can be treated quickly and easily at home. The videos will also explain that BV is not a sexually transmitted disease and is not linked to poor hygiene, but is in fact a condition triggered by changes in the pH balance of the vagina.


Integral to the National BV Day campaign will be a call to women to speak more freely about intimate health and any issues they have experienced. As part of this a number of women who have been faced with the emotional stress, low self esteem and alarming consequences so often associated with BV will share their insights and feelings about their own ordeals. Counter staff from the UK's  pharmacists will be on standby to offer confidential advice to other women who think they have, or have had, the condition and who want to talk about their concerns.


The awareness day, which had its inaugural launch last year, is lead by Balance Activ, which provides simple and effective solutions for preventing and treating the symptoms of BV. Their clinically proven products, which are available without prescription, contain Lactic Acid, which restores the normal pH of the vagina to eliminate odour, and Glycogen, which promotes the growth of good bacteria.


The advice below provides some simple measures that women can take to help maintain the natural pH balance of the vagina and avoid BV.

  • Avoid using perfumed intimate products as these can disrupt the natural vaginal balance
  • Avoid excessive washing (or douching) of the vagina as this may alter the normal balance of bacteria, making symptoms of BV more likely to develop
  • Use a condom if you notice that sexual intercourse promotes symptoms. Semen is alkaline and can alter the natural pH of the vagina

If you are concerned about any of the issues associated with BV or would like to discuss anything in confidence your local pharmacist is available and will probably stock a range of products that may help.


Prescription Charges To Rise

Thursday, 07 March 2013

Health Minister Earl Howe has announced a 20p rise in prescription charges to £7.85  from April 1st 2013.


Many health charities and some people feel the prescription charges are arbitrary, outdated and inequitable, given that the list of exemptions has hardly been updated since its introduction in the 1960s.


They state that prescription charges have risen every year since 1979, and this further increase will impact on those who are already struggling to afford the essential medication required to keep them well.


There are also many who believe in these extremely tough economic times a 20p rise is necessary and reasonable.


The Coalition is due to publish its report ‘Paying The Price’ on March 11th which looks at what ‘price’ society is really paying for prescription charges.  It may well be time for some reform of the system?


One major factor in the nations medication bill is wastage and there are many medicines that are not being used properly or even taken at all and this increase the burden on cost for everyone.


It is very important you take you medicines correctly as instructed and dispose of any unwanted medication at your local pharmacy.  It is also vital you are on the correct medicine as many new, often more effective or convenient treatments become available all the time.


Whether you - or if you are a carer - have any queries at all or are unsure of how you should be taking your medicines please visit your local pharmacy who will be happy to offer quick, friendly advice.  They can also provide a Medicine Use Review (MUR) where they will look at and discuss all treatments you are taking and review whether you should be on something more appropriate and check you are taking them correctly.


Sleeping Problems? Our Top Tips

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Trouble Sleeping?  Our Top Tips


Over 51% of the population have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep at times and suffer from insomnia.  Many people take medication but the effects can sometimes not last and / or have complications or side effects.


There are many natural supplements and remedies that may help.  Milky drinks at bedtime, herbal teas, a nice bath and essential oils can all help.  The avoidance of stimulants and some foods before bed is important.   The key is relaxation and clearing your mind before bed.


Write things down – keep a pen and paper nearby and write down everything you need to do, anything playing on your mind or want to remember before you go to sleep.  It is hard to get off to sleep with thoughts and worries of things you need to do tomorrow.  Once you’ve made a note they should be released from your mind.


Keep your bedroom tidy – lots of clothes lying around, books or newspapers scattered around the floor or general untidiness means you are distracted when you go to bed.  Your bedroom needs to be a relaxing and calm place to help you get a good nights sleep.


Ensure correct temperature – research has shown that the ideal temperature for sleeping is 15-20°C (60-68 Fahrenheit).  Studies have also shown that many insomniacs experience an increase in body temperature at night compared to normal sleepers and therefore struggle to fall asleep if the room is too hot.  Try turning down the heating! Which, of course, has the added benefit of saving money and energy.


Do some drawing – you might not have played with felt tips or colouring pencils since you were a child, but allow yourself to sketch or doodle in any way you like before bed and your subconscious mind will thank you for it.  Choose whatever colours you feel drawn to and allow them to swirl, twirl and make patterns on the page.  This gives your subconscious the chance to work through any outstanding business from your day and settle down for sleep.


Embrace your thoughts– don’t try and stop thinking about things, it is impossible to stop thinking completely, in fact trying this can mean you think even more!  Instead, after ensuring you have covered the points above acknowledge thoughts as they come in, allow them to float by like clouds in the sky, watch them as they float along, then just as easily allow them to drift away again.  Keep doing this and before you have realized it you will have drifted off to sleep.


Read – try reading before bed while your eyes get tired but be careful on what you choose.  Avoid anything stimulating or upsetting such as a great story you can’t put down, something harrowing or anything that will leave you pondering.  Try something general of mild interest to start with and see how you get on and increase or decrease the impact of what you read accordingly to suit what works.
Your local pharmacy is a good place to visit for advice on sleeping problems.  They stock a good range of natural remedies as well as medicines and will be able to offer friendly advice without an appointment and also advise if your problem may be more serious and you need to speak to a doctor.



Eating Disorders Week 11 -17 February 2013

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 11-17th February

This week is eating disorders week with the eating disorders charity – Beat - at the forefront. It has enlisted some well-known celebrities to raise awareness of their
national fundraising campaign

'Sock it to Eating Disorders'
Actors Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood, Celia Imrie, Michelle Collins, presenter Jake Humphrey and Towie actress Chloe Sims are amongst celebrities who are backing the campaign - former Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie (where Beat are based), Ironman Chrissie Wellington and regional BBC and ITV presenters are also getting involved. The celebrities are decorating their socks with supportive messages to kick start the campaign.

During this week people are being encouraged to wear silly socks and organise activities centred around this such as wearing silly socks to school for the day; decorating socks, knitting socks and selling them on Ebay for charity; sports teams are also being encouraged to wear silly socks for a training session or match.

Anyone interested in taking part can visit Beat's website to sign up for a free Sock it to Eating Disorders fundraising pack:

Beat's Chief Executive, Susan Ringwood explains the sad story behind the inspiration for the campaign: -

In June 2010, I was in Austria speaking at an eating disorders conference. Campaigner Kitty Weston, whose daughter Anna had died of her anorexia 10 years ago was about to address the 900 delegates from across the world. Moments before she took the stage, we heard that another dear friend in the USA had just lost her daughter too.
Kitty was distraught and we all tried to comfort her. Australian advocate June Alexander reached into her pocket and pulled out a sock- a clean sports sock belonging to her own daughter back in Melbourne.
Kitty took the sock, wiped her eyes, blew her nose, and with the sock tightly clenched in her hand gave the speech of her life. She got a standing ovation and Sock it to Eating Disorders was born.
About eating disorders
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and include anorexia, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating.
Over 1.6 million men and women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK are affected by eating disorders.
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. One in five of the most seriously affected will die prematurely.
Eating disorders are treatable conditions and full recovery is possible.
The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.


Smaller Paracetamol Packs Reduce Deaths

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Smaller Paracetamol packets have reduced deaths
Have we a rare good news story? It has been reported that the smaller size of paracetamol packets have reduced the number of deaths.

Since 1998 the size of paracetamol packs that can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or supermarket have been limited by law. This has lead to a 43% decrease in deaths from poisoning. This reduction is based on long-term analysis looking at the incidence of paracetamol-related deaths and paracetamol-related liver transplants defore and after the new law was introduced between 1993 to 2009.

Researchers also found a 61% reduction in the number of people needing a liver transplant as a result of a paracetamol overdose. This appears to suggest that the change in the law has been successful however, there are still a large number of deaths due to paracetamol overdose every year, and further action is needed.

The law on paracetamol packs
People often say what's to stop someone going to different pharmacies or online and buying as much paracetamol as they want from different places but this misses the point of the 1998 law. The thinking behind the limit on paracetamol pack sizes is that most suicidal behaviour is impulsive. People often use what is closest at hand. So making paracetamol packs smaller means that it is less likely a suicidal person would have ready access to dangerous amounts of paracetamol.

Getting help for suicidal thoughts
If you are feeling suicidal you can:
  • call the Samaritans support service on 08457 90 90 90
  • go to your nearest Accident & Emergency (A&E) department and tell the staff how you are feeling
  • contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647
  • speak to a friend, family member or someone you trust
  • visit your pharmacy and ask to talk to the pharmacist
  • make an urgent appointment to see your GP


Despite a number of other factors it does seem likely that the law introduced in 1998 has had a positive effect.

There are still a large number of deaths due to paracetamol overdose every year (around 150–200 on average in England and Wales), and more can be done to reduce this.

If you or anyone you know have any questions about paracetamol or any other medicine or are concerned about any issues affecting you or anyone you know your local pharmacy is always accessible and on hand with confidential, friendly advice.


20 – 26 January 2013 is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Next week is Cervical Cancer Prevention week.


Awareness of cervical cancer has increased in recent years, partly because of the sad death of Jade Goody in 2009 at the age of 27.


Is awareness of the disease widespread enough though?  Over 20% of women in the UK still do not turn up for cervical cancer screening appointments.  According to figures released towards the end of last year the age group 25-29 are the worst offenders.  There is a slight reversal in this trend but nearly 1 in 3 women ignored their appointment for screening in 2011/12.  Recent research shows that a high number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer either delayed or ignored their screening invitation.


Cervical screening is estimated to save up to 5,000 lives each year.


Each year in the UK 3,300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and more than half of these are in women under the age of 50.  Although very rare in women under 25, it is the second most common cancer in women under 35.


The best way of reducing your risk of developing cervical cancer is being screened regularly.  In England women aged 25 to 49 are invited for screening every 3 years, and screening continues every 5 years for women aged 50 to 64. However it is important to understand that cervical screening is not a test for cervical cancer, rather for abnormal cells on the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.  This means any potential problem can be picked up and addressed early.  Abnormal cells on the cervix don't usually have any symptoms, which is why it is so important to go for screenings regularly. If there are signs of abnormal cells, treating them is often simple and can prevent cancer developing.


Nearly all cervical cancers are caused by a common sexually transmitted infection called human papillomavirus (HPV) which most women have at some time but usually clears up on its own. If the infection doesn't clear up there is a risk of abnormal cells developing which could become cervical cancer over time.


To reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer:
Go for screening when invited
Have the HPV vaccine if you are offered it
If you smoke, try to stop

Use a condom to reduce your risk of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections.


Your local pharmacy can provide advice and products to help you give up smoking or reduce your risk or picking up any sexually transmitted diseases.  They are accessible, you do not need an appointment and the pharmacist offers free, friendly and confidential advice.


Men need to take more positive role with medicines and health

Thursday, 08 November 2012

We already know men are generally pretty rubbish at looking after their health and a new survey confirms there are sharp differences between the genders when it comes to healthcare.


Nearly 9 in 10 men say they don't like to trouble a doctor or a pharmacist unless they have a serious problem, they delay seeking advice if they have side effects from medicines, and they often get their wives to collect their prescriptions for them, which means they're less likely to have a face-to-face discussion with pharmacy staff and to benefit from lifestyle advice. Furthermore, fewer men than women take part in wellbeing schemes like the NHS stop smoking service.


The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conducted a survey of 1700 UK adults which shows:


  • More men than women admit that their understanding of medicines is poor (23.1% against 15.6 women)
  • Men are twice as likely than women to take a new prescription medicine without first reading the patient information leaflet or seeking professional advice (10.9% of men against 5.1 women)
  • A third of men (31%) get their partner to collect their prescription medicines.  Men tend to rely on their female partners to stock the household medicines cabinet
  • 60% of men would suffer with a side effect of medicines for more than a week before seeking advice.


  • Nearly nine in ten men say they don't like to trouble a doctor or pharmacist unless they have a "serious problem". 37% of people - men and women - worry about taking time off work to seek professional advice when they are ill.

During Ask Your Pharmacist Week (5-12 November), thousands of pharmacies are displaying 'Two Small Steps for Man' window posters, encouraging men to step inside the pharmacy and enquire about the free NHS support available.


Mike Holden, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said:


"We urge men to work in partnership with health professionals to get a firmer grip on their long term well being. With the help of their local pharmacy team, men can do more to stay well, not just get treatment when they are sick. A face-to-face discussion with the pharmacist can be the key to safer and more effective medicines use. Most pharmacies now have consultation areas, where you can talk with the pharmacist without being overheard."


"Pharmacies are well placed to reach out to men, because they are generally accessible and informal - you can get expert advice without an appointment. So I am delighted that so many pharmacies are making a special effort to reach out to men during Ask Your Pharmacist Week 2012."


"The experience with the NHS New Medicine Service in England shows that men will engage in a dialogue about their medicines if they can see that it will address an immediate and clearly identifiable need.  Nearly half of people accessing the NMS - a free advice service for people taking a new medicine for a long term condition - are men.


"The challenge is for us in pharmacy is to spread the message to more men about the benefits of using medicines properly and make them aware of the free, professional advice and support available which also involves healthy lifestyle advice."


Please remember your local pharmacy is normally open long hours so can often be visited out of work hours or weekends and you don’t need an appointment.  You'll find friendly advice from a highly trained medical professional.


Psoriasis Patients need support and psychological help

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

As Many As One Third Experience Depression And Anxiety (1)

A new report,(2) 'Recognising the life impact of psoriasis' released on 18 October at a Parliamentary reception hosted by Paul Beresford MP, Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Skin (Skin APPG), has unveiled an urgent need for multi-disciplinary care for people suffering with psoriasis. For the first time, the Psoriasis Association has collaborated with the Mental Health Foundation as part of the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign. Along with other leading experts, the collaboration calls for the impact of psoriasis on a person's psychological wellbeing and overall quality of life, to be better recognised by politicians, the NHS and patients and their families. The See Psoriasis: Look Deeper initiative is funded by an educational grant from the global healthcare company Abbott.

Speaking to MPs from across the country, the collaboration together with patient groups and healthcare professionals, highlighted that the wider effects of psoriasis can go unrecognised by most. Psoriasis is estimated to effect up to 1.8 million people in the UK(3), the multi-faceted nature of psoriasis means the psychological impact of the condition can be just as debilitating as the physical symptoms. Approximately one third of psoriasis patients experience depression and anxiety(1), with 1 in 10 admitting to contemplating suicide.(4) However, healthcare professionals tend to focus on the physical symptoms and often overlook asking patients about their psychological wellbeing.

Dr Christine Bundy, a member of the collaboration and Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Medicine at the University of Manchester says, 'There is often a cyclical link between the physical and psychological impact of psoriasis. The condition can cause emotional distress and worry for sufferers which can trigger a psoriasis flare and impact on progression of psoriasis, so patients can often feel trapped in a despairing cycle as they try to cope with their condition. We need to do more to ensure we are looking out for psychological symptoms and providing people with the condition the full support they need to manage psoriasis.
The 'Recognising the life impact of psoriasis' report outlines calls to action for policy makers, emphasising an essential need for:

  • Financial levers and incentives for commissioners to be aligned to multidisciplinary working so that the physical and psychological nature of psoriasis is addressed
  • The resources available through changes in the NHS to be used to improve the multidisciplinary care and treatment of people with psoriasis

There is now more than ever, an opportunity to make a positive change for psoriasis patients via the NHS Commissioning Board's guidance to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NICE clinical guidance and Quality Standards and CCG referral pathways. With the cost of mental health services currently reaching £6.6 billion (National survey of investment in Adult Mental Health Services)(5) - this is a figure that could be increased if psychological wellbeing of psoriasis patients is not addressed.

Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation adds: "The Mental Health Foundation has long called for the better integration of physical and mental health services. This includes routine assessment of the psychological needs of patients, in the light of the strong evidence of the inter-relationship and connection between physical health problems and mental health. It is essential that all staff supporting patients with a primary diagnosis of psoriasis are fully aware of the links between the two and are able to facilitate assessments and, where there is an assessed need, care and treatment that address all their health needs holistically".

The campaign also asks people with psoriasis to talk to their healthcare professional about the emotional impact psoriasis may be having on them, and to insist on help and support when needed.

Your local pharmacist can also provide immediate access and friendly help and advice. It is important to discuss treatment options too if you have been on the same medication for some time or are finding it is not as effective as you would like. New treatments may be available.

'Most people assume psoriasis just affects a person physically, however the affect is much deeper for patients that live with the condition day-to-day. All too often we hear from patients who are struggling with the emotional impact of psoriasis but do not feel able to ask their doctor for help. Some patients suggest that their GPs regard psoriasis as a minor complaint and do not consider the emotional aspects. We need doctors to treat people with psoriasis holistically, recognising the impact the condition can have on one's life, and we need patients to feel comfortable about proactively asking their doctors for help, knowing that they will be listened to' says Helen McAteer from the Psoriasis Association.

To support the launch of the report and the See Psoriasis: Look Deeper campaign, patients were invited to submit a postcard addressed to their psoriasis to express how it impacts their daily lives and makes them feel. A creative display of the responses formed a central focus point at the launch event, demonstrating the support for the campaign and a need for change.

The See Psoriasis: Look Deeper collaboration believes that together we can work towards improved holistic care for psoriasis patients. We just need to see beyond the skin and look deeper into their needs.

The full 'Recognising the life impact of psoriasis' report can be found at: and

The Psoriasis Association
The Psoriasis Association was founded in 1968 to provide information, advice and support to people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The organisation aims to represent the views of patients at a local and national level with an ever-expanding voice, and to remain aware of the issues that really matter to its membership and to people affected by psoriasis. The Mental Health Foundation is the UK's leading mental health research, policy and service improvement charity. It is committed to reducing the suffering caused by mental ill health and to help everyone lead mentally healthier lives. It helps people to survive, recover from and prevent mental health problems by carrying out research, developing practical solutions for better mental health services, campaigning to reduce stigma and discrimination and promoting better mental health for us all
1. Kimball AB, Gieler U, Linder D, et al. Psoriasis: is the impairment to a patient's life cumulative? J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2010;24:989-1004.
2. 'Recognising the life impact of psoriasis' Report. See Psoriasis: Look Deeper. October 2012
3. What is Psoriasis, 2011, Accessed at: Accessed: September 2012
4. Eedy D, Burge S, Potter J, et al, on behalf of The British Association Dermatologists and Clinical Effectiveness and Evaluation Unit, Royal College of Physicians Clinical Standards Department. An audit of the provision of dermatology services in secondary care in the United Kingdom with a focus on the care of people with psoriasis. January 2008.
5. Mental Health Strategies (MHS) for Department of Health. 2010/11 National Survey of Investment in Adult Mental Health Services. October 2011.


It’s Stoptober

Monday, 08 October 2012

Throughout October thousands of people across the country are taking part in Stoptober – a new challenge to give up smoking

The encouraging news is that by stopping smoking for the month, you are five times more likely to stay smokefree!

There’s lots of support out there to help you, visit for more information from the NHS. Lots of smokers want to quit but aren't sure how or need some extra help. There’s advice for first time quitters and those trying again.

Stop smoking medicines can be a big help and are available on prescription. They can ease the symptoms and reduce cravings.

Your local pharmacist is a great place to seek help. Not only are they easily accessible, open most days with no appointment necessary but are also highly trained with have a wealth of experience and a comprehensive range of products to help you. Pop in and commit to a smoke free future!


Painkillers may be making over a million headaches worse

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Following new guidance from the National Institute of Health and Cllinical Excellence (NICE) on the treatment of headaches more than a million people in Britain have been warned they may be making their headaches worse by taking too many painkillers.


The warning from NICE says that taking too many painkillers can lead to a "vicious cycle" of constant, crippling headaches.
The type of headaches associated with overuse of headache treatments is not yet fully understood but is a well-established condition where long-term use of painkillers, such as aspirin, paracetamol and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, actually worsen the headache, both in how often the headache occurs and the level of pain.


NICE warns that some people may be "causing themselves more pain than relief".
The guidance calls on GPs and other healthcare professionals to consider the possibility of "medication overuse" in their patients.
You should contact your pharmacist or GP for advice if:
• you take paracetamol, aspirin or an NSAID for 15 days or more in a month to control headaches
• you take an opiate-based painkiller, such as codeine, triptans or ergots,  or a combination of different painkillers, for 10 days or more to control headaches
NICE says that health professionals and patients should be aware of the risk where the headache develops or worsens while they were taking any of the following drugs for three months or more:
• Aspirin, Paracetamol or an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) for 15 days or more a month.  NSAIDs include over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen. These drugs are also used for conditions such as arthritis or bad backs.
• Triptans, opioids, ergots or combination painkillers for 10 days or more a month. These are stronger treatments that may be prescribed by doctors when over-the-counter medications are ineffective. Triptans (for example, sumatriptan, brand name Imigran) are drugs with a different method of action from standard painkillers and are prescribed to relieve migraine or cluster headaches (where there is severe pain or throbbing usually in a particular place, such as around one eye). Opioids are strong painkillers used to relieve persistent pain; there are many opioids ranging from codeine and tramadol to strong opioids such as morphine. Ergots are painkillers that can be used for migraine, though they are rarely prescribed now due to side effects (triptans are prescribed more commonly for migraine).


NICE says the only treatment for headaches caused by overuse is to stop using the medication in question. It says the medication should be "stopped abruptly" rather than gradually. It also says headache symptoms are likely to ‘get worse in the short term’, so your pharmacist or doctor should offer "close follow-up and support" as you may experience withdrawal symptoms.


Your local pharmacist is a good place to seek advice if you are concerned or have any questions about treating headaches with painkillers.


It is estimated that one in 50 people experience headaches caused by medication overuse, with women five times more likely than men to be affected.  This is a highly significant number if you consider the number of people who take painkillers regularly.


Type 2 Diabetes Gene Discovery

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Type 2 Diabetes Genes Discovery


It is reported that scientists have discovered a group of genes that increase the chance of developing diabetes dramatically.  The discovery may help develop cheaper drugs and simple treatments.


The breakthrough came from a study of data pooled from comparing the DNA of 35,000 people with type 2 diabetes and 115,000 people without the condition.
10 new common genes were found that are associated with an increase of between 7 and 13% in a person's odds of developing type 2 diabetes. These studies looked at whether specific genetic variations in the DNA code occurred more often in people with type 2 diabetes than those without diabetes.
Researchers identified various genes that could be responsible for affecting type 2 diabetes risk, but more research will be needed to confirm that these are definitely involved.


Both genetic and environmental factors (such as diet and physical activity) contribute to a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These findings bring the total known genetic variations associated with type 2 diabetes to more than 60. This large number of common variations suggests that each contributes only a modest amount to a person's chance of developing the condition.


It is hoped that having a greater understanding of how type 2 diabetes occurs may help in the development of new treatments however, more research will be needed.
The study was conducted by international researchers belonging to the DIAbetes Genetics Replication And Meta-analysis (DIAGRAM) Consortium. The study was funded by a large number of government, research and charity organisations, including Diabetes UK.


The research involved a statistical pooling of data from controlled studies with the aim of identifying genetic variations associated with type 2 diabetes. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Currently, genetic variations in 56 different areas are known to be associated with risk of type 2 diabetes. However, these are thought only to account for about 10% of the genetic component of risk for type 2 diabetes. The study tried to identify more genetic variations associated with type 2 diabetes, and to look at whether looking at all the genetic variations could suggest something about how the condition comes about.
Pooling large amounts of data helps researchers identify the influence of genetic variations which separately only contribute a small amount to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


This was a sufficiently large study and found further genetic variations that may contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes. These findings show how many different genetic variations can contribute only a relatively small effect.


The variations identified by the researchers as being associated with the condition do not necessarily themselves affect type 2 diabetes risk. They may instead lie close to other variations that have the effect. The researchers have identified a number of genes near to these variations that may be responsible, and will need to carry out further research to confirm this. Much more research will be needed to see if these results can be translated into successful treatments.


More information on diabetes is available within the health advice section of this website.
If you are concerned about diabetes, have a family history of the condition or are worried about being overweight, your local pharmacist is a good place to seek advice. They can discuss any concerns you may have and offer a simple test for type 2 diabetes.


Everyone over 40 should be tested for diabetes says NICE

Monday, 16 July 2012

New guidelines have just been published by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and provide recommendations that are designed to:
• identify people at a potential high risk of developing type 2 diabetes
• assess their individual risk with testing, and, if necessary
• offer lifestyle advice (such as advice on diet and exercise), to help prevent the condition in people who are at high risk, and advise on such things as dietary changes and increased physical activity
Type 2 diabetes is a long-term and typically preventable condition that results in too much glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. Symptoms include:
• feeling very thirsty
• going to the toilet a lot, especially at night
• extreme tiredness
• weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
There are a wide range of risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as obesity and ethnicity and there are several serious complications, including other cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attack and stroke). It can also lead to visual impairment, kidney failure and lower limb amputations due to foot ulcers.
Preventing type 2 diabetes from occurring in the first place would have a significant positive impact on millions of people in this country.
The NICE guidelines report that diabetes currently affects almost 3 million people in the UK. Of these, 90% will have type 2 diabetes. The number of people with diabetes is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025. A further 850,000 people in the UK are thought to have diabetes without knowing it.
What do the new NICE guidelines on type 2 diabetes say?
The NICE guidelines contain 20 detailed recommendations. These outline the best ways to identify people at high risk of type 2 diabetes and to encourage them to take steps to reduce their risk. In particular, it’s recommended that the following groups should be encouraged to have a risk assessment for type 2 diabetes so they can be offered advice to help prevent or delay the condition:
• All adults aged 40 and above (except pregnant women)
• Those aged 25-39 who are of South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Black African descent and other ethnic groups considered at high risk (except pregnant women)
• Adults with conditions that increase the risk of diabetes, such as high blood pressure, being very overweight (with a body mass index of 30 or above), or having a history of stroke
Where can I get tested for type 2 diabetes?
Screening is not compulsory. What NICE are trying to achieve is to provide access to screening for type 2 diabetes in a range of more accessible places, not just your GP surgery or local hospital.
Most pharmacies can offer this service.  Your local pharmacy is probably the most convenient and accessible place to get screening or advice.  Screening for type 2 diabetes is relatively straightforward and does not require access to specially trained staff so there is no reason that screening in the future cannot be offered at:
• your job centre
• your local library
• your community centre
• your dentist
• your optician
If the results of your screening do suggest you are at a higher risk, you can then be referred for a follow-up blood test.
How will this work in practice?
The NICE diabetes guidelines focus on identification and risk reduction. They call for the identification of people at risk of type 2 diabetes, using a staged approach. This involves using ‘validated risk assessment tools’ and questionnaires, and, where necessary, a blood test to confirm if someone is at high risk. The blood test, which measures glucose levels, would be based on either fasting blood glucose or a test called the HbA1c test, which measures how much glucose is stuck to haemoglobin.
For people identified as being at high risk, NICE calls for a ‘quality-assured, evidence-based intensive programme’ to change their lifestyle and prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. This would include a programme to:
• increase physical activity
• achieve and maintain weight loss
• increase dietary fibre and reduce fat intake, particularly saturated fat
Medication such as metformin can also be used for people whose blood sugar levels remain high despite making lifestyle changes.
Those found to have possible type 2 diabetes would be offered further tests and, if diagnosed, enter a ‘care pathway’ to be treated for the disease.
To implement these, NICE recommends national and local NHS bodies to act. NICE provides detailed ‘interactive pathways’ for professionals involved in diabetes prevention to help them offer the right care to people at risk of diabetes.
How do the new guidelines differ from the previous recommendations?
The new guidelines complement but do not replace previous recommendations from NICE on how to prevent or manage type 2 diabetes. This includes guidelines, published in May 2011, on reducing risk in the wider adult population, and other guidance on areas connected with diabetes, such as:
• cardiovascular disease
• obesity
• physical activity
• weight management
The main focus of these guidelines is to try to and adopt a more preventative approach to type 2 diabetes, accurately identifying those at a higher risk of developing the disease and then offering treatment that can potentially reduce that risk.
The guidelines are intended to be used alongside the NHS Health Check programme and the national vascular risk assessment programme for those aged 40-74. These programmes are currently being rolled out in England and aim to identify and treat diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease.
What will happen as the result of the guidelines?
NICE wants major initiatives nationally and locally, aimed at preventing type 2 diabetes. It hopes that these initiatives will include a body to oversee effective practice in type 2 diabetes prevention. Local NHS organisations will be expected to ensure that prevention of diabetes type 2 is a central part of their work.
What is the evidence that the guidelines are based on?
NICE says that the guidelines are based on the best available evidence, and included:
• reviews of the evidence
• economic modelling
• the testimony of experts
• commissioned reports
• comments from stakeholders
• fieldwork
In some areas, the evidence was lacking and NICE has made recommendations for future research, such as which combination of risk-assessment tools and blood tests (HbA1c or fasting blood glucose) are most cost-effective and effective. More details of the evidence on which these guidelines are based and the process for developing public health guidance, can be found on the NICE website.
How will these guidelines affect me?
The NICE guidelines are aimed at healthcare professionals rather than the public. However, in response to NICE’s recommendations, you should be encouraged to identify your personal risk factors and adopt or maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you are in an at risk group (for example, if you are over 40) you will be encouraged to assess your risk of this condition.
If you are assessed at high risk you will probably be asked to have a blood test (either the fasting glucose test or the HbA1c) to confirm the level of risk and to discuss how to reduce it through lifestyle changes. If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you should be placed on a ‘care pathway’ involving lifestyle changes and, where necessary, drug treatment.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE said: "Type 2 diabetes is a very large-scale problem and it is important for people to know that it is preventable, and there are simple steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing the disease. This guidance will help people to identify their own personal risk and highlights that by losing weight, being more active and improving their diet, they can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes."
Further Help
If you think you may have symptoms of type 2 diabetes, are in a high risk group, have a family history of the condition or would just like to discuss further or obtain some advice your local pharmacist is a good place to start.


Mental Health Stigma And Discrimination Is Harming Our Next Generation

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Tragically, a quarter of young people (26%) have said that the stigma attached to their mental illness has made them want to give up on life[1], according to new statistics released by the mental health anti-stigma programme Time to Change, which is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness.
Furthermore, 27% of young people with mental health problems under the age of 25 say that the discrimination they face as a result has also made them give up on their life's ambitions[2]. The shocking survey was commissioned by Time to Change as it launches new anti-stigma work aimed at encouraging young people to help tackle the taboo surrounding mental health problems.
Since the programme began in 2007, Time to Change has already seen significant attitude and behaviour change towards mental health problems among adults. Today the pilot project in the West Midlands, which will work with teenagers to help stamp out the discrimination that is damaging young lives and preventing them from fulfilling their true potential, will be launched at an event in Birmingham.
One in ten children and young people will experience a mental health problem[3]. The new research also highlights that much of the stigma that young people face comes from those who you would expect to turn to first at a time of need, including friends (70%), siblings (35%) and parents (57%)[4].
Bryony Bratchell, aged 19 from Weymouth, said: "The stigma that I have experienced because of my mental health problem has really affected my childhood in terms of friendships and relationships and in education and more recently at work. When I was first diagnosed at 14, I was automatically told by healthcare professionals to stop going to school because it was too stressful. At the same time my school also refused to allow me to return there once they knew I had a mental health problem. Then once I left I heard nasty rumours
that people were spreading about me and even comments to my friends about stopping hanging out with me in case I might kill them. This has made it so hard to keep friends and make new ones. Thankfully I have made new friends through Time to Change as people here really understand me."
Activities planned for the West Midlands include a social marketing campaign, an education programme co-delivered by young people with a mental illness and their parents, community events in the region, a grants fund for projects that bring young people with and without mental health problems together and engagement with organisations in the region that work with a youth audience.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "For many young people suffering with mental health problems, discrimination is an additional hurdle for them to overcome. No young person should experience isolation or bullying and feel unable to speak up, or have their ambitions thwarted needlessly.
"Tackling taboos and stigma has the potential to make a significant difference to the wellbeing of young people with mental health problems. I applaud Time to Change's efforts to change attitudes among peers, families and friends, to give youngsters affected a more positive future."
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: "Too often young people with mental health problems are treated differently, and even bullied. This can affect their education and self-esteem with knock-on effects for the rest of their life.
"Half of those with lifetime mental health problems experience symptoms by the age of 14.  This is why, if young people are to reach their full potential, they must feel able to access the support they need without fear of discrimination."
Sue Baker, Director of Time to Change, said: "This is a national tragedy. With one in ten children experiencing mental health problems, the impact of stigma is robbing too many of their hopes for the future. They are left too afraid to turn to their families, friends and teachers, or to get support.
"However we know, from our existing campaign, that by working together we can improve attitudes.  With young people as the driving force behind our new campaign, we will be able to bring these issues out from the dark ages."
To find out more about the Children and Young People campaign please visit
Interviews are available with Bryony Bratchell who will share her experiences of mental health stigma and discrimination, and Time to Change Director Sue Baker. Filming opportunities are also available at the launch event in Birmingham. For more information about locations details and to arrange filming and interview opportunities please contact Hayley Richardson, Senior Media Officer, on 07789 721 966 or email
[1] The Time to Change survey was conducted online using SurveyMonkey. The survey was online between 25th May and 8th June 2012 and was completed by a total of 1132 young people in the UK who are under the age of 25 and who have experienced a mental health problem.  A link to the survey was distributed widely via TTC Facebook fans, on Twitter and via other charity networks.
[2] Time to Change survey referenced in note 1
[3] ONS 2004; See Me- Scotland 2011
[4] Time to Change survey referenced in note 1
Time to Change
Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems.  The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief.
For more information go to
Department of Health
On 2 February 2011 the Department of Health launched No health without mental health, a cross-government mental health outcomes strategy for people of all ages which has the twin aims of keeping people well and improving their mental health and, when people are not well, improving their outcomes through high-quality services.
The strategy is based on six shared objectives, developed with partners from across the mental health sector, and focuses on 'Recovery' and the reduction of stigma and discrimination as overarching themes.
To help deliver the objective to reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health problems, in 2011 the Department agreed to support Time to Change, the anti-stigma campaign run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. The Department of Health is providing the campaign with up to £16 million of funding together with a further £4 million from Comic Relief. This funding will help Time to Change continue their work until March 2015.
Comic Relief
Comic Relief is committed to supporting people living with mental health problems. The projects Comic Relief funds ensure people with mental health problems get their voices heard in the decisions that affect their lives and get the help they need to recover. Comic Relief also helps people to promote their rights and reduce the stigma and discrimination they face so that they feel more included in society. The £4 million grant to Time to Change is the second time the charity has awarded Time to Change its largest UK grant and is part of Comic Relief's long standing commitment to this issue. For more information go


Tips On Staying Healthy This Summer

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The last thing anyone wants on their summer holiday is to get ill. But in the lead up to a holiday, it can be easy to spend more time thinking about the latest season's fashion, getting the best exchange rate or making sure that the pets will be well looked after. It may not seem important at the time, but having a quick chat with your pharmacist before you go on holiday can help to avoid some of the most common illnesses that can spoil your holiday. Leyla Hannbeck, Head of Information Services at the National Pharmacy Association shares some tips on how to stay healthy this summer.
Stomach bugs:
People often suffer with diarrhoea and sickness on holiday because they have consumed contaminated food or water. Follow the simple rule 'cook it, boil it, peel it or leave it' while you're on your holiday. Stomach upsets can also be caused by bad hygiene so make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food.
Pharmacy tips:
Take some re-hydration sachets with you in your first aid kit just in case you have a stomach bug. These will stop you from getting dehydrated. You can also ask your pharmacist about anti-diarrhoea pills.
Deep vein Thrombosis:
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) happens when a blood clot forms in one of the body's deep veins. This tends to happen when a person has been inactive for a period of time, as blood collects in the lower parts of the body, particularly in the lower legs. Every year, DVT affects one in every 1,000 people in the UK but there things you can do to reduce your changes of getting it. For example, when you're on a long journey, try to do leg and calf exercises every half hour or try to walk around. You can also help by wearing loose clothing from the waist down and making sure that you are drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
Pharmacy tips:
If you're worried about DVT, ask your pharmacist about compression socks.
Planning ahead:
If you take a regular medicine, make sure you have enough for your holiday. If you do run out of your medicine while you're on holiday in the UK or you lose your medicine, go to a pharmacy as they may be able to sell you an emergency supply. There are some drugs however that a pharmacist will be unable to give you. These are called controlled drugs and include medicines like benzodiazepines and morphine. If you run out of these medicines, your pharmacist can refer you to a local doctor for more advice. The best advice is plan ahead and while on holiday, keep your medicine in a safe and secure place.
Pharmacy tips:
If you take a medicine for a long term condition, ask your pharmacist about repeat dispensing. This is a free service which helps to save you time as when you need another supply of medicine, you just pick it up from your pharmacy instead of having to visit your GP for another prescription.
Over the counter medicines:
When you're on holiday abroad, you may notice that medicines look different to how they do back home. This is because medicines have a generic name, which is the active ingredient of the medicine, and they have a brand name, which is the trade name the manufacturer gives to the medicine. For example, Viagra is the well known brand name given to the generic medicine sildenafil. If you cannot find your normal brand in the pharmacy while you're on holiday, don't worry, the pharmacist in the UK will be able to find you something that contains the same active ingredient.
Pharmacy tips:
Try to stock up on holiday essentials like anti-sickness remedies, plasters and painkillers before you go on holiday. Be careful though! There are restrictions on taking certain medicines into another country, for example it is against the law to take medicines containing the painkiller codeine into the United Arab Emirates or Greece. Ask your pharmacist for more advice.
Be careful when packing:
There are new regulations on what you're allowed to take as hand luggage so check with your flight operator before you travel to avoid any nasty surprises. Prescription medicines will also be subject to verification, although they may be allowed to exceed the 100ml limit placed on liquid toiletries and cosmetics. If you do need to take medicine with you, let your airline know as soon as possible. You'll need to carry documentation to identify the medicine, obtained from a relevant qualified medical professional (your GP is best).
Pharmacy tips:
Taking a translation of the documents will help avoid any problems on the return flight if your destination is not English-speaking (especially outside of Europe).
Travel sickness:
Your pharmacist can give you advice on available remedies as well as giving tips on how to prevent travel sickness, such as ensuring there is good ventilation and encouraging children who suffer with travel sickness to look out of the window instead of playing games or reading books as this can make it worse.
Pharmacy tips: Alcohol should be avoided while taking travel sickness tablets and the tablets may interact with other medicines you may be taking, so ask your pharmacist for advice on the best product for you.
Sunburn is something that you should definitely not have to suffer with on holiday. Visit your pharmacy before you go to make sure that you have the correct sunscreen for your holiday. It is recommended that an adult wears a sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF15 and for a child, SPF30. It will of course depend on where you're travelling to so ask your pharmacist for advice. You should apply sunscreen liberally before going out in the sun and make sure you reapply it every couple of hours throughout the day. Also, try to stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm. If you do get sunburn, cover the area immediately to prevent further damage. A cool shower can also help, as can applying after sun. If your skin starts to feel itchy a few days later and you start to peel, use a moisturiser. You can of course avoid all of this by making sure you apply sunscreen and stay in the shade.
Pharmacy tips: Don't be fooled by a cloudy sky! Just because you cannot see the sun, doesn't mean that it won't be causing damage to the skin.
Don't forget your anti-malarials:
It only takes one bite to become infected with malaria so make sure you take malaria prevention seriously. The type of antimalarial you need will depend on a number of factors including where you are going, your medical history, your age and whether you are pregnant. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
Pharmacy tips:  Unfortunately, no anti-malarial tablets and travel vaccines are 100% effective so it is essential to use other bite-avoidance precautions such as mosquito nets to go around your bed, skin repellents and plug in vaporisers.
Time travelling:
If you take regular medicines and will be travelling across different time zones, speak to your pharmacy before you go away as you may need to alter the way you take your medicine. For example, if you take the progesterone only pill, most only have a three hour window before the dose is classed as being missed so you may want to continue to take your pill using UK time or gradually adjust the dose by no more than three hours at a time so it fits in with your holiday destination time. Patients with epilepsy should be advised that if they need to adjust their dosing schedule, this should be done gradually until a convenient dosage regimen has been established. The Epilepsy Society advises that this should be done with guidance from the patient's GP.
Pharmacy tips:
Travelling across time zones can also cause jet lag. You can help lessen the effects of jet lag by making sure that you're hydrated and avoiding alcohol and caffeine which can disturb sleep.
Know your limits
If you're going on an all inclusive holiday, try to eat and drink as sensibly as you can. Overeating can cause a whole range of symptoms including heartburn, ingestion, nausea and constipation and over-drinking can of course cause the dreaded hangover. After you have eaten, try not to lie down right after you've had something to eat and if you really have to, use a couple of pillows so you sleep in a more upright position.
Over-the-counter painkillers can help with headaches and muscle aches caused by over-drinking.  Paracetamol-based remedies are usually preferable as aspirin may further irritate the stomach and increase nausea and sickness.
Pharmacy tips:
The best way to avoid a hangover of course is not to drink but if you do, drink sensibly and try to keep within the recommended limit (men, 3 -4 units per day and women 2-3.) Try to eat lots of carbohydrates as this will help to slow down the body's absorption of alcohol. Before you sleep, drink a pint or so of water and keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake during the night.
Must haves for a holiday health kit:
• Eye drops can help to replenish moisture after the humidity of aeroplanes especially if you wear contact lenses.
• Painkillers can be used to treat back pain and headaches. They can also be used to treat high temperatures in children
• Ear drops can help to treat the symptoms of ear infections - particularly common with children using swimming pools
• Make sure you have a good supply of plasters, wound dressings and antiseptic creams for minor scrapes and falls.


Chronic Pain Is Being Undertreated

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Chronic pain is being undertreated

It has been reported that a large number of patients with cancer and other debilitating conditions aren’t being given strong enough pain relief.  It is thought that doctors are reluctant to prescribe strong opioids, like morphine, due to patients’ concerns over addiction. It is also thought patients may wrongly assume that they are nearer the end of their life, as there is a misconception that opioids are only given during the final stages of terminal disease.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE),has issued new medical guidelines on the safe and effective prescribing of strong pain-relieving drugs for people living with and dying from a terminal condition, known as palliative care. The guidelines are designed to help healthcare professionals prescribe doses that improve both pain levels and quality of life. They also address side effects such as drowsiness and misconceptions about becoming addicted to opioid medication.

Pain is a common fear for people with an advanced or progressive disease but it can be largely controlled with the correct medication. This includes opioids, which, while susceptible to side effects like any other drug, are effective when prescribed appropriately.

Opioid drugs such as morphine provide some of the strongest pain relief available, but they also present the potential for certain side effects, such as a risk of extreme drowsiness and nausea. Due to their power they are usually prescribed to people suffering extreme pain, such as advanced cancer, but prescribing too low a dose or avoiding the use of opioids altogether can leave patients struggling with their pain. Equally, prescribing too large a dose can make a person too drowsy and weak, diminishing their quality of life.

This new clinical guidance sets out advice on the safe and effective prescribing of strong opioids for relieving pain in adults with advanced and progressive disease, often referred to as palliative care. The guidelines aim to improve pain management and patient safety but does not include care during the last days of life, otherwise known as end-of-life care. The guidelines have been issued by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which sets out the guidance and standards for treating specific conditions and disease within the NHS in England and Wales.
The guidance looks specifically at five pain-relieving opioids (morphine, diamorphine [heroin], buprenorphine, fentanyl and oxycodone) and provides advice on offering pain relief and the key considerations that need to be addressed when deciding  doses. It also provides advice on the management of some side effects associated with taking these medications, including nausea, constipation and drowsiness.

The guidelines further recommend that doctors discuss any concerns that patients and their families may have about side effects, addiction, tolerance and concerns that treatment with strong opioids signals that a patient is entering the final stages of their life.

Palliative Care

Palliative care is a specific type of care provided for patients living with and dying from a terminal condition. The aim is to help the person live as well as possible and avoid suffering wherever possible. The aim is to improve quality of life for patients and their families by providing care that addresses the patient’s individual needs physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and culturally.

Palliative care is provided by a range of health professionals, including GPs and specialist palliative care doctors and nurses. It can be provided in the home, a hospice, a hospital or a care home. End-of-life considered part of palliative care.

Chronic pain is common in advanced and progressive disease, and up to two thirds of people with cancer experience pain that requires a strong opioid. For patients experiencing strong pain, opioids are often prescribed. Opioid drugs come from either the opium poppy or are artificially produced. Strong opioids, such as morphine, are painkillers that act on the central nervous system to relieve severe pain. There is no standard dose of a strong opioid and the amount needed to ease the pain varies from person to person. Being offered strong opioids can happen at different stages in the course of a disease and it doesn’t necessarily mean a person is close the end of their life. However, there is concern that patients might perceive the use of opioids in this way, and become distressed.

Evidence suggests that despite increased availability of strong opioids in the UK, pain resulting from advanced disease often goes untreated. NICE reports that “misinterpretations and misunderstanding have surrounded the use of strong opioids for decades and these are only slowly being resolved”. They add that “until recently, prescribing advice has been varied and sometimes conflicting”.

Professor Mike Bennett, a professor of palliative medicine at the University of Leeds, said on this issue, “Almost half of patients with advanced cancer are under-treated for their pain, largely because clinicians are reluctant to use strong opioids.”

The NICE guidelines say that when offering treatment with strong opioids as pain relief to a patient, the patient should be asked about concerns such as addiction. Studies show that addiction is a common fear, but it is very rare for people in pain to become addicted to opioids in the same way that recreational heroin users might.

Patients that receive opioids are monitored carefully for any side effects, including the rare problem of addiction, to ensure their medication provides them the greatest relief possible without diminishing their quality of life.

People with concerns about the side effects of opioids and addiction can discuss these with their GP or treating doctor.
If you are concerned for yourself, or a family member, for instance in a care home; about medication and treatment for chronic pain you can discuss this with your pharmacist too, who can advise you on the best way to approach the doctor and what to discuss.














Could You Go Without Gluten For A Week?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Coeliac UK, the national charity for coeliac disease is challenging the nation to go gluten-free from 14-20 May to raise awareness of the daily food frustrations encountered by the 1 in 100 people in the UK who have coeliac disease.


The idea of the Gluten-free Challenge is for people to shop, cook or eat out completely gluten-free for a week in order to experience what it is like to be diagnosed with coeliac disease and have to check every ingredient on every packet to ensure it doesn't contain any gluten.


Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by intolerence to gluten. There is no cure and no medication and the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life.


The average diagnosis period is 13 years and currently only 10-15% of those with the condition are diagnosed, with half a million people in the UK currently undiagnosed. Left untreated it can lead to infertility, osteoporosis and small bowel cancer.


Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and is found in bread, pasta, pizza, cakes and beer etc. However, it is also often used in a wide range of products including mayonnaise, soy sauce, sauces, sausages and many processed goods.


Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK said: "After struggling for years to get diagnosed with coeliac disease many people are then faced with a complete change in diet and lifestyle. People may be surprised by how good some gluten-free products are and how many naturally gluten-free dishes there are on a restaurant menu. However there may also be frustrations by the unnecessary limitations on your diet, such as sauces made with wheat flour or fruit salad being the only suitable dessert on offer. But by taking the Challenge you will be doing your bit to help educate and to get the changes needed. Popping into your local restaurant and asking what they have which is gluten-free is spreading awareness and will hopefully encourage caterers to offer more gluten-free options for all customers."


Most pharmacies stock a range of products suitable for celiac sufferers and and always on hand to provide friendly, useful advice.

About Coeliac Disease

•           Coeliac disease is a serious illness where the body's immune system reacts to gluten found in food, making the body attack itself.


•           1 in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease, however only 10-15% of these have been diagnosed and average length of diagnosis is 13 years.


•           Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including spelt), rye and barley. Some people are also sensitive to oats. Obvious sources of gluten include breads, pastas, flours, cereals, cakes and biscuits. It is often used as an ingredient in many favourite foods such as fish fingers, sausages, gravies, sauces and soy sauce.


•           Coeliac UK is working closely with food industry to help the Free From market improve - look out for new product launches and ranges, which will increase the choice for people with coeliac disease.


•           The symptoms of coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with coeliac disease experiences gut related symptoms; any area of the body can be affected.


•           Symptoms can include bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, wind, tiredness, anaemia, headaches, mouth ulcers, recurrent miscarriages, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, joint or bone pain and nerve problems.


•           Around 1200 newly diagnosed people are joining Coeliac UK every month.


For further details on membership please call the Helpline on 0845 305 2060 further information can be found at


Breast Cancer Should Be 10 Different Diseases

Monday, 23 April 2012

Breast Cancer Should Be 10 Different Diseases


According to an international study which analysed breast cancers in 2000 women, breast cancer should be thought of as 10 separate diseases By treating different categories and tailoring treatment and drugs for the specific type of cancer patients can benefit from improved outcomes and predict survival more accurately.

The study was carried out by researchers from Cancer Research UK, the University of Cambridge, the University of Columbia, Canada and a number of other institutions worldwide. It was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Columbia Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The study was published in the respected and peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature.  Breast cancer is effectively ten different diseases and this “breakthrough research” could revolutionise the way we treat breast tumours.


During the study, researchers analysed 2,000 frozen samples of breast cancer tumours, taken from women diagnosed with the disease over the past 10 years. From this analysis, scientists found breast cancer could be classified into 10 different broad types according to their common genetic features. These different subgroups were associated with different outcomes for patients.


Understanding the genetic makeup of tumours is important as their genetics can potentially influence whether they are resistant or susceptible to particular drugs, and also their behaviour within the body. The aim of the study was to find out if the genetic characteristics of the tumours could be classified and matched according to clinical outcomes.


The study used a sizeable sample and has shown that breast cancer tumours can be classified into new subtypes with varying outlooks. As such, this research is a valuable contribution to scientists’ understanding of the genetic basis of breast cancer and it may also help to explain why, at present, some tumours appear to respond well to treatment while others do not. It is possible that doctors may be able to use this information to predict the outlook for individual breast cancer patients better in the future and tailor treatments accordingly.


The study will not affect the way women are currently treated for breast cancer. Before these findings can affect clinical practice, more work is required to understand how tumours classified under each subgroup behave, and also which treatments work best.

Professor Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK said “Essentially, we've moved from knowing what a breast tumour looks like under a microscope to pinpointing its molecular anatomy – and eventually we'll know which drugs it will respond to”.



It will take several years before researchers will know how treatments for breast cancer could be tailored to the new subtypes.


Women currently living with the condition should be aware that breast cancer generally is one of the cancers with the best outlooks. More than 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer will still be alive five years later, and survival rates are continuing to improve. Of course, a lot more work is needed in the fight against breast cancer, but it is worth remembering that, in recent decades, there have been massive improvements in the treatment of breast cancer, and women given a diagnosis at the present time have a good chance of long-term survival.


The researchers were able to classify the tumours into 10 different subtypes, based on similarities in their genetic characteristics. They found that the different subgroups had different clinical outcomes, including how likely women with different tumour types were to die from their breast cancer.


As part of their study, the researchers also identified several genes within the tumours that look like they may be involved in driving tumour growth. Many of these genes have not previously been thoroughly studied.


Overall, the researchers say that their findings show a new way to divide breast cancers into subgroups based on their genetic characteristics. As part of a press release Professor Carlos Caldas from Cancer Research UK, who was one of the lead authors, said:

"Our results will pave the way for doctors in the future to diagnose the type of breast cancer a woman has, the types of drugs that will work, and those that won't, in a much more precise way than is currently possible. This means that women who are diagnosed and treated fairly uniformly today will in the future receive treatment targeted to the genetic fingerprint of their tumour.” Professor Caldas also argues that the variations in tumour genetics mean that we should now consider breast cancer to be an umbrella term for a number of diseases.


The new research provides a large, thorough look at the genetic behaviour of breast tumours that each have different outlooks. This provides a valuable contribution to attempts to understand the genetic basis of breast cancer and why some treatments work and some don’t in different patients.

Further work is needed to understand how tumours classified under each subgroup behave and also how they respond to different treatments. Cancer Research UK is going to begin using the new subgroups in its clinical trials of treatments for breast cancer.


Bespoke cancer treatment

At the forefront of cancer research is the move towards “personalised treatment”, in which doctors look at the unique genetics of a tumour and create a bespoke treatment plan for the patient designed to take advantage of a tumour’s vulnerabilities. For example, if a breast tumour carries a gene that might make it resistant to the first choice drug, doctors might instead opt for a drug the tumour has no genetic resistance to.


A whole range of cancers are being analysed in this way, not just breast cancer, and it is hoped they represent a big step forward.


Hayfever: Top Tips For Sufferers As We Enter The Month The Season Begins

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Streaming eyes? Itchy nose, throat and mouth? Can’t stop sneezing?


Welcome to hay fever season, which kicks off in earnest in March and will make life miserable for up to 25% of the UK population suffering from this seasonal allergy to pollens.

The tree pollen season – which typically lasts from mid-March to mid-May – is almost upon us, and if that doesn’t get your eyes watering, grass pollen season kicks in mid-May and lasts until July.

So what can sufferers do to alleviate symptoms? Visiting your pharmacy is always a good place to start, your local pharmacist has lots of advice to give and a great understanding of all the products available to help ease your suffering.


Allergy specialist Dr Susan Aldridge, an expert at, gives her top ten tips for avoiding and reducing the symptoms of hay fever:

1. Reduce your exposure to pollen

Hay fever sufferers can limit the effects of plant pollen in the home by showering and changing clothes as soon as they get inside. Those with long hair or facial hair should shampoo it every day to get rid of trapped pollen, or keep hair tied back. Plants release pollens during the day, so those who find hay fever symptoms bad at night when the pollen count is lower, probably have pollens lingering in their bedrooms. Washing hair will keep them away from your pillow and bed sheets, helping to alleviate symptoms.


2. Clean regularly

Cleaning regularly and effectively can also reduce exposure to pollen. There are cleaning products available that will safely remove lingering pollen, some of which are non-toxic and free from perfumes and irritating additives. Likewise, wash clothes with anti-allergen laundry detergents to effectively and gently remove pollen.


Not all vacuum cleaners will pick up and trap smaller airborne particles like pollen. Use a leakage free vacuum with an HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter to clean carpets and upholstery.


3. Wear sunglasses

Sunglasses act as a physical barrier, preventing pollen from getting into, and directly irritating, your eyes. If you find your eyes stream – a very common symptom of hay fever – sunglasses will help provide some comfort in bright sunlight too.


4. Close windows

Warm air lifts pollen high into the atmosphere during the day. When air cools as dusk falls, pollen starts to descend. You may well be exposed to one of these ‘pollen showers’ in the early hours of the morning if you sleep with a window open.


5. Try barrier balms

Natural balms applied to the base of the nose and around the eyes throughout the day can trap some pollen before it enters the body. The stickier the balm, the more pollen it will trap.


6. Use an air purifier

These vary hugely in quality and price. A top quality air purifier is an investment, and an additional cost for replacement filters – which have to be changed every six to 36 months – should be factored in, but allergy sufferers who use air purifiers have reported significant changes, and even say the air ‘tastes’ or smells cleaner. Beware cheap air purifiers, as they will not trap the smallest particles. Instead, look for a model that has a high filtration efficiency to filter pollen grains out of indoor air, one that moves enough air to clean the room several times per hour, and that they do not produce negative byproducts such as ozone.


7. Practice nasal irrigation

Some sufferers find washing out the nasal passage can be effective in alleviating allergy symptoms. Saline sinus rinses are widely available in chemists, or you could make your own with 240 ml of warm bottled water and a quarter of a teaspoon of non-iodised salt.


A nasal decongestant, available as drops or a spray, may also be helpful, to clear a blocked nose. Ask your pharmacist for some advice.  Some of these are corticosteroids, which act by reducing inflammation. These include Beconase (beclomethasone) and Flixonase (fluticasone). Meanwhile, Otrivine/Sudafed (xylometazoline) is a non-corticosteroid nasal decongestant. All of these can be bought without prescription from your pharmacy.

8. Medication

If your symptoms are mild, use a long-acting non-sedating antihistamine such as Claritin (loratadine), NeoClaritin (desloratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Xyzal (levocetirizine) or Allegra (fexofenadine), which are all available over-the-counter from your pharmacy.  Your pharmacist will be pleased to help you with advice and recommendations.

The older antihistamines like chlorpheniramine (Piriton) and hydroxyzine (Atarax) have a significant sedating effect and should not be used if you are driving, operating machinery, or studying. If hay fever mainly affects your eyes, antihistamine eye drops, such as Otrivine (antazoline) may help.

Very severe hay fever can be treated with a short course of oral steroids. This option is very useful if you have a special occasion coming up, such as a wedding or an important interview where it is crucial you are symptom-free. If antihistamines and nasal steroids do not do the job, then there is also Singulair, a prescription medicine used treat asthma and allergies.

An antibody drug called Xolair (omalizumab), which targets the IgE antibody produced by the allergen, has also been introduced recently. This approach gets to the root cause of hay fever, because IgE activates mast cells, making them produce histamine that triggers the allergic symptoms.

9. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy - also known as desensitisation or allergy shots - offers a way of overcoming hay fever for some people. The system is flooded with pollen allergen in the hope that the body will eventually learn to ignore it. Patients for immunotherapy are carefully selected and treated in a specialist centre. The procedure now involves only four injections and has been shown to give lasting benefit. There is also a home version known as sublingual immunotherapy, in which the patient places medication under the tongue, but this is currently only available for grass pollen allergies. People with hay fever are eight times more likely to have asthma so one of the benefits of treating allergic rhinitis for long-term results with immunotherapy is that it may prevent asthma in the future.


10. Nutrition & natural remedies

There is evidence that symptoms can be exacerbated by dairy products, as the protein in cows’ milk can irritate the immune system and keep it in a state of over-reactivity. Wheat and citrus fruit have also been flagged up as increasing histamine production, and wheat and dairy are known to increase mucus production, which makes the symptoms of hay fever worse. Saturated fats found in red meat, dairy and sugary foods contain pro-inflammatory substances that can aggravate allergy symptoms and increase mucus production.


Capsaicin, the hot chemical in chillis, can provide long-lasting relief from hay fever symptoms. But beware, capsaicin treatment is powerful and can damage the delicate nasal passages. The spray treatment should only be applied under medical supervision.


RoActemra has been recommended for use on the NHS in England and Wales

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Roche’s RoActemra has been recommended for use on the NHS in England and Wales as a second-line treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) decided the medication is a cost-effective use of resources to treat patients with RA, in combination with methotrexate, for whom treatment with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs has been ineffective.


Previously, RoActemra had only been available for people with RA as a third-line treatment option if DMARDs had been ineffective, and if patients had also both demonstrated an inadequate response to one or more TNF inhibitors and could not take another Roche drug, MabThera (rituximab).

The recommendation is based on a patient access scheme agreed between Roche and the UK’s Department of Health, offering RoActemra at a discounted rate. Details of the access scheme are confidential, although the usual annual acquisition cost of the drug per year for an average-sized patient would be £9,295.

A similar scheme was agreed between Roche and the DH regarding RoActemra’s use as a treatment for systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. In that setting the drug is available on the NHS with a discount provided by Roche, but only if other treatments have not produced an adequate response.


According to NICE, the number of people that might be able to use RoActemra will be just 10 per cent of the 400,000 people in the England and Wales who are thought to have the condition.
Ailsa Bosworth, chief executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, said: “This decision is most welcome as it is vital that patients have effective options available as soon as one treatment approach fails.”


Noses Have 'Profound Effect On Body' New Report Concludes

Friday, 03 February 2012

At this time of year, when colds and virus infections are rife, we all recognise the symptoms of feeling blocked up and congested. Now a new report by a leading virologist has shed light on the science behind why nasal congestion makes us feel so rotten.

Dr Rob Lambkin-Williams, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Virology at the University of London who authored the report explains:


"The nose is an important part of the human body and many people don't realise the profound effect it can have on them when it's not working properly. When you catch a cold, a chain reaction is triggered in the nose where it becomes inflamed, starts producing excess mucus, which cannot clear quickly enough through the reduced airways and sinus pressure and pain builds up."


This then has a knock-on effect on many other aspects of life including breathing, sleep, ears, hearing and speech, as the ability to hear your own voice is significantly affected.


While a normal person will breathe in and out between 10-20 times per minute, this rate may substantially increase when suffering nasal congestion due to the need to compensate for the reduced oxygen that is taken in with every breath.


Dr Lambkin-Williams comments

"When your nose become inflamed, the airways shrink, and so your body has to work harder to get enough oxygen. This is why you often see people with gaping mouths when congested as they resort to breathing through their mouths."


The report also reveals the extent of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep fragmentation that results from nasal congestion.

Dr Lambkin-Williams continues

"Sleep disruption is common, with both sleep time and quality affected. This has been shown to have a direct impact on work performance, productivity, concentration levels and memory."


"However to compound things, not getting enough sleep can make you more susceptible to nasal congestion with evidence to suggest that if you sleep for fewer than seven hours, you're three times more likely to catch a cold."


Research also indicates that the impact of stress can also leave us susceptible to nasal congestion and colds.


Your local pharmacy is a great place to go for advice and a range of suitable products for colds, nasal congestion and sleeping aids.

To help ease the symptoms of nasal congestion and sinus pressure experts recommend:


• Keeping well hydrated


• Getting plenty of sleep


• Eating a healthy diet


• Keeping the upper body upright particularly at night and the head elevated as this may make breathing more comfortable


• Using an over-the-counter decongestant, which help reduce the swelling in your nose – available from you local pharmacy without a prescription


• Avoiding swimming pools as the chlorine can irritate the mucous membranes in your nasal passages


At this time of year, when colds and virus infections are rife, we all recognise the symptoms of feeling blocked up and congested. Now a new report by a leading virologist has shed light on the science behind why nasal congestion makes us feel so rotten.  Dr Rob Lambkin-Williams, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Virology at the University of London who authored the report explains:


"The nose is an important part of the human body and many people don't realise the profound effect it can have on them when it's not working properly. When you catch a cold, a chain reaction is triggered in the nose where it becomes inflamed, starts producing excess mucus, which cannot clear quickly enough through the reduced airways and sinus pressure and pain builds up."


This then has a knock-on effect on many other aspects of life including breathing, sleep, ears, hearing and speech, as the ability to hear your own voice is significantly affected.  While a normal person will breathe in and out between 10-20 times per minute, this rate may substantially increase when suffering nasal congestion due to the need to compensate for the reduced oxygen that is taken in with every breath. Dr Lambkin-Williams comments

"When your nose become inflamed, the airways shrink, and so your body has to work harder to get enough oxygen. This is why you often see people with gaping mouths when congested as they resort to breathing through their mouths."


The report also reveals the extent of sleep-disordered breathing and sleep fragmentation that results from nasal congestion. Dr Lambkin-Williams continues "Sleep disruption is common, with both sleep time and quality affected. This has been shown to have a direct impact on work performance, productivity, concentration levels and memory."


"However to compound things, not getting enough sleep can make you more susceptible to nasal congestion with evidence to suggest that if you sleep for fewer than seven hours, you're three times more likely to catch a cold."


Research also indicates that the impact of stress can also leave us susceptible to nasal congestion and colds.

Your local pharmacy is a great place to go for advice and a range of suitable products for colds, nasal congestion and sleeping aids. To help ease the symptoms of nasal congestion and sinus pressure experts recommend:

• Keeping well hydrated


• Getting plenty of sleep


• Eating a healthy diet


• Keeping the upper body upright particularly at night and the head elevated as this may make breathing more comfortable


• Using an over-the-counter decongestant, which help reduce the swelling in your nose – available from you local pharmacy without a prescription


• Avoiding swimming pools as the chlorine can irritate the mucous membranes in your nasal passages



Reviews Announced To Ensure Safety Of Cosmetic Surgery

Friday, 13 January 2012

Reviews Announced To Ensure Safety Of Cosmetic Surgery


The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, today announced a series of steps to respond to recent concerns regarding French Poly Implant Prostheses (PiP) implants (breast implants).

The first step will be a review led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS Medical Director and will look at the arrangements for ensuring the safety of people seeking cosmetic interventions such as breast implants and dermal fillers.


Sir Bruce Keogh will reconstitute his expert group, formed last week, and will look at:


- how the cosmetic sector can improve the quality and safety of care through better governance based on better quality data collection and improved professional development;

- whether cosmetic products and interventions are appropriately regulated;

- and if not how regulation of the sector in the UK and in Europe can be improved


Lessons also need to be learned from how the regulation of medical devices operates at a European level, and this work is already underway.


The Health Secretary announced a rapid review, looking at what happened within the UK, led by the Minister for Quality, Lord Howe. More details will be published shortly.


The blame for what happened lies with PiP, but the findings from this review will enable us to learn lessons to improve future regulatory effectiveness, and influence the conclusions of the European Commission.


In addition, the Care Quality Commission will conduct a swift review of private clinics that offer cosmetic surgery. They will look at whether they meet essential levels of safety and quality and at the information and support they provide to their patients. Where a provider does not meet these requirements, the CQC has a wide range of enforcement powers that it can use to protect the safety of patients.


Andrew Lansley said:


"My concern throughout this situation has been for the safety and wellbeing of all women with PiP implants.


"We have set out how the NHS will help patients affected, and we expect the private sector to do the same.


"We must now go further and this is why I have set out today a number of actions to ensure we learn the lessons, and look at how we can tighten up regulation of the wider cosmetic industry so that this doesn't happen again."

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, said:

"The safety of people who decide to have cosmetic surgery or a cosmetic intervention is my sole aim. The vast majority of practitioners in the cosmetic industry are professional and well skilled - but I'm concerned that the sector as a whole does not have the systems for monitoring the results for patients and alerting us to possible problems.

"I will work with the industry to improve regulation and governance and increase consumer confidence."


Detox Tips For The New Year

Thursday, 15 December 2011

After the Christmas binge many people look at January as the perfect time to give their body a rest and clean. Psychologically it’s the start of a fresh new year, and physically it follows Christmas where most of us have over-indulged with too much unhealthy eating and drinking. So start the new year by giving your body the chance to fell tip top again.
Your local pharmacy can be the best place to start with lots of friendly free advice and a whole range of different products to help detox and improve your general health.
Detoxing has many benefits – it can enhance your energy levels, aid weight loss, clear the skin and improve digestion.
Ilona Wesle is a nutritionist and co-founder of MyDetoxDiet, and she suggests following these detox tips for seven days…
1) Avoid black tea, coffee and alcohol. Instead drink herbal tea, for example nettle is great at supporting the kidneys.
2) Drink at least 1 litre of water per day – ideally more. Keep a bottle near you or by your desk and sip regularly – you’ll be amazed how easy it is if you drink little and often.
3) Drink fresh juices, e.g. carrot, beetroot, apple and cucumber as they are fantastically nourishing and cleansing
4) Avoid processed foods e.g. ready meals, savory snacks and biscuits. Instead eat food in its natural state. Cook it by steaming, lightly boiling or poaching – this way you will keep most of the goodness in the food (and retain the full flavour)
5) Chose fresh and if possible, organic, food in order to minimize your intake of toxic pesticides. Even if you cant make every item organic, do the best you can – it will make a difference
6) Eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day – ideally more. At lunchtime and for dinner, aim to cover at least 60% of your plate with vegetables and eat as much variety as possible
7) Reduce your consumption of animal products. Avoid dairy and replace milk with soya or nut milks. Lentils, beans, quinoa, seeds and nuts are good protein alternatives
8) And finally, you can support the Detox process by getting a good night’s sleep and excercising regularly, maybe try Yoga or Pilates, or treat yourself to a massage.
By looking after your body now you will give yourself the best chance to stay healthy in the cold months ahead and enjoy life to the full.

After the Christmas binge many people look at January as the perfect time to give their body a rest and clean. Psychologically it’s the start of a fresh new year, and physically it follows Christmas where most of us have over-indulged with too much unhealthy eating and drinking. So start the new year by giving your body the chance to fell tip top again.

Your local pharmacy can be the best place to start with lots of friendly free advice and a whole range of different products to help detox and improve your general health. Detoxing has many benefits – it can enhance your energy levels, aid weight loss, clear the skin and improve digestion. Ilona Wesle is a nutritionist and co-founder of MyDetoxDiet, and she suggests following these detox tips for seven days…


1) Avoid black tea, coffee and alcohol. Instead drink herbal tea, for example nettle is great at supporting the kidneys.

2) Drink at least 1 litre of water per day – ideally more. Keep a bottle near you or by your desk and sip regularly – you’ll be amazed how easy it is if you drink little and often.

3) Drink fresh juices, e.g. carrot, beetroot, apple and cucumber as they are fantastically nourishing and cleansing

4) Avoid processed foods e.g. ready meals, savory snacks and biscuits. Instead eat food in its natural state. Cook it by steaming, lightly boiling or poaching – this way you will keep most of the goodness in the food (and retain the full flavour)

5) Chose fresh and if possible, organic, food in order to minimize your intake of toxic pesticides. Even if you cant make every item organic, do the best you can – it will make a difference

6) Eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day – ideally more. At lunchtime and for dinner, aim to cover at least 60% of your plate with vegetables and eat as much variety as possible

7) Reduce your consumption of animal products. Avoid dairy and replace milk with soya or nut milks. Lentils, beans, quinoa, seeds and nuts are good protein alternatives

8) And finally, you can support the Detox process by getting a good night’s sleep and excercising regularly, maybe try Yoga or Pilates, or treat yourself to a massage. By looking after your body now you will give yourself the best chance to stay healthy in the cold months ahead and enjoy life to the full.


British women fattest in Europe

Thursday, 01 December 2011

According to figures released by the European Commission British women are the fattest in Europe.  The data comes from the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) published by Eurostat, the EU's statistical office.  The figures show that nearly a quarter (23.9 per cent) of women in the UK were obese in 2008/09, when the data was recorded.
British men were not far behind on 22.1%.  The study ranked British men as the third fattest in Europe, with 67.8 per cent of males aged 15 or older either overweight or obese - only Greece (77.5 per cent) and Malta (73.3 per cent) were fatter.
The report also found that Britain is the ninth least active nation in the world, with 63.3 per cent of adults taking less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.  Separate figures showed that about a third, 32%, of English children aged 11 to 15 are overweight or obese.
The data released by the commission showed the proportion of obese people among adults in Europe ranged from 8% to 23.9% for women and 7.6% to 24.7% for men.
In all of the 19 member states that data was available for, the share of overweight and obese people increased with age.  The proportion of women who were obese or overweight was also shown to fall as the educational level rose.
The high levels of obesity in the UK are in contrast to countries like Romania, where just 8% of women and 7.6% of men are classed as obese.
The figure is far worse than most other countries, for example, by comparison, 12.7 per cent of French women are overweight, 14.4 per cent of Spaniards and just 9.3 per cent of Italians.
Experts from the European Commission, which compiled the figures for the year 2008/9, are concerned at the number of young British women who are obese.
Across most of Europe, very few 18- to 24-year-olds are obese but in Britain 16.6 per cent of young women are too fat.  Between the ages of 18 and 24, almost one woman in four is so fat their health is suffering.
The statistics come weeks after Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launched a new goal to bring down England's obesity levels by 2020.  He said Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day and urged people to be honest with themselves about what they eat and drink.
Obesity is placing a major toll on health services in the UK, with related hospital admissions up by more than 30% since 2008/9.  Cardiovascular disease is Britain’s number one killer, accounting for more than 191,000 deaths every year.
A man or woman is defined as obese if their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or above and overweight if it is between 25 and 30.
The BMI is a measure of a person's weight relative to their height. It is calculated by dividing body weight by body height squared.
If you would like to know your BMI and are unsure of how to check you should call into your local pharmacy who will be able to tell you.  If you are overweight or worried about being overweight your local pharmacy can be a huge help with free, confidential advice and a comprehensive range of products and programmes available to help you.



Men In Doubt Still Don't Get Checked Out!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Men are almost twice as likely to die from mouth cancer and statistics consistently show they are less likely to consult with a doctor than their female counterparts. But with rates of incidence and mortality rising at an incredible rate, men can no longer afford to ignore the increasing threat of a killer disease.


Mouth cancer cases in the UK have almost doubled in the last decade, rising to 6,000 every year with almost 4,000 of those coming from men and although there are some clear early warning signs many postpone seeking professional advice, leaving fatality rates of the disease at 50 per cent.


This is supported by data from the Office of National Statistics, which reveals that women are twice as likely to see their GP as men, visiting the doctors an average of six times a year compared to just three for men. Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, puts this failing down to a lack of general cancer health knowledge in men and warns that ignoring the issue can lead to severe problems in future.


Dr Carter said: "For almost all types of cancer, men will die more often than women. There's no biological reason that this should be the case so the reason must be purely down to the timing of diagnosis. Unfortunately, when men do go to their GP their condition may be at a far more advanced stage and therefore much more difficult to treat.


"By ignoring or dismissing the early and minor symptoms the disease will become rapidly advanced so that when they do seek help it makes it so much harder for treatment to be successful. The message is simple... 'If in doubt, get checked out.'"


One in two people who contract mouth cancer will die without early diagnosis, which can improve the five year survival rate to 90 per cent.


However, while the treatment of many cancers is resulting in an improvement of survival rates, the same cannot be said for mouth cancer, of which the proportion that dies has remained fairly constant over the last ten years.


Dr Carter added: "Regrettably, most men will only resort to seeing their GP because their partner has 'told' them to - this must change, as must the education of health issues to all men. The first stage in this process is being able to identify the risks factors. Smoking, drinking alcohol to excess, poor diet and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted via oral sex, are all risk groups of the disease. The good news is that these are environmental and lifestyle choices, which can be avoided and altered."


Early detection is critical to the survival of mouth cancer sufferers. Learn and recognise the warning signs, which include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth, and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.


About Mouth Cancer

•           Around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade.

•           Sufferers of the condition include American actor Michael Douglas, BBC Broadcaster Danny Baker and ex England and Manchester United Football Captain Bryan Robson.

•           Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness - including mouth cancer.

•           Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times. Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.

•           Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the diseas


Lack Of Mouth Cancer Symptoms Awareness Deemed "Alarming"

Thursday, 03 November 2011

Lack Of Mouth Cancer Symptoms Awareness Deemed "Alarming"


A new nationwide survey which has revealed a worrying lack of public awareness into mouth cancer symptoms has been described as "alarming" by one of the UK's leading health experts.


Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, made the comments following a study commissioned by the oral healthy charity discovered that more than four in five (81 per cent) failed to know any symptoms of the disease.


The survey, which questioned more than 800 people, looked particularly into the behaviours and attitudes of children aged 12 - 16 and their parents, in a bid to discover their level of understanding in a disease which is progressively affecting a greater number of younger people.


Results found that more than three in every four parents (76 per cent) failed to recognise any early warning signs of the disease which is diagnosed in 6,000 people in the UK every year. Of the young people asked, six out of seven (85 per cent) 12 to 16 year olds admitted to not knowing one of the early symptoms of mouth cancer.


Perhaps more worryingly, in a disease notoriously known for affecting men, the awareness of males was particularly low with only one in six (17 per cent) knowing any of the symptoms.


Dr Carter said: "The lack of awareness towards a disease which has increased by nearly 50 per cent in the last ten years is truly alarming. It is really important that everyone knows the warning signs for mouth cancer. They include ulcers which do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth.  Our message to everyone is 'If in doubt, get checked out.'


"In the past mouth cancer was a disease which predominately affected males over 40 but this is no longer necessarily true. Changes in lifestyles amongst women and younger people and their attitudes towards drinking and smoking have meant that these groups are increasingly in danger.


"It is vital that parents in particular know the symptoms so they can then pass this knowledge on to their children."


The British Dental Health Foundation conducted the survey in the run up to Mouth Cancer Action Month, which begins on 1 November 2011. Over two thirds of mouth cancer cases are detected at a late stage, reducing chances of survival by half while early detection transforms survival chances to more than 90 per cent.


"Early diagnosis makes a huge difference to your chance of survival. We hope this campaign will help raise the awareness of the symptoms and early warnings signs and encourage people to take the important first step of going to their doctor or dentist if they have concerns."


About Mouth Cancer

•     Around 60,000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with mouth cancer over the next decade.

•    Sufferers of the condition include American actor Michael Douglas, BBC Broadcaster Danny Baker and ex England and Manchester United Football Captain Bryan Robson.

•    Tobacco use is still considered the main cause of mouth cancer. According to the World Health Organisation, up to half of current smokers will die of a tobacco-related illness - including mouth cancer.

•     Drinking to excess can increase the risk of mouth cancer by four times.  Those who smoke and drink are up to 30 times more likely to develop mouth cancer.

•     Mouth cancer is twice more common in men than in women, though an increasing number of women are being diagnosed with the disease.

•    Age is another factor, with people over the age of 40 more likely to be diagnosed, though more young people are now being affected than previously.

•    Poor diet is linked to a third of all cancer cases, and experts suggest the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), transmitted through oral sex, could overtake tobacco and alcohol as the main risk factor within the coming decade.

Research Findings


The Foundation surveyed 802 respondents in September 2011, including 183 people aged 12-16 and 206 parents of children aged 12-16.

•    81% of adults don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.

•    85% of young people aged 12 to 16 don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.

•    76% of parents with children between the ages of 12 and 16 don't know the symptoms of mouth cancer.


MPs take diabetes test

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

MPs take diabetes test – so should you


The  Opposition Leader Ed Miliband MP,  Cabinet Minister and Conservative Party Chairman, Baroness Warsi, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes MP, along with 65 other Members of Parliament attended the recent launch of the Silver Star diabetes challenge at the Houses of Parliament. On Wednesday 19th October, as part of Diwali at Westminster, MP’s took the quick and easy Type 2 diabetes test to help raise awareness of the need for public testing for the disease.  Your local pharmacy is also able to offer advice on diabetes and should be able to provide a quick and simple test.


As part of the Challenge, MPs were issued with a Pedometer that will measure the amount of steps taken over 50 Parliamentary Days. The public can keep track of their MP’s position on the Silver Star website and the winner of the 50 day challenge will be announced in February 2012.


Special Guest Hari Dhillon, Dr. Michael Spence on BBC’s Holby City, joined in the effort to highlight the problem of diabetes worldwide, ‘The evening was a triumph and I was delighted to contribute to such a worthwhile cause’.

Launched in January 2007, Silver Star is a registered charity campaigning to raise diabetes awareness. The Charity runs Mobile Diabetes Units (MDU) that carry out important diabetes testing and promote culturally sensitive healthcare, with particular regard to the high prevalence of diabetes in the major towns and cities of Britain. The Units travel to local community centres, schools, work places and other organisations. The Mobile Diabetes Assessment Units have testing equipment, beds, washing facilities and an entrance for disabled people.


The NHS spends £1 million an hour on diabetes related illnesses and it is estimated that more than 1 million people in the UK may have diabetes without knowing it.

Chairman of the Trustees for Silver Star, Dr Modhwadia said ‘The diabetes test is so quick and easy. It takes two minutes and can save lives. I am delighted that so many MPs have decided to take the test today and have undertaken the Challenge as it raises awareness of this largely unseen health condition”.


If you suffer from diabetes, or would like to discuss any aspect of the condition, your local pharmacy is an ideal place to visit without needing an appointment.


Oral Facts and Tips – Fluoride

Friday, 07 October 2011

Oral Facts and Tips – Fluoride


The use of fluoride in improving oral health is one that has been long documented and often prompts fierce debate between those who advocate its use and those who do not. Whatever your view, there’s no hiding the positive effect fluoride has had on oral health.


Having the full facts about fluoride will help you make a more informed decision about its use, and the British Dental Health Foundation is offering the following facts and tips to help that process.




1. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in many foods and in all drinking water.


2. Fluoride can greatly help dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay.


3. The addition of fluoride to water supplies has been researched for over 50 years, and water fluoridation has been proven to reduce tooth decay by 40-60 per cent.


4. Only Hartlepool and Essex have enough natural fluoride in their water to benefit dental health. Other places have to have it added to their water supply. Only around 12 per cent of the population have fluoridated water mostly in the West Midlands and North East.


5. The addition of fluoride in toothpaste has been responsible for reducing decay by up to 50 per cent.


6. All children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million).  After three years old they should use a toothpaste that has 1350-1500ppm. These figures should be on the outer packaging.


7. Fluoride varnishes applied by the dentist can help further reduce children’s dental decay.


8. Fluoride varnish treatments for children on the NHS have increased by 55 per cent in 2010/20112 and prescription of high fluoride toothpaste  for those most at risk has increased by 34.9 per cent (2800ppm) and 27.5 per cent (5000ppm)3.


9. There is no scientific evidence of any adverse effects of water fluoridation as claimed by those who oppose it.


10. Levels of dental decay have fallen in fluoridated and non fluoridated areas in the UK, but distinct inequalities still exist.





In addition to following the Foundation’s three key rules for good oral health4, the following tips are recommended when it comes to fluoride use:


1. Parents should supervise their children’s tooth brushing until age 7 and only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.


2. Parents should also encourage their child to spit the toothpaste out and not swallow it or rinse after brushing


3. Fluoride supplements should only be taken on the advice of the dentist.


4. If you are unsure how much fluoride is in your water, contact your local water company

Ask your dentist or pharmacist about fluoride varnishes and the range of dental products to help protect your child's teeth from decay.


For free, confidential and impartial advice about how to improve your oral care, contact the Foundation’s Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188 or email: Alternatively, visit the Tell Me About section of the Foundation’s website at



1. The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity, with a 40–year track record of providing public information and influencing government policy. It maintains a free consumer advice service, an impartial and objective product accreditation scheme, publishes and distributes a wide range of literature for the profession and consumers, and runs National Smile Month ( each May, to promote greater awareness of the benefits of better oral health.


Please visit the Foundation’s Twitter accounts: dentalhealthorg, mouthcancerorg and smilemonth and add our Facebook fan–page: ‘British Dental Health Foundation’. For information and free expert advice on oral health issues call the National Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188, or alternatively visit


2. Source: NHS Dental Statistics for England: 2010/11. NHS Information Centre.


3. Source: Prescribing by Dentists, 2010: England. NHS Information Centre.


4. Three key rules for good oral health:


The British Dental health Foundation promotes three key messages for good oral health:


Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste.

Cut down on how often you eat sugary food and drinks.


Remember your local pharmacy stocks a comprehensive range of products to help look after your teeth and oral health and are always available with friendly, professional advice.


Long-term painkiller use linked to cancer risk

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Some newspapers reported “Painkillers triple the risk of kidney cancer,” this week.  They stated that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), such as ibuprofen for 10 years tripled the risk of the most common kidney cancer – renal cell cancer.


This research was based on two large studies carried out for up to 20 years that included 77,525 women and 49,403 men, during which time 333 people developed kidney cancer. Those people in the study who regularly took non-aspirin NSAIDs (two or more times a week) were 51% more likely to develop kidney cancer than non-regular users. There was also an association between length of use and the risk of renal cell cancer, with more than 10 years of regular use tripling the risk.

However, renal cell cancer is relatively rare and less than 0.3% of the study group developed it during the 20-year follow-up period so only a small number developed kidney cancer.


This places uncertainty about the accuracy of these risk estimates. The uncertainty is increased because in this study the cancer cases were further divided into how frequently they used NSAIDs. For example, the reported tripling in risk applied to people who regularly used NSAIDs for more than 10 years and this group included only 19 of the cancer cases. As such the tripled risk figure should be interpreted with caution.

This study appears to show an increase in risk of kidney cancer with non-aspirin NSAID use. It is important to point out that the link was only significant if the drugs were taken regularly for a long time. It is also important to put these findings in perspective for the individual, and highlight that the absolute risk of kidney cancer is low. However, in light of the widespread use of NSAIDs, this is an important finding requiring further study and follow-up.


How was the story covered?

The study was carried out by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham Women’s Hospital. Funding was provided by the US National Institutes of Health, the Kidney Cancer Association and the Dana-Farber/ Harvard Cancer Center Kidney Cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The newspapers that reported the findings did give adequate top-level coverage of this research however, both reports would have benefited from highlighting that although there was a tripling in risk for taking these drugs for more than 10 years, the absolute risk remained low.


What kind of research was this?

This was an analysis of two prospective cohort studies aimed at investigating whether there was an association between painkiller use and the most common type of kidney cancer - renal cell cancer.

The researchers say that painkillers are the most commonly used drugs in the USA, and that some studies have demonstrated potential health benefits from aspirin and painkillers such as ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) including protection from cardiovascular disease and bowel (colorectal) cancer.

However, they say that some population data have shown that painkiller use may also be associated with an increased risk of developing renal cell cancer. These predominantly case-control studies compared lifestyle and other factors between people who had renal cell cancer and people who did not. Unfortunately, these previous studies were small, assessing fewer than 100 people with renal cell cancer, and had only short follow-up.

In this study the researchers wanted to analyse data from prospective cohort studies so that they could follow people who didn’t have kidney cancer over time to try to determine factors that were associated with the development of kidney cancer. By looking at data from two cohorts they had, in total, data from more than 170,000 people.


What was involved in the research?

The two cohorts in the study were the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS), which enrolled 121,700 female nurses aged 30 to 55 years in 1976, and the Health Professionals Follow–up Study (HPFS), which enrolled 51,529 male health professionals aged between 40 and 75 in 1986.

Every two years the cohort participants were sent a questionnaire asking them about lifestyle factors, including their use of painkillers. The NHS study started to ask about aspirin use in 1980, but only started to ask about non-aspirin painkillers in 1990. For this reason the researchers started their current analysis from 1990 onwards so that they could look at all types of painkillers. They started their analysis of the HPFS from its start in 1986.


The researchers collected information on dosage (number of tablets taken per week) and investigated the reasons why people took painkillers by questioning a sample of 200 women in the NHS in 1990. In 1999 an extra questionnaire was also sent to a sample of 4,238 nurses in the NHS study, again asking why people took painkillers and what type of NSAID they used.

To maintain consistency across the cohorts and with previous studies, the researchers defined regular painkiller users as those who took one type of painkiller two or more times a week.


Using the data collected from the cohorts the researchers also assessed other risk factors for renal cell cancer. These included smoking, weight (BMI), how physically active the person was and history of high blood pressure. In every two-year questionnaire the participants were asked about whether they had been diagnosed with cancer. If the participants reported kidney cancer (or the next-of-kin for participants who had passed away), the researchers asked permission to look at their medical records to determine which type of kidney cancer they had.


What were the basic results?

The follow-up period was up to 16 years among the 77,525 women in the NHS study and up to 20 years among the 49,403 men. In total there were 333 cases of renal cell cancer - 153 of these were women and 180 men.

The most frequently taken painkiller was aspirin. Other drugs taken by the women who took aspirin were non-aspirin NSAIDS (12%), paracetamol (10%) and both medications (4%). In men, 6% took aspirin and non-aspirin NSAIDs, 8% took aspirin and paracetamol, and 1% took aspirin, non-aspirin NSAIDs and paracetamol.

Women and men who regularly took painkillers were more likely to be past smokers and to have a history of high blood pressure.

The researchers found that the use of aspirin or paracetamol was not associated with renal cell cancer risk. Regular use of non-aspirin NSAIDs at the start of the study was associated with an increased risk. Compared with non-regular use of these painkillers, frequent use was associated with a 51% increased risk (Relative Risk [RR] 1.51; 95% Confidence Interval 1.12 to 2.04).


The researchers then looked at the risks associated with duration of use. For people regularly using non-aspirin NSAIDS:

•           for less than four years there was no increased risk compared with non-regular users (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.59 to 1.11)

•           for four to ten years there was no increased risk compared with non-regular users (RR 1.36, 95% CI 0.98 to 1.89)

•           for more than 10 years, there was an almost three times increased risk compared with non-regular users (RR 2.92, 95% CI, 1.71 to 5.01)

Finally, the researchers carried out an analysis of whether there was a dose-dependent relationship between non-aspirin NSAID use and risk of renal cell cancer. This showed a statistically significant trend for increasing risk with increasing duration of frequent use of non-aspirin NSAIDs.


How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers said that “longer duration of use of non-aspirin NSAIDs may increase the risk of renal cell cancer”. They also said “risk and benefits should be considered in deciding whether to use analgesics; if our findings are confirmed an increased risk of renal cell cancer should be considered”.



This pooled analysis of two large cohorts has demonstrated an association between frequent use of non-aspirin NSAIDs and an increased risk of a type of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma. Two strengths of this study were its large size and that it prospectively followed participants for a long time. A large cohort was important as the incidence of renal cell cancer is relatively low (about 0.26% of the pooled cohort developed it).

However, the small number of cases is likely to decrease the accuracy of these risk estimates, particularly when the cases are further divided by how frequently they used NSAIDs. For example, though a tripled risk of renal cell cancer was found for people who used NSAIDs regularly for more than 10 years compared with people not using them regularly, only 14 people with renal cell cancer had used NSAIDs for this period of time. Therefore, risk calculations involving such small numbers should be interpreted with some caution.


The researchers noted several other potential limitations to their study. They said that although they took into account some potential confounding factors, there could have been some that they did not adjust for. For example, they said that patients with renal cell cancer may have started to take the painkillers before being diagnosed with the cancer to treat the symptoms. However, they said that as the largest association was found in people who had been taking the non-aspirin NSAID for a long duration, it is unlikely that this potential confounder influenced the results.


This study followed two North American cohorts from the late eighties. The most frequently used and most available non-aspirin NSAIDs may be different from those that are used in the UK. The researchers said that they have only recently started to collect more detailed information on the dose of NSAIDs, but as yet the follow-up from this subsequent investigation is not long enough to provide more information on the possible relationship between non-aspirin NSAIDs and renal cell cancer risk. They say that with longer follow-up, they would be able to give more detail on the dose-response relationship between non-aspirin NSAIDs and renal cell cancer risk.

Despite these limitations, this study highlights a potential risk of frequent, long-term use of non-aspirin NSAIDs relative to non-frequent long-term use. Although it should be emphasised that the absolute risk of developing renal cell cancer is small, as NSAIDs are very widely used, any risks, however small, warrant further study. This study is likely to highlight to doctors the importance of weighing up the potential risks and benefits when prescribing different types of painkillers for people who have chronic conditions, but should not concern people who use non-aspirin NSAIDS in the short term.


When to consult your pharmacist


If you have any questions or concerns about the painkillers you are taking or to discuss the range available you should speak to your local pharmacist.  There are numerous options available and some will be more suitable to your needs than others.  Pharmacists are experts in the range of painkillers available to you over the counter or as a specialist pharmacy only medicine (P Medicine), kept behind the counter, without the need to contact your doctor.


Health Crisis For Britain's Middle-Aged

Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Middle-aged Britons are experiencing a mid-life health crisis, according to new research from Bupa, which shows that those aged 45-54 are more likely to be obese, more likely to smoke and more likely to suffer from depression than their peers around the world.


* British middle-aged fare worst in the world for health


* 45-54 year olds suffer worse physical and mental health than all other generations


The international Bupa Health Pulse study, which asked more than 13,000 people in 12 different countries questions about their health and lifestyles has shown that late-middle age is the toughest time health-wise for Britons. No other country in the survey - which included Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia showed such a consistent range of unhealthy results for this age group.


The study, which questioned more than 2,000 people in the UK, found:


* Obesity: Over a third (35%) of British 45-54 year olds are obese - double the international average for this age group (17%).

* Smoking: A quarter (24%) of 45-54 year old smokers get through 10 or more cigarettes a day compared with an international average of 18 per cent.

* Depression: Over a quarter (27%) of those polled in this age group say they suffer from depression compared with just 17 per cent internationally.

* Negative outlook: Nearly half of British 45-54 year olds (45%) say they feel negative about their financial situation, 30 per cent feel negative about their career and 21 per cent feel negative about life in general - all higher than the international average.


Dr Sneh Khemka, medical director, Bupa International said:

"The Bupa Health Pulse survey makes alarming reading for a generation of Britons. The research reveals not only that Britain's middle-aged are suffering from a health crisis, but also that the problem is particularly apparent in Britain.

"People hitting 45 often find the unhealthy excesses of their youth are catching up with them just at the time when their financial and personal responsibilities are growing and they are increasingly time poor. These combined elements mean that, for this age group, health can fall down their list of priorities.

"Fortunately however, there are no medical reasons why middle aged Britons should fare worse for health than other age groups, or their peers around world - so it's possible to tackle this trend. While Bupa's research shows that no one country in the world has the perfect formula for good health, the fact that this middle aged health crisis is a UK dominant problem, demonstrates that there is much we can and must learn from other countries."


The survey recommends the following:

* Be more self-aware. Britons need to face the reality of their poor health. In the UK, where we have an obesity problem, more people are overweight than think they are. In Asian countries, including Thailand, China and Hong Kong where they predominately have a healthy BMI, more people think they're overweight than those who actually are.


* Reprioritise. Britons need to achieve a better work/life balance and to appreciate that emotional health is intrinsically linked to good health. Latin American countries are the most upbeat and positive about life, their health and the future. In the UK, we could learn from Mexico and Brazil where they have stronger emphasis on social life, and prioritise family and friends.


* Challenge the status quo. Britons should challenge their social norms. In India where people's social lives predominately revolve around family activities, very few people drink alcohol. In the UK, where more people drink than in any other country, people's social lives often revolve around the local pub. We have room to be more inventive with what we do socially, and come up with healthier alternatives.


* Look East for nutritional inspiration. Britons could do with taking a good look at their diet and take inspiration from other countries. In Asia, where rates of obesity are much lower than in the UK, they have much less salt, saturated fat and sugar in their diets than in Western countries. They also eat more vegetables and fruit. It is often easier than it seems to experiment with your diet.


Your local pharmacy is the ideal place to start to evalulate your lifestyle. Always welcoming with friendly advice, the pharmacist will also be able to discuss weight issues, smoking cessation etc. and offer solutions. You can also get your BMI, blood pressure etc. confirmed which can often be a good starting point.



All Nurofen Plus packs re-called

Friday, 26 August 2011

Reckitt Benckiser, in consultation with Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA ) has issued a recall of all packs of Nurofen Plus. Customers can call the company on 0500 455 456 for further information.


Following the MHRA safety alert warning on Nurofen Plus tablets issued on thursday in response to reports of packs containing Seroquel XL 50mg, two further cases have come to light; one pack was found to contain Seroquel XL 50mg and another, Neurontin 100mg capsules. Seroquel is an anti-psychotic made by Astra Zeneca and Neurontin is used to treat epilepsy and made by Pfizer.


Consumers are advised to return any packs, opened or un-opened, to their pharmacy where a refund will be provided. Pharmacies are advised to return all stock to their wholesaler.


The company says the sabotage is suspected and that it is working "with police on a formal investigation" to identify those responsible. Meanwhile, all distribution of Nurofen Plus has been ceased. Customers can call the company on 0500 455 456 for further information.



Tips for Healthy Packed Lunches for the New School Year

Friday, 26 August 2011

A sigh of relief may be heard around the country in a matter of weeks, as many exhausted parents send their little ones back to school.


However, with the new school year about to start, many parents begin the process of that infamous New School Year Resolution: Healthy Packed Lunches.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) is issuing some quick and handy tips to create, not only healthy packed lunches, but packed lunches that are full of flavour and variety.


Rachel Cooke, British Dietetic Association Spokesperson said:

“What children eat at a young age has a massive impact on their eating habits for life, so it is essential we get the younger generation into choosing and enjoying healthy nutritious food.

“When putting together a packed lunch, it is so easy to go down the usual route of packets of salty savoury snacks crisps, bars of chocolate, fizzy drinks and the same old boring sandwich day after day.  Many adults wouldn’t accept eating the same things day in day out, so why should children?

“Packed lunches can be exciting and full of healthy options and variety.  They need to provide children with the energy and sustenance they need to grow and develop healthily and help them to concentrate in the school class.”


The BDA Tips for a Healthy Packed Lunch:


Back to basics - bread, cereals and potatoes...

•           Try to keep a selection of breads in the freezer for sandwiches. Using a different type of bread each day can make sandwiches more interesting. Try multigrain                    and seed rolls, bagels, baguettes, pitta breads, wraps…the list is endless! (Children have reported they like meat / cheese or fish etc and bread separate so it                   doesn’t go soggy)

•           You could also raid the fridge for leftovers - some foods taste just as good cold such as pizza or pasta. Cook extra pasta, couscous or rice. Mix it with cut-up                          vegetables, a few nuts, flaked tuna or mackerel.


Filling the void - meat, fish and alternatives...


Try to include lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, beans or pulses in your lunchbox:

•           Tuna with cucumber, green pepper, sweetcorn or tomato

•           Low fat hummus and cucumber

•           Egg and cress (grow your own?)

•           Cottage cheese and dried apricots

•           Cooked chicken or turkey, tomatoes, and lettuce

•           Peanut butter and banana

•           Grated cheese and tomato

•           Oily fish, such as salmon sandwich or mackerel pasta salad


Remember, if you are using a spread choose a reduced fat one - or do without it completely if you are using a moist filling.


Vegging out or Feeling fruity..?


It's important to eat 5 (or more) portions of fruit and vegetables every day. You won't be stuck for choice when it comes to lunchtime:

•           fresh fruit e.g. apple, grapes, banana, kiwi fruit (children have also said they like different fruits every day and not always the traditional choices e.g.. wedge of                       melon / peeled orange / kiwi and spoon / pot of strawberries. Why not surprise your child with a different fruit / veg choice every day of the week?)

•           dried fruits, e.g. raisins, apricots

•           chopped raw vegetables e.g. carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes or a mixed salad

•           tinned fruit in natural juice - pop in a small container or buy small tins with a ring pull


Nurofen Plus Alert

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Consumers are being warned to check packs of Nurofen Plus after it emerged that thousands could mistakenly contain antipsychotic drugs. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued a safety alert following reports that some batches contained Seroquel XL 50mg instead of Nurofen Plus.

The affected 32-tablet packs are in batches numbered 13JJ, 57JJ and 49JJ.

The Seroquel tablets are larger and have gold and black packaging, compared with the Nurofen Plus tablets which are smaller and have silver and black packaging.


Ian Holloway, from the MHRA's defective medicines report centre (DMRC), said: "People should check to see if they have any affected packets of Nurofen Plus. "If you do, return them to the pharmacy where you bought them from. You can also report this to the MHRA's defective medicines report centre on 020 3080 6574." He added: "If you have taken a tablet and you have any questions, speak to your GP."


The MHRA said in a statement, "Serious investigations" were under way to establish how the mix-up occurred, especially as Seroquel XL is manufactured by another drug firm, AstraZeneca. It added: "After careful review of the manufacturing system, manufacturing errors by the makers of Nurofen Plus or Seroquel XL are not thought to be part of the cause at this stage."


Dr Aomesh Bhatt, a medical director at Reckitt Benckiser, said: "We are taking this matter extremely seriously and we are working closely with the MHRA to investigate fully. Additionally, we are in the process of working to ensure the Nurofen Plus packs are double-checked by pharmacy staff before they are handed to customers."
"We encourage consumers of Nurofen Plus to be vigilant and, while it is very unlikely, should they find they have a suspect pack or if they have
any other concerns, we advise them to speak to the pharmacist where they purchased the product."



People with affected packets should return them to their pharmacy; packs from the three batches have been found across the UK.


Seroquel XL is a prescription-only anti-psychotic drug used to treat several disorders including schizophrenia, mania and bipolar depression.


Nurofen Plus is for pain relief and contains codeine and ibuprofen and is available only behind the counter in pharmacies.

There have been three reports of affected packs. Two people are believed to have taken Seroquel by mistake, but are not thought to have experienced any ill-effects.


In a statement, Reckitt Benckiser which makes Nurofen Plus, said the three cases so far been identified had all been in south London.


The Full text of the MHRA warning follows below.




25 August 2011 EL (11)A/21 Our ref:  MDR 21-08/11

Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Ltd

Nurofen Plus tablets

PL 00327/0082 and PL 00063/0376


Nurofen Plus Tablets containing rogue Seroquel XL 50mg tablets PL 00327/0082 and PL 00063/0376

Pack size Batch number Expiry date PL First distributed
32 Tablets 13JJ 03/2014 00327/0082 30 April 2011
32 Tablets 57JJ 05/2014 00063/0376 21 June 2011
32 Tablets 49JJ 05/2014 00063/0376 1 July 2011

Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Ltd has received three reports of rogue Seroquel XL 50mg tablets in cartons of three different batches of Nurofen Plus tablets. We understand cartons of Nurofen Plus tablets contained only rogue cut-down blisters of Seroquel XL tablets and no Nurofen Plus tablets were present. The rogue Seroquel XL tablet cut-down blisters included parallel imported tablets (from two different PLPI companies) and originator product.

The three batch numbers in the table above are the numbers on the Nurofen Plus tablet cartons which can be used to identify the at-risk stock.

Seroquel XL tablets are made by a different company (AstraZeneca) at a different site. Manufacturing errors by Reckitt Benckiser and AstraZeneca are not considered to be part of the cause at this stage.

We have some information to suggest possible links between these cases. It is possible that these problems are linked to product consolidation and/or erroneous examination of returns. Work is ongoing to obtain more information but the full facts may never be fully established.

Recipients are requested to remain vigilant about this issue and requested to report any further cases or additional concerns promptly to DMRC on 020 3080 6574.

There are marked visual differences between the two products but we have been informed that two patients took Seroquel XL instead of Nurofen Plus tablets.

For medical information enquiries related to Seroquel XL Tablets please contact AstraZeneca Ltd medical information department on 0800 783 0033. For medical information enquiries related to Nurofen Plus Tablets please contact Reckitt Benckiser (UK) Ltd medical information department on 0500 455 456.

Recipients of this Drug Alert are requested to bring it to the attention of relevant professionals by copy of this letter. Primary Care Trusts are asked to forward this information to General Practitioners, Community Pharmacists and relevant clinics by copy of this letter.

Yours faithfully
Ian Holloway



National love your gut week travel health

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Look After Your Gut For National Love Your Gut Week
Monday 22nd August is the start of National Love Your Gut Week and is the ideal time to take preventative measures to guard against food poisoning, constipation and diarrhoea, especially if you are travelling abroad for your summer holidays.
It is a known fact that travelling abroad exposes the gut to harmful bacteria, yeasts and pathogens that the microflora in the gastrointestinal tract just aren't used to back in the UK. So what can people do to help themselves, and prepare their gut for what it will be exposed to abroad?
Top tips for gut health:
1. Take a good quality probiotic for the length of your stay - ask in your pharmacy for a probiotic supplement with at least 10 billion strains of lactobacillus acidophilus per capsule. These probiotics are thought to help fight off foreign microbes, and thereby protect against tummy bugs.
2. Berberine, artemesia and citrus seed extract have all been shown to be useful in guarding against unwanted bacteria and parasites. Ask your pharmacy for a product that contains these plant extracts and take this alongside your probiotics for the duration of your holiday/travels.
3. Eating local yoghurt (natural not flavoured) is also thought to be helpful as it naturally contains probiotics local to the envioronment and thereby is protective against local microbes.
4. Eat plenty of garlic as this has been shown to have powerful anti bacterial, anti viral and anti fungal properties. Garlic is most potent if eaten raw, so an excellent way to incorporate garlic into your diet is to add crushed garlic to olive oil and lemon for a delicious immune-boosting salad dressing.
5. Many people become constipated when they travel, so remember to drink plenty of water; particularly if you are flying as this can be very dehydrating. Once on holiday, don't forget to eat lots of fibrous foods; fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Also remember to continue drinking plenty of water – bottled water is advisable in most countries. Alcohol, teas and coffees are all dehydrating, and are not recommended in large volume.
Ask your pharmacist for their suggestions of some sensible medicines to carry on your travels to treat common conditions eg. Diarrhoea, constipation, upset stomach, dehydration, sunscreen etc.
As long as you follow sensible precautions in the run up to and during your holiday, your gut has a fighting chance to remain healthy; so that your summer holiday does not have to turn into a nightmare.


Ed Miliband's operation Raises Awareness Of Sleep Apnoea In The UK

Monday, 15 August 2011

Ed Miliband's operation Raises Awareness Of Sleep Apnoea In The UK


Labour Party leader Ed Miliband recently underwent an operation to cure his Obstructive Sleep Apnoea - a condition that affects 4% of middle-aged men but only 25% of whom are diagnosed. Despite being as common as diabetes, awareness of OSA and the effect it can have on a sufferer is far lower. The impact of having a major figure such as Mr Miliband bringing the condition to the public’s attention has seen a sharp increase in the number of people going to get themselves tested for the condition.


Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition that affects one in 25 middle-aged men but many do not realise they have it. One study showed that on average, sufferers will have the condition for eight years before being diagnosed. OSA is a condition that causes you to stop breathing temporarily while you sleep, as your throat collapses and you momentarily choke.


This causes your brain to wake up and get you breathing again, but your body stays asleep so you do not realise it has happened. However, this can happen as frequently as one hundred times every hour - meaning you never truly sleep. Sufferers wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed, despite having seemingly slept through the night.


"Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is a condition that affects the lives and livelihoods of thousands of men in the UK, yet most do not realize they have it" says Intus Healthcare's Tom Parr. "They will feel tired and lethargic throughout the day, more irritable, less focussed and are unwittingly putting themselves at risk at work and while driving, as they could simply fall asleep in a second due to exhaustion. However most simply do not realize what is causing the problem - or how to go about dealing with it."


"Intus Healthcare offer an at-home sleep test service for those who suspect they may have OSA, and there has been a significant increase in the number of people taking these tests since Ed Miliband had his operation. Getting treatment for OSA can really change people’s lives, so having a public figure bring the condition to people’s attention is fantastic for raising the awareness of OSA. It is helping more people get their condition under control, and get back to their normal selves again."


For more information about Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, including causes, symptoms and how to get tested, please visit


Key facts about Obstructive Sleep Apnoea:


- OSA affects around 4 out of 100 middle-aged men, and 2 out of 100 middle-aged women.


- The key symptoms include snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, poor memory and concentration, impotence, reduced sex drive, irritability, headaches


- OSA if left untreated increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure " 75% of OSA sufferers are undiagnosed"


- OSA makes you 15 times more likely to be involved in a road accident  "300 people are killed in road accidents caused by sleepiness every year"


- 20% of all road accidents are caused by tired drivers


- Certain careers can increase the risk of OSA. For example, 16% of truck drivers are thought to have the condition - making them four times as likely than average


Gum Disease

Thursday, 04 August 2011

Gum Disease – Facts and Tips


Considering it's one of the major causes of tooth loss, it's pretty difficult to spot the signs of gum disease. Links between gum disease and, in some cases, life-threatening illnesses are constantly developing, so taking care of your gums is vitally important.


As we all have gum disease at some point in our lives, it's important to remember plenty can be done to ensure it does not develop into something more serious. The British Dental Health Foundation is offering the following information on gum disease:




1. There are two main types of gum disease: Gingivitis and Periodontal disease.

2. More teeth are lost through periodontal disease than tooth decay.

3. The first sign of gum disease may be bleeding when you clean your teeth.

4. All gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the surface of teeth every day.

5. Gum disease is never cured, but it can be controlled.

6. Gum disease develops painlessly, so most of the time you'll be unaware of the damage it is causing.

7. Studies have shown regular exercise decreases the chances of developing tooth-threatening gum infections.

8. Gum disease has been linked to heart and lung disease, diabetes, strokes, cardio vascular disease, Alzheimer's, premature and low-birth-weight babies.

9. Fertility and sexual problems have also been linked to the presence of gum disease.

10. If you have bad breath, or it becomes unpleasant over time, this may be a sign of gum disease.




In addition to following the Foundation's three key rules for good oral health *, the following tips are recommended for preventing gum disease:


1. Always tell your dentist about changes to your health, as it may help them prevent gum disease from developing.

2. Clean in between your teeth using interdental brushes or floss readily available from your local pharmacist. This will help to clean a higher portion of the tooth and prevent the build up of plaque.

3. Eat a good, healthy and balanced diet.

4. Quitting smoking will help you reduce the chances of gum disease deteriorating.  Your local pharmacist may well have a smoking cessation support programme and will always be heppy to provide advice and products that can help you give up.

5. Use a mouthwash containing anti-bacterial to help control gum disease, your local pharmacy will stock a range.


For free, confidential and impartial advice about how to improve your oral care, contact the Foundation's Dental Helpline on 0845 063 1188 or email: Alternatively, visit the Tell Me About section of the Foundation's website at


* The British Dental health Foundation promotes three key messages for good oral health:

1. Brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste.

2. Cut down on how often you eat sugary food and drinks.

3. Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.


Gps Urge The Nation To Take More Responsibility For Their Health

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gps Urge The Nation To Take More Responsibility For Their Health

* One in four (23%) GPs only spend a quarter of their time dealing with medical issues that actually require their expertise

* 46% of GPs say better health education would greatly improve the nation's experience of the health service

Research from Aviva* examining GPs' views on medical issues, patient care and reform has revealed concern about the lack of responsibility patients take for their own health.

Aviva's bi-annual Health of the Nation study reveals that GPs spend nearly three quarters of their time (74%) with patients. However, one in four (23%) say that only around a quarter of this time is spent dealing with medical issues that require a GP's attention.

Most GPs (93%) say that they spend up to a quarter of their time dealing with medical issues that a practice nurse could address. 88% of GPs say that a similar amount of time is spent dealing with minor medical issues that don't even need to be seen by a GP or nurse. These issues can all be dealt with effectively at your pharmacy.

Moreover, Aviva's research reveals that nearly half of GPs (48%) feel that a significant amount of their time is spent dealing with patients who do not look after themselves. Over three quarters (78%) are concerned that their patients have unrealistic expectations in relation to their own health and the support available from their GP.

Even when the GP is the most appropriate person to help, the research reveals that they still have difficulties making referrals in many cases. Worryingly, 42% of GPs haven't been able to refer patients for some treatments because they aren't available to them in their area.

This is particularly true in the case of complex medical conditions such as work related stress (53%), chronic fatigue syndrome (60%), eating disorders (53%) and food allergies (56%).

What do GPs think can be done to help?

The top things that GPs feel would improve patients' experience of the health service are:

* Longer appointments (76%)

* Faster diagnostic services (63%)

* Shorter waiting lists (48%)

* Improvements in the quality of clinical care (45%)

Nearly half (46%) of GPs believe that better health education (for individuals and employers) will improve the individual's experience of the health service. In fact the research reveals that many people are already turning to self education about their condition. If used in the right way, 76% of GPs think that this will help improve the quality of decisions made about their healthcare and benefit patient health.

Dr Doug Wright, head of clinical development, Aviva UK Health says:

"Our research clearly demonstrates that GPs want to do the best for their patients by giving them the time and treatment they require. Yet this is an increasing challenge in the current environment.

"By working together, GPs, individuals, employers and private healthcare providers such as Aviva can do a great deal to help improve the service we all receive from the NHS.

"While it's important to stress that people should always seek help if they are concerned about their health, they need to be educated to make informed choices about who they turn to for support.

"Similarly, promoting a better understanding of healthy living and encouraging individuals to manage their own health could go a long way to address some of the challenges identified in our Health of the Nation report. This would help free up GPs' time to allow them to offer the best quality of care to the individuals that really need their help."

An important message is: Your local pharmacy can help with many minor ailments more efficiently than your GP without the need for an appointment and play a significant role in helping you improve your general wellbeing so call in.

Aviva's Health of the Nation research reveals that nearly eight in ten (79%) GPs believe that they don't have enough time to spend with their patients. Worryingly over half (56%) feel that taking part in commissioning of NHS services will shift their focus from patient care onto administration. Similarly, 48% feel that they will find it harder to devote time to their patients.

The bi-annual study canvassed the views of over 200 GPs on issues relating to their working practice and patient care. The results are thought provoking and provide an incisive commentary on the position of healthcare at this moment in time, as well as an insight into GPs thoughts about the future. The full 2011 Health of the Nation is available to download from

* Aviva commissioned extensive research among a panel of 208 GPs across the UK. The sample is broadly representative of the UK across age, gender, region, practice size (by patient numbers and number of GP's working in practice) and how long the GP has been practicing. GPs were interviewed between May 9th and 11th 2011. The research was conducted online on behalf of Aviva by independent research company Pollab.

GPs taking part in the research worked on average 36 hours 7 minutes a week. The average amount of time spent with patients is 26 hours 34 minutes a week.


Do Your Teeth Love The Summer Holidays

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Do Your Teeth Love The Summer Holidays?
As a nation, we might rejoice when the summer season comes around, yet millions of holiday-makers could be putting their oral health at greater risk with their summer diet.

The British Dental Health Foundation, has issued a reminder to people that consuming too many acidic foods, as well as eating more sugary foods and drinks, traditionally associated with summer-time and holidays, can potentially increase the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay. Risks of dental erosion and tooth decay are also increased during the holiday season as eating-habits and patterns often change. It is more likely that normal meal-times are disrupted during the holidays and snacking and grazing increases, which can cause multiple-attacks on teeth throughout the day.

Dental erosion is the loss of tooth enamel caused by acid attacks from typical holiday foods and drinks like vinaigrettes, olives, red wine and ciders. Enamel is the hard, protective coating of the tooth, and if it is worn away, the dentine underneath becomes exposed and teeth can look discoloured and become sensitive.
Tooth decay happens when sugar reacts with the bacteria in plaque. Sugars from foods like ice-cream, seaside rock and fizzy drinks stimulate the formation of acids that attack the teeth and destroy the enamel. Tooth decay causes cavities and results in the need for fillings. Whilst sugary foods and drinks are easy to identify, acidic foods and drinks that can increase the risk of dental erosion are not always so easy to recognise.


To help holiday-makers, the Foundation has compiled a list of some of the most popular foods consumed during the summer and their pH Level.


Highly Acidic - Bad

Moderately Acidic - OK

Less Acidic - Better

Vinaigrette Salad Dressing: 2.0
Wine: 2.5
Cola: 2.5
Squash/Cordial: 2.8 - 3.8
Cider: 2.9 - 3.3
Pasta: 3.0
Ice Lollies: 3.0 - 4.0
Strawberries: 3.0 - 4.2
Ice Cream: 3.0 - 5.0
Olives: 3.8

Fresh Orange Juice: 3.8
Cottage Cheese: 4.1 - 5.4
Fruit Tea: 4.2
Lager: 4.4
Fish and Chips: 4.6 - 6

White Bread: 5.0 - 6.0
Feta Cheese: 5.0 - 6.1
Brown Rice: 6.0
Gin and Tonic: 6.9
Sparkling Water: 7.4
Still Water: 7.6
Hot Dogs: 6.2

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said: "The habit of snacking and grazing in between meals is one that continues to creep into society. What people do not realise is every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour.
"Eating and drinking naturally weakens the enamel on your teeth, and as a result, the Foundation recommends eating three square meals a day instead of having seven to ten 'snack attacks'.

If you do snack between meals, choose foods and drinks that do not contain sugar, limiting the amount of time your mouth is at risk.
"Snacking throughout the day might be easy and convenient when on holiday, particularly if you have young children, but the frequency of doing so can be harmful to their teeth and have lasting implications.

"It is vitally important that you stick to the Foundation's three key rules for good oral health - brushing for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, reducing the frequency of how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visiting your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend."
Remember your local pharmacist stocks a range of products to help with good oral hygiene and is always ready with plenty of helpful advice


Summer time tips for the waistline

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Summer Time Tips for the Waistline
As the long summer holiday approaches, parents will be pulling out all the stops to keep their troops entertained, fed and watered throughout.
The British Dietetic Association has compiled a list of ideas and suggestions to help ensure you and the children don’t pile on the pounds during this period.
Speaking about healthy eating during the summer season, BDA Spokesperson, Anna Raymond, said:

“The majority of people think that we tend to eat a lot more during the cold, dark, winter months, but you may be surprised.
“During the summer season, we tend to socialise a lot more with our family and friends, by having dinner parties, throwing barbecues as soon as the first sunrays hit our gardens and going on days out, which usually means having a meal out too.  We also spend a lot of time trying to shift a few pounds before our main holiday of the year, but as soon as we get there, we then tend to forget about watching what we eat, in favour of having a good old blow out.
“The summer time, however, should be filled with lots of fun and food, but you should also be making informed choices.”

Be aware:
Barbecues – When you think of barbecues, more often than not you jump to burgers and sausages, washed down with a few beers with the friends (for adults only of course).  These are very high in fat and therefore calories.  It’s also difficult to control your portion sizes as we tend to keep going back for more, hence extra calories consumed!

Picnics – Picnics tend to hide a lot of high calorie food.  Potato salad, coleslaw and pasta salad may sound nice and fresh, but these mayo-laden foods can be very calorific and high in fat content, especially if bought from the supermarket.  The famous sausage rolls and other pastry-type foods are also very popular in picnics.  Again, these can very high in  trans-fat and calories.  Why not go for a healthier picnic option?  (see below)

Festivals / Theme Parks – Summer festivals and trips to theme parks prove to be very popular at this time of year.  A lot of the time, food available at these venues can be the usual burger and chips-type food.  They may be fast and easy, but they can also do some damage to your waistline.  Why not take your own food?

Why Not?:
Barbecues – Make sure your guests can pack out their plates with lots of fresh salads.  To keep the calorie counter in check, why not choose lean cuts of meat, like turkey and chicken, ensuring it is cooked through properly.  Try to limit your portions to just one plate and fill up with salad rather than lots of bread.  Instead of drinking excessive amounts of beer, why not alternate each alcholhic drink with a glass of water and perhaps go for small measures of spirits with low calorie mixers – making sure you don’t overdo it!

Picnics – If you do like you potato salads and other mayo-based salads, why not make your own or at least use far less mayo or a reduced in fat mayo substitute.  Or, why not use yogurt instead?  In place of the pastry-based snacks, why not take some lean meats, as well as a lovely selection of seasonal fruit and vegetable crudités?

Ice Lollies – A really easy, healthy and cheap version of the ice lolly, to keep you cool in the sun, is to simply freeze unsweetened fruit juice at home in your freezer.  No one will ever complain about this great treat!

Summer Salads – With the UK getting its fair share of rainy weather and cold snaps, summer time should be the time of year that your salad bowls get a good workout.  Take the opportunity to chow down on the seasonal salad offerings available, maybe with a nice portion of oily fish to compliment?

Exercise – The summer is the ideal time to take part in a bit of exercise.  When you go on your picnics or days out to the park, why not take a ball with you and have some fun with the family?


Eat a Rainbow – Not an absolute science, but choose ingredients to your meal with as many colours as possible.  The more colourful the better (But, importantly, the colour of the food must be in its natural state i.e. no food colorants added).  In a nutshell, the majority of ‘rainbow’ foods will be fruit and vegetables.
Less is More – When we go on picnics, take food with us on days out and invite friends around to a barbecue, we tend to buy, cook and eat way too much food.  Think about portion sizes and question do you really need so much food.


Support group urges prevention of Group B Strep infections in newborns

Friday, 01 July 2011

July 2011 is International Group B Strep Awareness Month and, although many western countries offer pregnant women testing for group B Strep which is by far the most common cause of life-threatening infection in newborn babies, we don’t in the UK.  Other countries have seen their incidence of group B Streptococcal (GBS) infection in newborn babies fall dramatically – in the US1 by 80%.  There is no systematic screening in the UK, where the incidence continues to rise - since prevention strategies were introduced in the UK in 2003, the incidence has increased by 16% (20032 data, 20093 data).


Group B Streptococcus (GBS or group B Strep) is a bacterium that is carried by around 1 in 4 pregnant women – it’s usually harmless.  It can be passed from the mother to her baby around birth and, without preventative medicine, an estimated one out of every 300 babies born to women carrying GBS would become seriously ill – approximately 700 sick babies a year, of whom 75 babies would die and another 40 would suffer serious on-going health issues.

Since 2003, the advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists4 has been to give antibiotics in labour to ‘higher risk women’ including those who have previously had a baby with GBS infection, who develop a GBS urinary infection during pregnancy, or who have symptoms such as fever during labour – yet fewer than 60% of the mothers of babies who develop GBS infection have these risk factors and so this strategy can never prevent at least 40% of these infections.  The most common risk factor for a baby developing GBS infection is the mother carrying GBS when the baby is born but, without testing pregnant women, many mothers whose babies are ‘higher risk’ will not be identified, so antibiotics in labour will not be offered and these infections won’t be prevented.

Recent research5 suggests that the NHS could make significant cost savings by introducing sensitive testing for all pregnant women at 35-37 weeks and offering antibiotics in labour accordingly.  The authors found that “The current strategy of risk-factor-based screening is not cost-effective compared with screening based on culture.”


Currently only a handful of UK hospitals offer pregnant women a sensitive test for GBS, using the Health Protection Agency’s National Standard Method6 for detecting GBS carriage.  Most mothers-to-be who want to be tested have to rely on a postal service available privately for around £32.  But most pregnant women aren’t even aware of GBS - and most women are not told about GBS by their healthcare provider.  A recent survey by Bounty Parenting Club7 found that 42% of women who are aware of GBS were informed about GBS from a pregnancy book or magazine while 21% were told about it by a friend or another mum.  Just 20% were informed by a midwife, 4% through their family doctor and 2% from a clinic at hospital.  This means that even when women are willing and able to pay for a private test, they are being denied that option by not knowing about it.


Group B Strep Support has been campaigning for a screening approach for preventing group B Strep infection in newborn babies for ten years.  Chief Executive Jane Plumb says, “It’s clear that the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists’ risk-based guidelines are less effective than testing at preventing group B Strep infections, deaths and disabilities in newborn babies.  The evidence shows that a risk-based strategy also costs the NHS more than routine testing.  What more will it take for the Government to do what many other western countries have already done and offer pregnant women routine testing for GBS?”


Professor Philip Steer, Chairman of the GBSS Medical Advisory Committee, says, “Proposals for high quality trials of screening in the UK have been turned down because of lack of funding.  In the meantime, other countries such as the USA, Australia, Spain, Italy and Germany have all introduced screening and seen major falls in the incidence of this deadly disease – in the USA by 80% since screening was introduced1.  I can see no reason why screening would not be equally effective in the UK and it would save money as well as lives.”


July 2011 is International Group B Strep Awareness Month – during the month, Group B Strep Support will be sending information to maternity units to help them inform more pregnant women about group B Strep so they can decide whether they want to be tested or not.  Volunteers are contacting their MP to ask for their support for sensitive group B Strep tests to be made available via the NHS to all pregnant women.



1. ECM tests for GBS are only readily available privately in the UK and from a handful of NHS hospitals.  Testing packs are free, and a postal service for carrying out the test costs around £32 from The Doctors Laboratory on 020 7307 7373 or Group B Strep Support receives no money from any laboratory.  More information is available at

2. Group B Strep Support is a UK charity set up in 1996 to prevent GBS infection in newborn babies.

3. GBS is a normal bacterium carried by up to 30% of adults.  It can be passed from mother to baby around labour.  For most babies this causes no problems: for others it’s deadly, causing blood infection, pneumonia and meningitis.


Research Papers:

1 Jordan HT, Farley MM, Craig A, Mohle-Boetani J, Harrison LH, Petit S et al. Revisiting the need for vaccine prevention of late-onset neonatal group B streptococcal disease: a multistate, population-based analysis. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2008; 27(12):1057-1064.

2  Health Protection Agency. Pyogenic & non-pyogenic Streptococcal bacteraemia, England, Wales & NI: 2008. 2009 Nov. Health Protection Report Vol 3 No 46

3  Health Protection Agency. Pyogenic and non-pyogenic streptococcal bacteraemia, England, Wales and Northern Ireland: 2009.  Health Protection Report 2010; 4(46): Bacteraemia

4 Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Prevention of Early Onset Neonatal Group B Streptococcal Disease. London: Royal Colllege of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2003. Guideline No. 36.

5 Kaambwa B, Bryan S, Gray J, Milner P, Daniels J, Khan KS et al. Cost-effectiveness of rapid tests and other existing strategies for screening and management of early-onset group B streptococcus during labour. BJOG 2010; 117(13):1616-1627.

6 Health Protection Agency (2006). Processing swabs for Group B streptococcal carriage. National Standard Method BSOP 58 Issue 2.

7 Bounty Parenting Club - 2,226 interviews were carried out via the Bounty Word of Mum™ research panel, ranging from women in the early stages of pregnancy to those with a youngest child of two years old.





Old Toothbrushes Are A Severe Health Risk, Warns Dental Expert

Monday, 13 June 2011

We all should change our toothbrushes every three months or risk potentially serious oral health problems - that's the message from British Dental Health Foundation's Dr Nigel Carter.
The Chief Executive of the UK's largest oral health charity has urged more people to start investing in new toothbrushes more regularly, before it develops into a "breeding ground" for germs and bacteria.
Numerous studies over the years have reported the toothbrush to be the cause of repeated infection in the mouth. Not only able to grow and reproduce on the bristles of the brush, the bacteria also have the ability to transmit organisms responsible for diseases throughout the body.
Yet past surveys conducted by the Foundation show that almost two thirds of the population fail to change their toothbrush after the recommended three months.
"They may seem like a rather insignificant tool but they form a crucial part of our daily routine and although most toothbrushes are used twice a day for months on end, they are rarely cleaned thoroughly and are often kept in warm, moist conditions, ideal for bacterial growth," says Dr Carter.
"Despite this, there is little public awareness that the bristles may become contaminated by either the hundreds of microorganisms thriving in the mouth or the many thousands living in the environment."
Dr Carter added: "It is so simple but by replacing a toothbrush more often, we can prevent a lot of unnecessary illness and disease. The strongest argument to change your toothbrush regularly is to prevent re-infection following the flu or a cold. A dirty toothbrush can also be responsible for many ear, nose and throat infections.
"Perhaps it is considered an unnecessary expense but changing your toothbrush, or the head of an electric toothbrush, is actually very cheap. To spend £8 a year for four toothbrushes is nothing compared to losing a day off work and spending large amounts of money on preventable dental work, unnecessary prescriptions or over the counter medicines due to poor oral health.
"There are plenty products on the market which claim to successfully disinfect toothbrushes, although the effectiveness of them is very debatable. My advice would be after three months to buy a new toothbrush and begin to re-use the old brush for alternative household chores. When it is completely worn out then recycle it."
The Foundation is looking to increase public awareness of how best to maintain or develop good oral health as part of its National Smile Month campaign, which has been running since 1977.
Another survey conducted by the Foundation as part of the nationwide oral health campaign showed that almost two-thirds of Britons would be happy to lend their toothbrush to their partners, children, friends and even celebrities.
"It might seem kind to share your toothbrush with a close friend, but it's a very bad idea. Sharing a toothbrush leaves people susceptible to all sorts of oral and general health problems. But even if you don't let anyone else use your brush, you still need to replace it every three months to make sure germs don't build up, and to keep your brushing as effective as possible."
Remember to pick up a new toothbrush from your pharmacy!


Brook And FPA Welcome The Bailey Review

Wednesday, 08 June 2011


Brook and the sexual health charity FPA have issued the following statement responding to the Bailey Review and its recommendations:
"We welcome the publication of this report, 'Letting children be children', and its recommendations on addressing the commercialization and sexualisation of children and young people.
"Schools have an important part to play in helping children and young people build confidence and self esteem, so they can understand and critically analyse sexualised images and messages enabling them to be resilient to their impact. Therefore we believe this is a missed opportunity not to recognize the role of good quality relationship and sex education in schools, as one of the report's key recommendations.
"We welcome measures that help parents voice their concerns, but we also think more can be done to support parents to have a dialogue about these issues in the home. In our opinion it's far more beneficial for parents to have a discussion with their children about why, for example, pornography presents an unrealistic picture of sex, than to just report the fact that their child accessed it.
"FPA and Brook work with thousands of young people and parents every year. Young people tell us they are often ill-equipped to deal with a highly sexualised society. Parents want to work with schools to address this hugely important issue. We urge the Government to consider the role of statutory sex and relationships education along with the other recommendations proposed in 'Letting Children be children'."



New Treatment for Psoriasis

Monday, 06 June 2011

A New Treatment Choice May Offer Fresh Hope For People With Psoriasis


An easy-to-use, once daily gel treatment for psoriasis has been launched, offering an alternative formulation to creams and ointments. Dovobet® (calcipotriol/bethamethasone dipropionate) Gel is the first and only once-daily, dual-action gel formulation suitable for mild to moderate body psoriasis and scalp psoriasis. The gel formulation looks set to offer a more patient-friendly treatment choice for those living with psoriasis. In a recent survey 51% (n= 102) of those living with psoriasis were not satisfied with their current treatments. Psoriasis - The Psychological Impact of Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects around one in 50 people.


According to psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, "Anyone living with psoriasis - either themselves or through a loved one - will know how challenging it can be living with the physical and social impact of the condition. Psoriasis can have a negative effect on all aspects of life, leading to relationship problems, work problems, social isolation and in some case resulting in depression. In fact, the impact of psoriasis upon both physical and emotional functioning can be comparable to that seen in cancer, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease or diabetes. "

A recent Opinion Health survey found that 68% of those living with psoriasis had had their confidence knocked by the condition, with 66% admitting to being embarrassed by their condition.2 It is estimated that a diagnosis of psoriasis may claim the lives of 350 sufferers each year through suicide. Treatments applied to the skin (topical treatments) are usually prescribed first-line for people with mild or moderate psoriasis, however, having to frequently apply messy treatments that smell and leave stains on clothing and bedlinen only adds to the negative impact of having the condition.

"Topical treatments can be extremely effective when they are used properly," he says. "Sadly, studies suggest that up to 40% of psoriasis patients do not use their treatments appropriately and this is often because they find them messy, time-consuming, and unpleasant to use.8, It is important for patients not to give up hope in terms of finding a treatment that is suitable for them. I would always encourage anyone living with psoriasis to return to their doctor to talk about the impact that the condition is having on them both physically and emotionally, and discuss if there may be a new treatment choice that could work for them."

Gel formulation a major step forward
Dovobet® Gel combines two compounds with complementary mechanisms of action, a topical corticosteroid called betamethasone dipropionate and a vitamin D3 analogue calcipotriol. The gel is suitable for use on mild to moderate body psoriasis and scalp psoriasis and only needs to be applied once a day. When patients were given the gel formulation to try, 95% found it easy to apply; with most reporting that it was quickly absorbed into the skin with a light/thin, less-greasy formulation which allows the skin to breathe.1* Patients preferred the gel over an ointment formulation, and 75% of those who tried it said they were either extremely or likely to ask for the gel formulation.1*


Psoriasis patient, Rena Ramani who has lived with the condition for 20 years said: 

"Living with psoriasis can be incredibly debilitating, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally. Although symptoms appear on the skin's surface, the impact of psoriasis is far from superficial. Every single day you have to wake up and see your psoriasis in the mirror. Many of those living with the condition can suffer in silence. Once I opened up to friends and family about how I felt, it made living with my psoriasis a lot more bearable. I would also encourage anyone living with the condition to go back to their doctor and seek advice about managing their condition as there may be new options they have not yet tried."

95% patients found a gel formulation easy to apply *

About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory disease affecting approximately 2% of the population, which equates to over a million people in the UK. 50-80% of people living with psoriasis will also suffer from a degree of scalp psoriasis.  For further information on psoriasis


Headaches? May be worth visiting your dentist

Friday, 27 May 2011

Headaches? May be worth visiting your dentist
If you have a headache, quite often the first port of call is the medicine cabinet for pain relief or a visit to the pharmacy or doctors. However, if the problem persists it might be something you should mention to your dentist as the persistent cause may lie inside your mouth.
The cause of your headaches could actually be the way your teeth meet when your jaws bite together, otherwise known as dental occlusion. Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder is a neuromuscular jaw condition caused by an imbalanced bite.
When the joint causes pressure to be put on the nerves muscles and blood vessels that pass near the head, the result can be headaches and migraines, a condition that affects one in seven people in the UK.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes this information serves as a timely reminder to arrange a visit to the dentist during National Smile Month, which runs until 15 June 2011.
Dr Carter said: "If you suffer from continual headaches or migraines, especially first thing in the morning, pain behind your eyes, sinus pains and pains in the neck or shoulders, you should consider visiting your dentist, as well as a pharmacist or doctor, as soon as possible.
"Many people have imperfect dental occlusion yet never show symptoms as they adjust to their problem.
For those who do suffer, teeth and gums may be affected straight away, and instead of headaches you may encounter broken teeth, fillings, loose teeth and toothache with no apparent cause. If you have any of these problems, visit a dentist immediately."
Depending on the problems you are having, it can be possible to spot the signs of dental malocclusion.
Your dentist may be able to help you or may refer you to a specialist who deals with occlusal problems. Your teeth may need to be carefully adjusted to meet evenly, as changing the direction and position of the slopes that guide your teeth together can often help reposition the jaw. If your teeth are too far out of line or in a totally incorrect bite position, it may be necessary to fit a brace to move them into a better position.
As the Temporo-Mandibular Joint needs equal support from both sides of both jaws, the chewing action is designed to work properly only when all your teeth are present and in the correct position. Therefore, missing teeth may need to be replaced either with a partial denture or bridgework.
As with any joint pain, it can help to put less stress on the joint. So a soft diet can be helpful, as can corrective exercises and external heat. Physiotherapy exercises can often help, and your dentist may be able to show some of these to you. As it is such a specialist area within dentistry, your dentist may wish to refer you to an expert.


Breakthrough In Allergic Asthma Treatments

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A major breakthrough in creating effective new treatments for allergic asthma has been discovered by Asthma UK funded scientists at King's College London.
The discovery is the culmination of over fifteen years of Asthma UK-funded research, and the findings are published today in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
The painstaking work conducted by a team of scientists led by Professor Brian Sutton at the MRC-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma at King's College London, revealed the precise shape of an important molecule called IgE as it binds to receptor proteins on the surface of mast cells in the lungs.
Scientists built up a picture of IgE's shape down to the location of each individual atom by firing X-rays at purified protein crystals and measuring how the rays were deflected. Using this technique they were also able to reveal how IgE moves and twists as it attaches to the receptor.
With further funding from Asthma UK, the team is now testing a library of small chemical compounds, looking for ones that have the potential to block the interaction between IgE and its receptor and prevent the development of asthma.
There are hundreds of thousands of mast cells crawling through the lining of our lungs, each of which holds thousands of histamine-containing granules. In a person with allergic asthma, IgE molecules sit on the surface of these cells. Then, when the individual comes into contact with an allergen such as grass pollen, it sticks to the IgE, provoking the mast cells to release their granules. Histamine causes breathlessness, wheezing and other asthma symptoms by narrowing the airways and triggering inflammation.
Although allergens from grass pollen, pets, house-dust mites and other sources all have different shapes, all of them trigger asthma and allergy symptoms by binding to IgE on mast cells. Hence, a drug that can prevent IgE from interacting with mast cells would help anyone with allergic asthma, no matter what triggers their allergy.
The breakthrough is an essential step towards chemically-based drugs, such as those now being developed by Professor Sutton, which can be given in tablet form.
Professor Brian Sutton from King's says: 'We are immensely proud of our achievement. Thousands of hours of work by my team, plus that of our collaborators, has brought us to an incredibly exciting point.
'Armed with the precise structure of IgE bound to its receptor we stand a great chance of being able to create hugely effective new treatments for allergic asthma.'
Dr Elaine Vickers, Research Relations Manager at Asthma UK, says: 'In the UK, 5.4 million people have asthma and almost 80% of them say they have allergies which affect their asthma control.
'The impact of potential new treatments for allergic asthma resulting from this work could have an enormous impact on the quality of life of people across both the UK and the world.'
Useful asthma facts
- Asthma is a serious condition affecting 5.4 million people in the UK and 1 in 5 households
- Two children in every classroom have asthma
- Asthma is serious. There are about 1,200 deaths each year from asthma, including the equivalent of a classroom full of children.
- In the UK, a person with asthma is admitted to hospital every 7 minutes because of the condition.
- 1 in 8 children under 15 with asthma symptoms experience attacks so severe they can't speak


Ray Mears Highlights Increased Risk Of Lyme Disease In UK

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Cases of Lyme disease in the UK have been dramatically increasing in recent years so it is important that people who spend a lot of time outdoors are aware of ticks and the risks they can bring as well as what to do if you do get bitten. There is currently no vaccination against Lyme disease for prevention is key.
Bushcraft and Survival expert Ray Mears has joined the fight against Lyme disease by lending his support to tick-borne disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK).
Tick Bite Prevention Week, which runs from 11-17th April 2011, is an annual programme which helps promote awareness of tick-borne diseases and effective tick bite prevention for at-risk groups.
According to the Health Protection Agency, up to 3,000 people contract Lyme disease (Borreliosis) from the bite of an infected tick each year in the UK. As a victim of Lyme disease himself, Ray understands the importance of being aware of ticks and the diseases they carry, and of the preventative measures that can be taken to help prevent ticks from biting people and pets.
"I feel that there is not enough awareness of Lyme disease in this country, given the fact that in rare cases it may become chronic", Ray said.
A dedicated website has been launched offering advice on what to do if bitten and how to stay protected in the warmer months at
• Information leaflets are also available upon request to health workers.
• Ticks are present in urban parks and gardens as well as the countryside, and in rare cases Lyme disease can develop into a critical condition.
• Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick and can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.
• More information about Lyme disease and BADA-UK can be found at

Cases of Lyme disease in the UK have been dramatically increasing in recent years so it is important that people who spend a lot of time outdoors are aware of ticks and the risks they can bring as well as what to do if you do get bitten. There is currently no vaccination against Lyme disease for prevention is key.
Bushcraft and Survival expert Ray Mears has joined the fight against Lyme disease by lending his support to tick-borne disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK).

Tick Bite Prevention Week, which runs from 11-17th April 2011, is an annual programme which helps promote awareness of tick-borne diseases and effective tick bite prevention for at-risk groups.

According to the Health Protection Agency, up to 3,000 people contract Lyme disease (Borreliosis) from the bite of an infected tick each year in the UK. As a victim of Lyme disease himself, Ray understands the importance of being aware of ticks and the diseases they carry, and of the preventative measures that can be taken to help prevent ticks from biting people and pets.

"I feel that there is not enough awareness of Lyme disease in this country, given the fact that in rare cases it may become chronic", Ray said.
A dedicated website has been launched offering advice on what to do if bitten and how to stay protected in the warmer months at

• Information leaflets are also available upon request to health workers.

• Ticks are present in urban parks and gardens as well as the countryside, and in rare cases Lyme disease can develop into a critical condition.#


• Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick and can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.

• More information about Lyme disease and BADA-UK can be found at



New genetic links to Alzheimer’s disease discovered

Tuesday, 05 April 2011

It has been reported today that scientists have discovered five gene variants that raise the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The report is based on several large and important “genome-wide association” studies looking for associations between Alzheimer's disease and particular genetic variants. Between them they have identified five new genetic variants that increase risk, and confirm some other indicators found in previous studies.


Alzheimer's is a complex disease and there are likely to be more variants that contribute to risk. These studies are essential first steps in identifying genetic components of disease risk. It will be several more years – an estimated 10-15 – before a test or treatment for Alzheimer’s might be available.


Dr Susanne Sorensen of the Alzheimer’s Society put these findings in context:

“These two robust studies mark an exciting development for scientists hoping to identify a cause and find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Although these studies will not bring us any closer to being able to predict who might be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's, they will give scientists clues as to how Alzheimer's might develop. Most importantly, their identification could also lead to the development of new drug treatments in the longer term.”


The studies were carried out by several international research consortia, including hundreds of researchers from around the world. The first study – a genome-wide association study – was carried out by a consortia called The Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC). The studies were funded by a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health in the US, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council in the UK.

The studies were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Genetics.


It is important to emphasise the research is preliminary and that interventions to prevent the disease will be some way off.

The two studies had similar aims: to identify new genetic variants associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s defines all those cases which arise in people over the age of 65, for whom there is no known cause, i.e. most cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Early-onset disease is much rarer, and affects younger people. As would be expected, early-onset Alzheimer’s has a different clinical course and different causes from what would be recognised as ‘normal’ – late-onset – Alzheimer’s disease.

Both studies investigated whether there were associations between particular genetic variations and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. They then validated the findings from these initial studies in more independent samples of people.


Genome-wide association studies are commonly used to determine whether there are genetic differences between people with and without a condition. They involve a large number of genetic sites across the DNA being compared between these groups. This type of study usually involves a number of steps in separate independent samples, in which the comparisons are repeated in an effort to replicate and validate the findings from the initial comparison.


The first study, conducted by The Alzheimer Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), compared the genetic make-up of 8,309 people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease with 7,366 older people who had been defined as ‘cognitively normal’. The researchers obtained the genetic and clinical data for this large sample of participants by combining the participants from nine separate cohort studies. The researchers then validated their findings by replicating the studies in separate samples. The first sample included 3,531 cases and 3,565 controls. The second sample included 6,992 cases and 24,666 controls.


The second study was set up to identify new genetic variants that may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and also to test (in a series of samples) whether the associations found in the ADGC study could be validated. These researchers combined the results from four previous genome-wide association studies, including a total of 6,688 affected individuals (cases) and 13,685 controls. They then tested their findings in a second independent sample of 4,896 cases and 4,903 controls, and in a third comprising of 8,286 cases and 21,258 controls.

Genome-wide association studies are a form of case-control study, comparing the differences between people with a condition and those without it. The results present the likelihood of people with the disease having particular genetic variants.

Results of study one: the first study confirmed previously known associations on genes called CR1, CLU, BIN1 and PICALM. It also identified four new genetic variants that were more common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. These were variants on genes called MS4A4/MS4A6E, CD2AP, CD33 and EPHA1. These genetic variants were all significantly more common in people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.


Results of study two: the second study confirmed that four of the genetic variants identified in study one were associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They also identified a fifth genetic variant on gene ABCA7. The researchers go on to discuss the possible function of the genes in which these variants are located, highlighting some biologically plausible reasons why their dysfunction may be associated with Alzheimer’s.


In general, both sets of researchers say that their findings are important and that there are plausible biological reasons why some of the genetic variants they have found may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings ‘provide new impetus for focused studies aimed at understanding’ Alzheimer’s disease and the way the disease starts and develops.




Genome-wide association studies like these identify genetic variants that contribute to the risk of disease. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s are complex and are likely to have many different causes, both genetic and environmental.

Each of the variants identified here carries a small increase in risk of the disease, and bring the total number of genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease to 10. The more of these variants a person has, the greater their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It was reported that one lead researcher stated, “if the effects of all 10 could be eliminated, the risk of developing the disease would be cut by 60%”.


There are likely to be other contributing genes, which will affect risk to varying degrees. The researchers in the first study say that because of the complexity of the disease, these undiscovered variants may contribute only a little to the risk and that larger studies will be needed to find them.


Overall, these two studies increase what we know about the associations between certain sites in our DNA and Alzheimer’s disease. The findings should be interpreted carefully because these particular genetic variants are not necessarily the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, they may be lying close to functioning genes that have negative effects. More research is now needed to identify the functional genes themselves.


It is also difficult to anticipate what these results mean for healthy people or for people who already have Alzheimer’s disease. A possible application may be to screen people for the disease, i.e. to profile a healthy person’s DNA to see whether they have these variants and are therefore at greater risk of disease. However, such screening would need careful consideration because:

• having the variants does not mean a person will definitely have the disease. More work needs to go into determining what thresholds represent high, medium and low risk, particularly as there are now several different variants associated with the disease

• there may be risks associated with testing people for the presence of these variants

• there is currently nothing to offer people who are identified as being at potentially high risk to reduce their likelihood of getting the disease. Studies such as these are important initial steps in developing genetic treatments, but these are likely to be a long way off.

In general, these are important findings that will be of interest to the genetic research community. They will be added to the existing bank of knowledge about this disease and will undoubtedly direct further research into the mechanisms of this complex disease.

The Alzheimer’s Society, which helped fund the research, put these findings in context. Head of Research, Dr Susanne Sorensen said:


“These two robust studies mark an exciting development for scientists hoping to identify a cause and find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Although these studies will not bring us any closer to being able to predict who might be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's, they will give scientists clues as to how Alzheimer's might develop. Most importantly, their identification could also lead to the development of new drug treatments in the longer term.”


It has been reported today that scientists have discovered five gene variants that raise the risk of Alzheimer's disease.The report is based on several large and important “genome-wide association” studies looking for associations between Alzheimer's disease and particular genetic variants. Between them they have identified five new genetic variants that increase risk, and confirm some other indicators found in previous studies.Alzheimer's is a complex disease and there are likely to be more variants that contribute to risk. These studies are essential first steps in identifying genetic components of disease risk. It will be several more years – an estimated 10-15 – before a test or treatment for Alzheimer’s might be available.


Dr Susanne Sorensen of the Alzheimer’s Society put these findings in context:“These two robust studies mark an exciting development for scientists hoping to identify a cause and find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Although these studies will not bring us any closer to being able to predict who might be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's, they will give scientists clues as to how Alzheimer's might develop. Most importantly, their identification could also lead to the development of new drug treatments in the longer term.”


The studies were carried out by several international research consortia, including hundreds of researchers from around the world. The first study – a genome-wide association study – was carried out by a consortia called The Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC). The studies were funded by a variety of sources, including the National Institutes of Health in the US, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Wellcome Trust, and the Medical Research Council in the UK.The studies were published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Genetics.It is important to emphasise the research is preliminary and that interventions to prevent the disease will be some way off.The two studies had similar aims: to identify new genetic variants associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s defines all those cases which arise in people over the age of 65, for whom there is no known cause, i.e. most cases of Alzheimer’s disease.


Early-onset disease is much rarer, and affects younger people. As would be expected, early-onset Alzheimer’s has a different clinical course and different causes from what would be recognised as ‘normal’ – late-onset – Alzheimer’s disease.Both studies investigated whether there were associations between particular genetic variations and late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

They then validated the findings from these initial studies in more independent samples of people.Genome-wide association studies are commonly used to determine whether there are genetic differences between people with and without a condition. They involve a large number of genetic sites across the DNA being compared between these groups.


This type of study usually involves a number of steps in separate independent samples, in which the comparisons are repeated in an effort to replicate and validate the findings from the initial comparison.The first study, conducted by The Alzheimer Disease Genetics Consortium (ADGC), compared the genetic make-up of 8,309 people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease with 7,366 older people who had been defined as ‘cognitively normal’. The researchers obtained the genetic and clinical data for this large sample of participants by combining the participants from nine separate cohort studies. The researchers then validated their findings by replicating the studies in separate samples.


The first sample included 3,531 cases and 3,565 controls. The second sample included 6,992 cases and 24,666 controls.The second study was set up to identify new genetic variants that may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and also to test (in a series of samples) whether the associations found in the ADGC study could be validated. These researchers combined the results from four previous genome-wide association studies, including a total of 6,688 affected individuals (cases) and 13,685 controls. They then tested their findings in a second independent sample of 4,896 cases and 4,903 controls, and in a third comprising of 8,286 cases and 21,258 controls.


Genome-wide association studies are a form of case-control study, comparing the differences between people with a condition and those without it. The results present the likelihood of people with the disease having particular genetic variants. Results of study one: the first study confirmed previously known associations on genes called CR1, CLU, BIN1 and PICALM. It also identified four new genetic variants that were more common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. These were variants on genes called MS4A4/MS4A6E, CD2AP, CD33 and EPHA1. These genetic variants were all significantly more common in people with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.Results of study two: the second study confirmed that four of the genetic variants identified in study one were associated with Alzheimer’s disease. They also identified a fifth genetic variant on gene ABCA7.


The researchers go on to discuss the possible function of the genes in which these variants are located, highlighting some biologically plausible reasons why their dysfunction may be associated with Alzheimer’s. In general, both sets of researchers say that their findings are important and that there are plausible biological reasons why some of the genetic variants they have found may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings ‘provide new impetus for focused studies aimed at understanding’ Alzheimer’s disease and the way the disease starts and develops. ConclusionGenome-wide association studies like these identify genetic variants that contribute to the risk of disease.


Diseases such as Alzheimer’s are complex and are likely to have many different causes, both genetic and environmental.Each of the variants identified here carries a small increase in risk of the disease, and bring the total number of genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease to 10. The more of these variants a person has, the greater their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It was reported that one lead researcher stated, “if the effects of all 10 could be eliminated, the risk of developing the disease would be cut by 60%”.


There are likely to be other contributing genes, which will affect risk to varying degrees. The researchers in the first study say that because of the complexity of the disease, these undiscovered variants may contribute only a little to the risk and that larger studies will be needed to find them.Overall, these two studies increase what we know about the associations between certain sites in our DNA and Alzheimer’s disease. The findings should be interpreted carefully because these particular genetic variants are not necessarily the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, they may be lying close to functioning genes that have negative effects. More research is now needed to identify the functional genes themselves.It is also difficult to anticipate what these results mean for healthy people or for people who already have Alzheimer’s disease. A possible application may be to screen people for the disease, i.e. to profile a healthy person’s DNA to see whether they have these variants and are therefore at greater risk of disease.


However, such screening would need careful consideration because:• having the variants does not mean a person will definitely have the disease. More work needs to go into determining what thresholds represent high, medium and low risk, particularly as there are now several different variants associated with the disease• there may be risks associated with testing people for the presence of these variants• there is currently nothing to offer people who are identified as being at potentially high risk to reduce their likelihood of getting the disease. Studies such as these are important initial steps in developing genetic treatments, but these are likely to be a long way off.In general, these are important findings that will be of interest to the genetic research community.


They will be added to the existing bank of knowledge about this disease and will undoubtedly direct further research into the mechanisms of this complex disease.The Alzheimer’s Society, which helped fund the research, put these findings in context. Head of Research, Dr Susanne Sorensen said:“These two robust studies mark an exciting development for scientists hoping to identify a cause and find a cure for Alzheimer's disease. Although these studies will not bring us any closer to being able to predict who might be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's, they will give scientists clues as to how Alzheimer's might develop. Most importantly, their identification could also lead to the development of new drug treatments in the longer term.”


New Hayfever Symptom Checker Launched In Time For Season

Friday, 01 April 2011

With the hay fever season just starting, NHS Direct has developed a new online tool to help people tackle the symptoms that can make the spring and summer months miserable for sufferers.
The hay fever and minor allergies health and symptom checker is available at It works by asking the user a series of questions about themselves and the symptoms they are experiencing, such as the length of time they've had the symptoms and the severity of them. Depending on the information provided, users may be given self-care advice, so that they can manage their symptoms at home, or the tool may suggest that further advice is sought from another health provider such as a pharmacist, who can discuss over-the-counter medication options. A call-back from an NHS Direct nurse advisor is only a click away if a further assessment is recommended.
Hay fever affects two in every 10 people in the UK, and every year sufferers use tried and tested solutions to relieve their symptoms. It's important to know when the pollen count is at its highest - usually early evenings - and try and avoid going out at these times. Sufferers can also take simple steps to prepare themselves when leaving the house, for example, by wearing wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting into their eyes or using petroleum jelly on the inside of their nostrils to trap some of the pollen. There are also over-the-counter tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops that can be bought from a pharmacy, which, with the advice from a pharmacist, can reduce the severity of symptoms.
Long-time hay fever sufferers are likely to be all too aware of the well known advice; however NHS Direct has identified some of the hints and tips that people may not be familiar with, but which are equally as effective at relieving symptoms:
*Have a happy holiday
Hay fever season falls at different times of the year in different countries. For example, the grass pollen season in Mediterranean countries finishes about five weeks before it does in the UK, so a good time to visit these countries is after the middle of July. There is also generally less pollen in coastal areas, so if you visit the seaside your hay fever symptoms should lessen. Mountainous areas may also be good places to visit as they contain fewer pollen-producing plants.
*Run off the stress
Studies have found that stress and exercise levels have a clear link with the severity of symptoms. When stress levels drop, symptoms can become milder, and regular exercise can lessen the effects of hay fever. It's important to choose exercise times wisely by avoiding being outside when the pollen count is high.
*Eat, drink and be merry
It's important to eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but be aware that some healthy foods, such as apples, tomatoes, stoned fruits, melons, bananas and celery, can make hay fever symptoms worse. Reducing the intake of alcohol during the hay fever season is also recommended. Alcohol can make you dehydrated and can make symptoms seem worse. It is also believed to make people more sensitive to pollen.
*Clean up your act
Each individual pollen grain is small enough to require a magnifying glass to see, but just because it's not visible doesn't mean it's not there. Hay fever sufferers are therefore advised to change their clothes and shower after being outdoors to wash off pollen. Clothes should be dried in an automatic dryer rather than hung outside where they can collect pollen again.
Anne Joshua, Associate Director of Pharmacy at NHS Direct, said:
"Hay fever season can be miserable for so many people. Over-the-counter medication is the most effective way of relieving symptoms but there are lots of other things that you can do to ensure you're not stuck indoors for the spring and summer months. NHS Direct's new symptom checker is a great way to get advice about how you can reduce the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies, often meaning that you won't have to go to see your GP or another health professional for advice. If further advice is needed we can arrange for one of our nurses to call you back for a further assessment."
NHS Direct can also be contacted over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0845 46 47.
About NHS Direct
*The NHS Direct health information and advice line handles 12,500 calls a day, 4.5 million calls a year.
*NHS Direct employs over 3,000 staff, 1,300 of whom are trained nurses.
*NHS Direct's telephone number will continue to be available until the new NHS 111 number is rolled out nationally. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a years in County Durham and Darlington, Nottingham City, Lincolnshire and Luton.
With the hay fever season just starting, NHS Direct has developed a new online tool to help people tackle the symptoms that can make the spring and summer months miserable for sufferers. 
The hay fever and minor allergies health and symptom checker is available at It works by asking the user a series of questions about themselves and the symptoms they are experiencing, such as the length of time they've had the symptoms and the severity of them. Depending on the information provided, users may be given self-care advice, so that they can manage their symptoms at home, or the tool may suggest that further advice is sought from another health provider such as a pharmacist, who can discuss over-the-counter medication options. A call-back from an NHS Direct nurse advisor is only a click away if a further assessment is recommended.
Hay fever affects two in every 10 people in the UK, and every year sufferers use tried and tested solutions to relieve their symptoms. It's important to know when the pollen count is at its highest - usually early evenings - and try and avoid going out at these times. Sufferers can also take simple steps to prepare themselves when leaving the house, for example, by wearing wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting into their eyes or using petroleum jelly on the inside of their nostrils to trap some of the pollen. There are also over-the-counter tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops that can be bought from a pharmacy, which, with the advice from a pharmacist, can reduce the severity of symptoms.
Long-time hay fever sufferers are likely to be all too aware of the well known advice; however NHS Direct has identified some of the hints and tips that people may not be familiar with, but which are equally as effective at relieving symptoms:
*Have a happy holidayHay fever season falls at different times of the year in different countries. For example, the grass pollen season in Mediterranean countries finishes about five weeks before it does in the UK, so a good time to visit these countries is after the middle of July. There is also generally less pollen in coastal areas, so if you visit the seaside your hay fever symptoms should lessen. Mountainous areas may also be good places to visit as they contain fewer pollen-producing plants.
*Run off the stressStudies have found that stress and exercise levels have a clear link with the severity of symptoms. When stress levels drop, symptoms can become milder, and regular exercise can lessen the effects of hay fever. It's important to choose exercise times wisely by avoiding being outside when the pollen count is high. 
*Eat, drink and be merryIt's important to eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but be aware that some healthy foods, such as apples, tomatoes, stoned fruits, melons, bananas and celery, can make hay fever symptoms worse. Reducing the intake of alcohol during the hay fever season is also recommended. Alcohol can make you dehydrated and can make symptoms seem worse. It is also believed to make people more sensitive to pollen.
*Clean up your actEach individual pollen grain is small enough to require a magnifying glass to see, but just because it's not visible doesn't mean it's not there. Hay fever sufferers are therefore advised to change their clothes and shower after being outdoors to wash off pollen. Clothes should be dried in an automatic dryer rather than hung outside where they can collect pollen again.
Anne Joshua, Associate Director of Pharmacy at NHS Direct, said:"Hay fever season can be miserable for so many people. Over-the-counter medication is the most effective way of relieving symptoms but there are lots of other things that you can do to ensure you're not stuck indoors for the spring and summer months. NHS Direct's new symptom checker is a great way to get advice about how you can reduce the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies, often meaning that you won't have to go to see your GP or another health professional for advice. If further advice is needed we can arrange for one of our nurses to call you back for a further assessment."NHS Direct can also be contacted over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0845 46 47.
About NHS Direct
*The NHS Direct health information and advice line handles 12,500 calls a day, 4.5 million calls a year. *NHS Direct employs over 3,000 staff, 1,300 of whom are trained nurses.*NHS Direct's telephone number will continue to be available until the new NHS 111 number is rolled out nationally. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a years in County Durham and Darlington, Nottingham City, Lincolnshire and Luton.


Bowel cancer screening scheme successful

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A bowel cancer screening programme among the over-60s has led to more cases being detected at an earlier stage.


Research from the charity, Cancer Research UK, found that bowel cancer rates among those aged 60 to 69 jumped 12% in England between 2006 and 2008. The screening programme was launched in 2006 and rolled out nationally, with screening now available to all men and women in England aged 60 to 74.


People in England receive a home testing kit in the post and send back stool samples for analysis. Similar schemes run in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The figures show that before the screening programme, bowel cancer rates among people in their sixties rose no more than 2.1% in any two years over the last decade.
Rates began increasing in 2007, after the screening was introduced, and were up 6% on the previous year.


Signs of bowel cancer include bleeding from the rectum, a change in toilet habits such as prolonged diarrhoea or looser stools, a straining feeling when using the toilet, weight loss and pain in the abdomen or rectum. The screening test known as FOBT (the faecal occult blood test) picks up minuscule traces of blood which can be an early sign of bowel cancer.


This screening programme is very important as more than 90% of people whose bowel cancer is caught in the earliest stages will live for at least five years.


Arthritis drug could slow melanoma skin cancer growth

Thursday, 24 March 2011

In research published in Nature, an international team of scientists have shown that an existing rheumatoid arthritis drug can slow down the growth of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The research was done in zebrafish and mice.


Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Children's Hospital Boston in the US found that the drug leflunomide slowed down the growth of tumours over a short period of time. Drs Grant Wheeler and Matt Tomlinson worked with their US collaborators to test more than 2,000 chemicals, to find ones that might halt the disease. The best candidate blocked a protein also known to be targeted by the drug leflunomide, commonly used to treat arthritis.


The researchers showed that a combination of leflunomide and a promising experimental melanoma therapy called PLX4032 was particularly effective at blocking tumour growth over 12 days. PLX4032 is currently being tested in clinical trials and is designed to block a protein called BRAF, which was shown by Cancer Research UK scientists to be overactive in around half of all melanomas.


Dr Wheeler, from the University of East Anglia's School of Biological Sciences, said: "This is a really exciting discovery - making use of an existing drug specifically to target melanoma.
"Deaths from melanoma skin cancer are increasing and there is a desperate need for new, more effective treatments. We are very optimistic that this research will lead to novel treatments for melanoma tumours which, working alongside other therapies, will help to stop them progressing."
But, Cancer Research UK-funded scientist Professor Richard Marais at The Institute of Cancer Research sounded a more cautious note. "This work represents a very interesting new experimental approach to melanoma, but obviously there's a long way to go before we can start using these sorts of combinations in patients. We need to do a lot more preclinical studies and a lot more studies in appropriate models."
Meanwhile, a second study in Nature, from the same US group that worked with the UEA team, has shed light on a molecule that appears to influence the growth of melanoma.

Again working with zebrafish, researchers led by Professor Leonard Zon, discovered that a histone-methylating enzyme called SETDB1 cooperates with BRAF faults in melanoma cells to significantly speed up the development of the disease.


New prostate cancer twice as effective as a PSA test could be available by next year.

Wednesday, 02 March 2011

Scientists at the University of Surrey, UK, have made a major breakthrough in the early diagnosis of prostate cancer. They have developed a new way of detecting the cancer by testing a small urine sample from men, allowing faster testing that could save livs and off the potential of huge cost savings. The research was enabled by a close partnership between the University of Surrey and the Prostate Project.

A three-year study, published today in US journal Clinical Cancer Research, shows that a protein called Engrailed-2 (EN2) is made by prostate cancers and secreted into urine where it can be easily detected using the new test that is simple, quick and has the potential to be used in GP surgeries.


EN2 is an important protein in the development of the human embryo and, like many similar 'early life' proteins, its production is "switched off" at birth - but analysis of urine samples from 288 by the team at the University of Surrey found that EN2 is switched back on in prostate cancer.

Unlike the new EN2 test, the standard 30-year-old PSA test for prostate cancer involves taking a blood sample and is unable to detect a significant proportion of early prostate cancers, which go on to kill over 10,000 men in the UK every year. PSA tests can also result in "false positives"  causing unnecessary worry.


The new EN2 test has been proven to be more reliable and accurate than existing tests, said Professor Hardev Pandha, The Prostate Project Chair of Urological Oncology at the University of Surrey's Postgraduate Medical School.

"In this study, we showed that the new test was twice as good at finding prostate cancer as the standard PSA test. Only rarely did we find EN2 in the urine of men who were cancer free, so if we find EN2 we can be reasonably sure that a man has prostate cancer. EN2 was not detected in men with non-cancer disorders of the prostate such as prostatitis or benign enlargement. These conditions often cause a high PSA result, causing considerable stress for the patient and sometimes also unnecessary further tests such as prostate biopsies."


With the current EN2 test, men provide a small urine sample either in the surgery or at home, which their doctor sends to the lab. Professor Pandha said the testing method could, in the near future, be made into an even simpler 'desktop' test that a family doctor could perform in their surgery. "The prospect of an immediate result that doesn't involve a blood test or an embarrassing examination may be helpful in getting more men with urinary symptoms to seek medical help", he added.

"Unlike the development of drug treatments, the time taken to verify the potential of EN2 in the diagnosis of prostate cancer is relatively modest," said co-researcher Dr Richard Morgan, Senior Lecturer in Molecular Oncology at the University of Surrey. "We are preparing several large studies in the UK and in the US and although the EN2 test is not yet available, several companies have expressed interest in taking it forward."


Patients were tested at St George's Hospital, University of London, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford and Basingstoke Hospital.

Scientist, medical doctor and TV presenter Professor Robert Winston, who champions public engagement with science, said "This is an exciting discovery which advances the early detection of this cancer. It also shows just how vital the research carried out at Universities such as Surrey really is in helping to find faster, better solutions to some of the healthcare challenges that face us all."


Chairman of The Prostate Project Colin Stokes said: "We are all elated at this development. Huge credit must go to Professor Pandha, Dr Morgan and their outstanding team of researchers at the University of Surrey. I would like to thank everyone who has given their time and money so generously to our charity which has helped make today’s announcement possible. Some individuals and companies have been outstandingly generous. The charity is run entirely by volunteers and 98% of all the funds we raise for research go to the work at the University of Surrey and this has paid off handsomely. All our work over the last seven years has been geared to days like today - when we really do give men a better chance of beating prostate cancer."


Go to for more information



Clinical Cancer Research is a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research whose focus is to publish innovative clinical and translational cancer research studies that bridge the laboratory and the clinic. Clinical Cancer Research is especially interested in clinical trials evaluating new treatments, accompanied by research on pharmacology and molecular alterations or biomarkers that predict response or resistance to treatment.


How was this discovery made?

EN2 is one of a number of genes that has an important role in the development of the early embryo, and researchers at the University of Surrey are interested in the possible function of such genes in cancer. For this reason they looked to see whether EN2 is present in prostate cancer. When they
did, they found that not only is EN2 present in prostate tumours but it is actively secreted from these tumours. This suggested that it could be present in urine, which indeed it is.

What is EN2?

EN2 is a protein that acts as an on-off switch for genes and as such has a key role in controlling the behaviour of cells.

Why is it better than existing tests?

The sensitivity (detecting the cancer if it’s there) and specificity (not detecting it if it's not there) are better than existing tests. It gives a far lower rate of false positives than the current PSA test and is therefore a more accurate diagnostic tool. It uses urine, which can be collected easily. Unlike some other urine based prostate tests it does not require stimulation of the prostate through a digital rectal examination. It tests for a molecule produced and released specifically by cancerous prostate cells as opposed to molecules released by the prostate when it is disturbed for a wide variety of reasons (as is the case with PSA). The link with cancer is clear and the function of the molecule is well understood. This is not the case in some other tests.

How accurate is it?

It detects between 60 and 70% of prostate cancers on its first use and rarely gives a positive result in patients with no prostatic disease. This is roughly twice as good as PSA. In only 4% of cases is a signal generated where cancer has not then been confirmed by a needle biopsy (which is however not infallible in itself). This is roughly 10 times as good as PSA.

Should I still see my GP if the test is negative?

Yes, if you have any symptoms that worry you such as discomfort in the prostate area or difficulty in urinating you should definitely see a GP. There are other conditions besides cancer that can affect the prostate which may not be caused by cancer but still require treatment.

If it is negative or positive, will I still need a PSA test?

The two tests complement each other. PSA remains the first and most important test to detect prostate cancer. We anticipate that this new test will ultimately complement PSA and the combination of the two tests will improve detection considerably. The PSA test is standard tool in the tracking the progress of prostate cancer, so if the EN2 is positive a PSA test will be recommended to establish base line for PSA tracking.

Will this lead to National Screening?

This is one possibility, yes. The performance of the test is now better than the screening methods for cervical and breast cancer.



Bedwetting is still a taboo

Wednesday, 02 March 2011

A new survey released today by Kimberly Clark reveals that mums whose children wet the bed fear judgement and embarrassment from other parents.


75% of the 1,513 mums polled agreed that bedwetting was viewed as an embarrassing condition, despite it being almost as common as asthma or eczema . Almost 4 out of 10 of parents polled, whose children wet the bed, admitted not discussing their situation with other parents for fear of being judged as a bad parent of having their child labelled because of it.

Jenni Trent-Hughes is a family counsellor and mum who has been through this herself: "It's interesting that mums, despite communicating through everything from Twitter, to Facebook and blogs, can't talk to each other about something like bedwetting, where sharing their experience can actually help. Having been there myself I know how one can feel embarrassed and unwilling to discuss the issue or seek help. Choosing that course doesn't help the situation, in some cases can even make it worse. Often by delaying reaching out you can miss receiving advice that could improve the quality of life for all involved."

Many parents stay silent as they fear their child might be bullied or teased as a result. Aimie Turner, a 36 year old mum from St Albans, has been through the experience with her two sons 7 and 9. "Although I don't mind discussing the subject openly, I don't because I know my sons will be embarrassed and possibly teased. Rather then being seen as a normal part of growing up, it's considered an embarrassing problem. I don't think parents realise how many other families are experiencing the same thing so it has become a negative cycle of shame and fear of sharing, resulting in little support or understanding for families and especially children.'

66% of parents surveyed believed a child should ideally be dry at night by the age of 4, but in reality this is often not the case. Penny Dobson, a bedwetting expert, explains; "About one in five 4½ year olds aren't yet dry at night and some children can have bedwetting accidents up to the age of 15 or even beyond, but most children will be dry at night by the time they are 7 or 8. Despite this parents shouldn't be afraid to seek help. 30% of parents in our survey said they'd wait until their child grew out of bedwetting but if parents are concerned they should speak to their GP or health visitor".

Almost half of the parents (45%) who took part in the survey thought a child who wet the bed did so because something was worrying or upsetting them and this can sometimes be the case. "There are several other factors that can cause bedwetting, including heredity." says Penny. "Some children wet the bed because their system for storing urine in the bladder at night and waking-up and "holding-on" - is not yet fully developed. Others might not be producing enough of an important hormone, called vasopressin, which effectively "puts the kidneys to sleep" at night."
"Using absorbent sleepwear is just one of the ways parents can cope with nightly accidents."  All good pharmacists stock products such as these and will be able to advise what may be most suitable.  Penny explains. "Keeping clothing and sheets dry, they help to break the cycle of worry and anxiety, meaning parents and children can sleep with confidence."

Jenni concludes, "Hopefully, these statistics show mums that their family is not the only family by far who is being affected by this issue. It reaches so many of us and there is so much opportunity for help and support that the wise among us will put our embarrassment to one side and reach out for the sake of our sanity and our children"

This survey was concluded with 1,513 parents through between 17 and 22 February 2010.
*66% of parents thought children should be dry at night by the time they are 4, 25% by the time they are 5
*45% think that if a child is not dry at night after the age of 4, it's likely to be because they have something that is worrying or upsetting them
*30% would wait for their child to grow out of it if their child regularly wet the bed after the age of four
*75% of parents believe bedwetting is considered an embarrassing condition by others
*46% of parents surveyed has a child who wet the bed
*37% of parents whose children wet the bed, did not find it easy to talk to other parents because they felt they should have done something about it by

now or because they did want to be judged

*24% of parents whose children wet the bed, believed the reason their child wet the bed was because she/he was a deep sleeper


Online workshop Forum For Parents Of Allergic Children Launches

Wednesday, 09 February 2011

Action Against Allergy has teamed up with the online health information service, in collaboration with NHS Choices ( to sponsor an online workshop forum for parents of allergic children.

For one week, beginning Friday February 18, parents needing advice on how to manage their children's food allergies will be able to post their questions in the forum and get expert answers and advice from leading paedriatic specialist doctors and nurses from the King's College London Allergy Academy - an educational initiative committed to providing education in the field of allergy to patients and their families as well as health care professionals.

Leading the medical team will be Dr Adam Fox, paediatric allergy consultant, with Dr Helen Brough, clinical lecturer in paediatric allergy; Hasita Prinja, specialist paediatric allergy dietitian, and paedriatic allergy registrar Sian Ludman. They are all with the allergy team at Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.

The workshop forum is free to access after registering as a member on or any of its sister sites. Parents' questions and the experts' answers given will be available for all site visitors to view during the week and once it has closed.


Plant Sap May Provide Cure For Skin Cancer

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The British Journal of Dermatology will reveal  that a traditional medicine using the sap from a common weed is effective in treating non-melanoma skin cancers in a study due to be released this week.


The sap of Euphorbia peplus, a plant more commonly known as petty spurge in the UK, has been scientifically proven to be capable of 'killing' certain types of skin cancer cells when applied to the skin. The plant has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine to treat conditions such as warts, asthma and several types of cancer.


Following the anecdotal reports of the efficacy of the plant sap a team of scientists in Australia decided to conduct a clinical study of the sap involving 36 patients with a total of 48 non-melanoma skin cancer lesions. The lesions treated included 28 basal cell carcinomas (BCC), four squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and 16 intraepidermal carcinomas (IEC). Intraepidermal carcinoma is a growth of cancerous cells confined to the outer layer of the skin, but occasionally they do progress into an invasive and more dangerous form of skin cancer.


The clinical study enrolled patients who had either previously failed to respond to other types of treatment including surgery, had refused surgical treatment, or were deemed unsuitable for surgery for reasons such as their age. The patients had their skin cancers treated once a day for three consecutive days by an oncologist using a cotton bud to apply enough of the E.peplus sap onto the skin to cover the surface of each lesion.


The initial results were impressive; after only one month 41 of the 48 cancers had shown a complete clinical response (CCR) to the E.peplus treatment, meaning that the tumour had completely gone and was not visible on clinical examination. Out of the test group, 15 of the 16 IEC tumours treated responded with a complete clinical response (94 per cent), followed by 23 of the 28 BCCs treated (82 per cent), and three of the four SCCs (75 per cent). Patients who experienced only a partial response to the first round of treatment were offered a second course one to three months later.

The lesions which responded positively to one or two courses of treatment were then followed up further for between two and 31 months. At their last follow-up appointment patients had their complete treatment response measured according to whether the tumour remained absent on clinical examination and/or histology results from punch biopsies. After an average of 15 months following treatment, two thirds (68.5 per cent, 30 of the 48) of the skin cancer lesions were still showing a complete response. Of the three types of skin cancer tested, the final outcome was a 75 per cent complete response for IEC lesions, 57 per cent for BCC and 50 per cent for SCC lesions.


By incorporating the additional findings of its effect on SCCs and IECs this study supports another work in the same field, which looked at the effect of using a purified compound from E.peplus in the treatment of BCCs*. The findings of both studies support the further development of the active ingredient ingenol mebutate in the treatment of non-melanoma and pre-cancers.


Non-melanoma skin cancer is very common accounting for at least 95 per cent of all skin cancers in the UK, and whilst not as deadly as melanoma skin cancer (which can rapidly spread to other parts of the body), it still represents a growing health problem. The results of this study show that active ingredient in E.peplus sap, ingenol mebutate, provides a viable non-surgical treatment for IEC, BCC and SCC skin cancers.


Kimberley Carter of the British Association of Dermatologists said: "This is a very small test group so it will be interesting to see what larger studies and the development of the active ingredient in E. peplus sap will reveal. Whilst it would not provide an alternative to surgery for the more invasive skin cancers or melanoma, in the future it might become a useful addition to the treatments available to patients for superficial, non-melanoma skin cancers. Any advances that could lead to new therapies for patients where surgery is not an option are definitely worth investigating.


"It is also very important to note that this is definitely not a treatment people should be trying out at home. Exposure of the sap to mucous producing surfaces, such as the eyes, results in extreme inflammation and can lead to hospitalisation. The concentration of the active ingredients in the sap also varies between different plants, with high doses able to cause very severe and excessive inflammatory responses."


A benefit of the treatment is the apparent lack of side-effects. In fact, 43 per cent of patients reported feeling no pain as a result of the treatment, 37 per cent reported mild pain, 14 per cent moderate, and only one patient encountered severe pain. When pain was experienced it was localised to the lesion site, and lasted between two hours and two days. In all cases of successful treatment the skin was left with a good cosmetic appearance.


Ingenol mebutate was identified as an active ingredient of E. Peplus sap, that when applied to the skin induces inflammation and primary necrosis (death) of the tumour cells. It also recruits white blood cells known as neutrophils that appear to reduce the risk of relapse by destroying any residual malignant cells that could allow the tumour to re-grow.


Non-melanoma skin cancers particularly affect people who have experienced too much exposure to ultra-violet light from the sun or from sun beds. Lesions usually appear on the areas that are most exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, ears, and back of the hands.



Is Stress The Cause Of Man Flu

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New research published today in the scientific Journal, Occupational Medicine suggests men who get stressed at work are more likely to catch common colds and sniffles. The research did not find the same association amongst women workers.


The scientists studied 1200 manual workers from forty different companies and found that men who were experiencing stress and who felt that they had a lack of control over their job were 74% more likely to take time off sick with a cold. Common colds are one of the biggest causes of short bouts of work related sickness absence in the UK. Common cold infections are so widespread that there are very few people who escape the infection each year and a recent survey suggested that flu and other minor ailments accounted for 84% of the days off in the UK.


The team from South Korea who undertook the research thought that the difference between men and women may be because men are more likely to 'overrate' common cold symptoms whilst women tend to be more stoical in their response. People experiencing stress are also more likely to smoke, drink heavily or eat unhealthy foods - all of these may contribute to their susceptibility to catching common cold bugs.


Stress and depression are the biggest cause for longer term absence in the UK with 1 in 4 employees experiencing problems. This is not just distressing for the person involved - it can make them less productive at work and is responsible for high rates of sick-leave, accidents and staff turnover.


Commenting on their findings, Dr Olivia Carlton, President of the Society of Occupational Medicine said "Stress of any kind, including work related stress may affect your immune system and be a potential risk factor for the common cold and other illnesses; further studies on this are needed. However the real issue here is that managers in the workplace need to understand how to identify employees who are experiencing stress and help those who are affected. We need to remove the stigma associated with psychological health conditions - they are common and can happen to anyone at anytime in their life. There are solutions and it's important that staff feel able to seek support."


Occupational Health staff will know about the particular stresses and strains of the work environment and have experience of sensitive issues such as workplace confidentiality, job security and the timing of the return to part-time or full-time working. They are ideally placed to advise managers about how to manage staff with psychological problems and can also work closely with family doctors or other specialist health services.


Exelon patch for Alzheimer's approved by NICE for use on the NHS

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

NICE issues new Alzheimer's guidance for Exelon patch treatment.


Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK has welcomed the update to National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance TA1111 and is pleased that the Exelon Patch (rivastigmine transdermal patch) has also been recommended as a cost-effective option for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The company states that the Exelon Patch is the first and only transdermal patch licensed for the symptomatic treatment of mild to moderately severe Alzheimer's dementia and is an important treatment option as it reduces the patient pill burden, provides visual reassurance of compliance for the carer and has a preferable side effect profile compared with oral Exelon (rivastigmine) capsules.


The Exelon Patch delivers treatment through the skin into the bloodstream, bypassing the stomach and limiting interactions with any other drugs that the patient may be taking. This means that for most patients it can be a more tolerable treatment option. Professor June Andrews, Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling said: "People with dementia and their carers have a lot to contend with, so it's a relief that at last those in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease will have access to medication. Then they can get on with taking the other steps they need to keep well, and enjoy life as much as possible."




Hospitals 'gridlocked' by Swine flu

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The Telegraph reports that The NHS is in “gridlock”, with hospitals across the country being forced to declare that they have reached the highest level of

emergency because of flu and other winter viruses. Britain’s most senior accident and emergency doctor said that four weeks of intense pressures had left casualty departments “overwhelmed” with patients. People have been left for hours waiting on trolleys, with even those requiring intensive care enduring long delays. Dozens of NHS hospitals have been forced to cancel surgery and clinics for outpatients. At least 10 major centres issued “black alerts” — the highest emergency warning — meaning they were at breaking point, forcing patients to be sent elsewhere.

Many hospital wards closed due to norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, which put more than 1,200 beds out of use in one week as nurses attempted to

isolate the disease.


On friday night it was disclosed that two boys, aged two and 10 months, had died from swine flu in Northern Ireland. On Thursday, it was disclosed that the number of deaths from flu had almost doubled, with 110 deaths this winter.


John Heyworth, the president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: “We have seen A&Es absolutely overwhelmed, with people queuing on trolleys and long delays even for those being admitted to intensive care. The hospitals are gridlocked.”

“My frustration is that so much of this is predictable. This did not come out of the blue and yet the planning is inadequate — as though there is a sense of denial about it. The planning this winter has been far less effective than last year.”

Mr Heyworth claimed that casualty units had been hit by a “dramatic surge” in demand not just because of an increase in the number of very sick patients suffering flu complications, but also because people with less serious cases could not see a GP at evenings or weekends and went to A&E instead.

“In many parts of the country out-of-hours services are absolutely inadequate, so what we get is people turning up at A&E simply because they do not know where else to go, or else they delay and only seek help when their condition is serious.”

"It is not good enough. We are failing the public.”


Hospitals were already struggling to cope with an increased number of elderly patients needing surgery following falls during the big freeze when they

were hit by rising influenza admissions and cases of norovirus. Latest figures for England showed that in the week ending last Sunday, 23 casualty units were filled to capacity, forcing ambulances carrying emergency patients to take very sick patients much further away for treatment.

The Government has been criticised by flu experts for failing to introduce a national public advertising campaign about the perils of swine flu until

Jan 1, by which time the outbreak was on course to hit epidemic levels.


Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: “It is really worrying that the NHS is not prepared to deal with these sorts of pressures. The

system is on a knife-edge, and it does not have enough slack in it to cope once we have an outbreak of flu and cases of norovirus.”

She said the charity was “inundated” with calls from elderly people who had their operations cancelled and had not been given a date for the surgery to

go ahead. “What concerns me even more is that this is happening at a time when the health service is gearing up to make major savings, and massive reforms,” said Ms Murphy.


The Department of Health said there was always more pressure on the NHS at this time of year and insisted that the service had been prepared and was coping well. A spokesman said “This year’s flu has resulted in greater than usual numbers of patients requiring critical care,” he said.

“Where necessary, local NHS organisations have increased their critical care capacity, in part by delaying routine operations requiring critical care

back-up. This is a normal operational process which is initiated by NHS organisations at the local level.”


Breastfeeding recommendations may need to be changed

Sunday, 16 January 2011


Experts have suggested that breastfeeding exclusively for six months is not necessarily best and may put babies off some foods.


Current UK guidelines are that women should breastfeed for the first six months of a baby's life before introducing solids. However, researchers led by a paediatrician from University College London's Institute of Child Health said babies could suffer iron deficiency and may be more prone to allergies if they only receive breast milk.


In 2001, the World Health Organisation announced a global recommendation, adopted by the UK in 2003, that infants should

be exclusively breastfed for six months. The experts said the WHO recommendation "rested largely" on a review of 16 studies, including seven from developing countries, which found that babies just given breast milk for six months had fewer infections and experienced no growth

problems. However, another review of 33 studies found "no compelling evidence" to not introduce solids at four to six months, they said, whilst some studies have also shown that breastfeeding for six months does not give babies all the nutrition they need. One US study from 2007 found that babies exclusively breastfed for six months were more likely to develop anaemia than those introduced to solids at four to six months, and researchers in Sweden found that the incidence of early onset coeliac disease increased after a recommendation to delay introduction of gluten until age six months.


The report said that breastfeeding only for six months is a good recommendation for developing countries, which have higher death rates from infection.

But in the UK, it could lead to some adverse health outcomes and may "reduce the window for introducing new tastes". "Bitter tastes, in particular, may be important in the later acceptance of green leafy vegetables, which may potentially

affect later food preferences with influence on health outcomes such as obesity."



US research claims smoking 'causes damage in minutes'

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Smoking damages the body in minutes rather than years, according to research published in Chemical Research in Toxicology.


The report shows that chemicals which cause cancer form rapidly after smoking. Scientists involved in the small-scale study described the results as a stark warning to people considering smoking. Anti-smoking charity Ash described the research as "chilling" and as a warning that it is never too early to quit.


The long term dangers of smoking, from heart disease to a range of cancers, are well known. This study suggests the damage begins very quickly after the first cigarette is smoked. The researchers looked at PAH levels (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), chemicals linked with cancer, in 12 patients after smoking. A PAH was added to the subject's cigarettes, which was then modified by the body and turned into another chemical which damages DNA and has been linked with cancer. The research shows this process only took between 15 and 30 minutes to take place.


Professor Stephen Hecht, from the University of Minnesota, said: "This study is unique, it is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or the diet.

The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes."


Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said: "Almost everybody knows that smoking can cause lung cancer.

"The chilling thing about this research is that it shows just how early the very first stages of that process begin - not in 30 years but within 30 minutes of a single cigarette for every subject in the study.

"The process starts early but it is never too late to quit and the sooner you quit the sooner you start to reduce the harm."


The research was funded by the US National Cancer Institute.


GP’s urge those at risk to get flu jab

Thursday, 23 December 2010

It has been reported that some people are avoiding having the vaccine as they are concerned about its swine flu element. People in at-risk groups should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has highlighted the “myths” that are circulating about the safety of the seasonal flu vaccine in a letter to the government. It said that the regular seasonal outbreak could be much more serious if there is a low uptake of people having the jab. Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of BMA’s GPs Committee, said:

“Family doctors are already seeing high rates of influenza and they have been telling us that they are also seeing a lower uptake than usual for seasonal flu immunisation. Myths persist about the safety of the vaccine, especially after swine flu. The vaccine has been thoroughly tested and we strongly urge patients to make an appointment with their GP and get vaccinated.”


People in at-risk groups should get vaccinated as soon as possible. For the first time pregnant women are being offered the seasonal jab as they are felt to be at higher risk from the H1N1 virus. Professor David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health said:

"The effects of flu are not to be underestimated. It is not the same as getting a cold and can seriously affect your health.

"If you are in a risk group, then I would urge you to visit your GP surgery and get the vaccination as soon as possible. It is not too late to get vaccinated for your protection and that of your family."


This winter, the swine flu strain behind last year’s pandemic (H1N1) is one of three strains of flu that the seasonal flu jab protects against. The other two strains of flu that this year's jab protects against are H3N2 and B. It is important to realise that the vaccine to protect against H1N1 is created in the same way as vaccines for other strains of flu. Its inclusion in this year’s seasonal flu jab poses no additional risk. It is included simply because it is one of the major flu strains circulating this winter.


Who should be vaccinated?


The seasonal flu jab is offered free of charge to anyone over the age of six months with the following medical conditions, as they are at higher risk of catching flu:

• chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, COPD or bronchitis

• chronic heart disease, such as heart failure

• chronic kidney disease

• chronic liver disease

• chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease

• diabetes

• a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)


Some people are at greater risk of developing serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These may require hospital treatment. A large number of elderly people die from flu every winter. The seasonal flu vaccine is offered free of charge to people in these at-risk groups to protect them from catching flu and possibly developing complications. Also, this winter the seasonal flu vaccine will be offered to all pregnant women who have not previously been vaccinated against H1N1 (swine) flu.


It is recommended that you have a flu jab if you:

• are 65 or over

• have a serious medical condition

• live in a residential or nursing home

• are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill

• are a healthcare or social care professional directly involved in patient care

• work with poultry

If you are the parent of a child (over six months) with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about the flu jab. Your child's condition may get worse if they catch flu.

If you are the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they have had their flu jab.


If you think you need a seasonal flu vaccination, check with your doctor, nurse or your local pharmacist.



Swine flu returns - ten fatalities in recent weeks

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Swine flu has claimed the lives of 10 British adults in recent weeks, newspapers report. The Independent and the Daily Mail say there are signs that the virus ‘is back’, raising fears of ‘a new epidemic’. Although most of the 10 fatalities had underlying health conditions, they say “a small proportion” had been healthy before the virus. Numbers of people hospitalised with severe flu have also risen, and there have been several outbreaks in schools and on a military base.


The Health Protection Agency has warned that although the overall number of cases of flu is not unusual for this time of year, the number of severe cases of H1N1 is higher than expected in England.


For most people, H1N1 flu is a mild illness lasting seven to ten days. However, some groups of people are at greater risk of serious illness if they catch flu, such as people over 65, pregnant women and those with other long-term illnesses. These people should ask their GP to be given the vaccine as soon as possible. A detailed list of at-risk groups is given below. It is important that people at greater risk are vaccinated. However, the actual numbers of people visiting their GP with flu are low and there is no indication yet of another swine flu epidemic. The virus is not known to have mutated into a new strain or developed any new characteristics.


As the H1N1 virus was widely circulating last year, it is not surprising that it is still present this winter. What are the news reports based on? There has been a notable rise in the number of people with severe flu who have been admitted to hospital recently. The Health Protection Agency has warned of this increase and advised that people in high-risk groups should be vaccinated. Last week there were 16 people aged 18 to 35 in hospital with severe H1N1 influenza. Many of these people have an underlying health condition, and some are pregnant. Several other people with probable H1N1 are currently under investigation. Nine people have died from flu since early September, of whom eight had H1N1. Many of these people also had other underlying high-risk conditions.

Are more people getting flu than usual?


The numbers of people visiting their GP with flu-like illnesses are low, but there have been several outbreaks in the community and a number of severe cases. Nine acute respiratory disease outbreaks were reported in the UK at the beginning of September, eight in schools and one on a military base. Two of these nine outbreaks have been attributed to H1N1. Worldwide, flu rates are currently low, although some areas of South Asia and central and western Africa are currently reporting surges in H1N1 detections.

It is difficult to say how many of these cases are swine flu. Each year several flu strains circulate in the population. This year H1N1 is one of the strains, but others, such as influenza B, are circulating too. It is only possible to tell whether a particular case is caused by swine flu through laboratory testing. Eight of the nine flu deaths since early September were confirmed as being caused by H1N1 after testing and one was caused by influenza B.


The virus is not known to have mutated into a new strain or developed any new characteristics. As the H1N1 swine flu virus was widely circulating in the previous flu season, it is not surprising that it is still present this winter. Swine flu (like other strains of flu) just becomes less common during summer months and then may increase in prevalence during winter months. Although many people developed immunity or received immunisations to H1N1 last year, not everyone did. Those with reduced immunity to this infection are more likely to contract the infection.


In August 2010, the WHO declared that the H1N1 influenza pandemic was over, and that the world was in a “post-pandemic period”. It cautioned that “based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal flu virus and continue to circulate for some years to come”. The WHO also anticipated that “localised outbreaks” showing “significant levels of H1N1 transmission” may occur. Post-pandemic periods can be unpredictable, and continued monitoring of cases worldwide is important.


How dangerous is swine flu?


For most people, H1N1 flu is a mild illness lasting seven to ten days. However, some groups of people are more at risk of serious illness if they catch flu, such as the elderly, pregnant women and some people with other illnesses. Of the nine people who have died with flu since early September, eight were confirmed as having H1N1. Of these, the majority had underlying health conditions.


People with the following conditions are known to be particularly at risk:


chronic (long-term) lung disease

chronic heart disease

chronic kidney disease

chronic liver disease

chronic neurological disease (neurological disorders include chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease) immunosuppression (whether caused by disease or treatment)

diabetes mellitus


Also at risk are:


patients who have had drug treatment for asthma within the past three years

pregnant women

people aged 65 and older

young children under five


How do I protect myself from swine flu?


Vaccination offers the best protection for those at high risk from flu. Professor John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the HPA, said: "If you are in an at-risk group and you haven't had your jab, we recommend you make an appointment with your GP or medical practitioner now”. The swine flu vaccine is now part of the seasonal flu jab, which also protects against the other circulating strains. Pregnant women are being offered the seasonal vaccine for the first time because, as a group, they were affected more during the pandemic and are at greater risk of serious complications. Contact your GP for further advice on getting the vaccine.


Who should be vaccinated?


The seasonal flu jab is offered free of charge to anyone over the age of six months with the following medical conditions, as they are at higher risk of catching flu:


chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, COPD or bronchitis

chronic heart disease such as heart failure,

chronic kidney disease

chronic liver disease

chronic neurological disease such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease,


a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment.)


For most people, seasonal flu is unpleasant but not serious and they recover within a week. However, certain people are at greater risk of developing serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These may require hospital treatment. A large number of elderly people die from flu every winter. The seasonal flu vaccine is offered free of charge to these at-risk groups to protect them from catching flu and developing these complications. Also, this winter (2010-11) the seasonal flu vaccine will be offered to pregnant women not in the high-risk groups who have not previously been vaccinated against H1N1 (swine) flu.


It is recommended you have a flu jab if you:


are 65 or over have a serious medical condition (see above)

live in a residential or nursing home

are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill are a healthcare or social care professional directly involved in patient care

work with poultry


If you are the parent of a child (over six months) with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about the flu jab. Your child's condition may get worse if they catch flu. If you are the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they have had their flu jab.


How do I get vaccinated?


If you think you need a seasonal flu vaccination, check with your doctor, nurse or local pharmacist.


What are the symptoms of swine flu?


If you or a member of your family has a fever or high temperature (over 38C/100.4F) and two or more of the following symptoms, you may have H1N1 flu:


unusual tiredness


runny nose

sore throat

shortness of breath or cough

loss of appetite

aching muscles

diarrhoea or vomiting


It makes sense to have a working thermometer at home, as an increase in temperature is one of the main symptoms.


I think I have swine flu, what should I do?


If you are in an at-risk group, you should seek medical advice if you are having flu symptoms. If you are not in one of these groups, stay at home, get plenty of rest and use over-the-counter painkillers to relieve symptoms. If the symptoms persist or get more severe, seek medical advice. Maintaining good cough and hand hygiene, should limit the spread of germs and reduce the chances of people you come into contact with getting flu: cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze dispose of the tissue as soon as possible clean your hands as soon you can.


Finger length may ‘predict prostate cancer’

Saturday, 04 December 2010

Reports this week  suggest that, according to new research, the length of a man's fingers can provide clues to his risk of prostate cancer.  Researchers compared patterns in finger length in 1,524 men with prostate cancer and 3,044 men without cancer. They found a longer index finger relative to a shorter ring finger was associated with lower cancer risk. The researchers suggest that finger length relates to sex hormone levels in the womb, and that being exposed to less testosterone leads to having both longer index fingers and a lower risk of cancer.


The study concludes that finger ratio could potentially be a “marker” for prostate cancer risk, although determining the reason behind such an association is difficult. While age, family history and ethnicity are firmly established risk factors for prostate cancer, the role of many other genetic, biological and environmental risk factors is currently less clear. It is also possible that, along with genetic and biological factors, some other unknown factor related to hormones may be associated with both finger length and cancer risk. More research in this area should be conducted to clarify these interesting results.


This study was carried out by researchers from The University of Nottingham and other research and academic institutions in the UK. The study was funded by the Prostate Cancer Research Foundation and Cancer Research UK and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal the British Journal of Cancer.

The researchers suggest that the ratio of finger lengths is determined while a baby is still in the uterus, and that this measure might be a potential indicator of a man’s risk of prostate cancer. They believe that the two factors are related to testosterone exposure. Being exposed to less testosterone in the womb theoretically leads to longer index fingers and lower testosterone levels are also thought to be related to reduced risk of prostate cancer.


The researchers used a case control study to test this theory. The finger lengths of men with prostate cancer were compared with those of a control sample of men without the disease from the population. Although this was a cross-sectional study, meaning the exposure and outcome were assessed at the same time, it is clear that finger length would have been determined before the onset of the cancer.


The greater difficulty, however, is in determining the possible underlying reason for any observed association. Although age, family history and ethnicity are quite firmly established risk factors for prostate cancer, the potential influence of other genetic, biological and environmental risk factors is not clear. It is possible that some other genetic or biological factor may be associated with both finger length and cancer risk.


Between 1994 and 2009 information was collected on 1,524 men with prostate cancer identified through three large hospitals, as well as 3,044 community-based controls recruited through their GP. These controls were known to be free of urinary symptoms suggestive of prostate problems. All men were under 80 years of age. All eligible participants completed a postal questionnaire giving information on the lengths of the fingers of their right hand. To help them do this they were given a series of pictures to compare their hands to. The options were:

• index finger longer than the ring finger

• index finger equally as long as the ring finger

• index finger shorter than the ring finger (considered to be the reference category)

The results were adjusted for age and social class only.

Fewer men in the control group completed the assessment questionnaires (70% of controls versus 83% of cases). The average ages were 62 years among cases and 57 years among controls, with 90% of the total sample being of white ethnicity.

Of the 1,524 cases, 872 (57.2%) reported a shorter index finger, 305 (20.0%) reported fingers of equal length and 347 (22.8%) reported a longer index finger. Of the 3,044 controls, 1,570 (51.6%) reported a shorter index finger, 538 (17.7%) reported fingers of equal length and 936 (30.8%) reported a longer index finger.

The main findings were that men with an index finger longer than their ring finger had a reduced risk of having cancer compared with men with an index finger shorter than their ring finger (odds ratio 0.67, 95% confidence interval 0.57 to 0.80).




The researchers conclude that the pattern of finger lengths may be “a simple marker of prostate cancer risk”, with a longer index finger relative to ring finger being associated with lower risk. This case control study of men with and without prostate cancer has several strengths, including its large sample size. Another strength is the fact that, though the ‘exposure’ (estimated in this case using finger length) was assessed once prostate cancer was already established, it is clear that the ratio of finger lengths preceded the onset of cancer. However, it is difficult to determine the underlying reason for any observed association. Although age, family history and ethnicity are quite firmly established risk factors for prostate cancer, the potential influence of other genetic, biological and environmental risk factors is not clear. It is possible that some underlying genetic or biological factor may be influencing both finger length and risk of prostate cancer. In this case the researchers consider hormone exposure to be the most likely factor affecting both of these things. As such, the researchers may be correct in considering their findings to be “a marker of prostate cancer risk”, but future research is needed to identify the possible underlying reasons why this might be the case.


The study does have a couple of further limitations worthy of note:

• Men self-reported their own finger ratios by matching them to a series of pictures. There may be some inaccuracy in the measurement of finger length, particularly when lengths are similar.

• Men in the control group were not confirmed to be free of cancer. The fact that they did not have current urinary symptoms does not mean that they did not already have early stage cancer or would not develop cancer in the future, particularly when it is remembered that they were slightly younger than cases.

• Participation rates were lower among controls compared with cases. As this was not adjusted for in the analysis it is possible that this could have had an unknown effect on the results.

• The study did not look at the actual differences in finger length, only which finger was longer. Therefore, it is difficult to assess how marginal any differences in finger length might be or estimate if larger differences in finger length were linked to greater cancer risk.

• The study looked only at participants’ right hands, but some other studies comparing finger length on both hands have suggested that the relationship between hormone exposure and finger length is not straightforward.

This research raises interesting questions worthy of further study. For example, the strength of the underlying theory that testosterone levels in the womb are linked to finger length ratios could itself be tested.

Short index fingers, researchers say, occur in half of all men, and prostate cancer is less common than this. This suggests that other factors might be more important and that finger length alone may not be as good a screening test as the researchers and some newspapers imply.


Rahman AA, Lophatananon A, Brown SS et al. Hand pattern indicates prostate cancer risk. British Journal of Cancer, November 30 2010


NICE comes under fire for rejecting bowel cancer drug Avastin

Friday, 12 November 2010

NICE has published final draft guidance as part of its appraisal of bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with chemotherapy (oxaliplatin and either 5-fluorouracil or capecitabine) for treating metastatic colorectal cancer even though the manufacturer, Roche, proposed a patient access scheme where the drug would cost the NHS £20,800 per patient for one year and would be free after 12 months.


The recommendations from NICE do not support the use of bevacizumab for this indication, on the basis of the current offer from the manufacturer, Roche Pharmaceuticals. Draft guidance is now with consultees, who have the opportunity to appeal against the proposed guidance. In response to the latest draft guidance NICE Chief Executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, said: “Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a very expensive drug and so patients and NHS should expect substantial benefits from using it. The evidence we have suggests that patients receiving bevacizumab and chemotherapy for this indication may survive on average for six weeks longer than patients receiving chemotherapy and placebo. This means half of those patients who receive any benefit, will receive less than six extra weeks of life.

“We have held two consultations on our initial draft decision on bevacizumab for metastatic colorectal cancer, inviting the manufacturer and other stakeholders to submit further information in support of bevacizumab for this indication. Unfortunately, no new information or opinion submitted during either consultation has provided evidence to enable the committee to recommend the drug; therefore they have not been able to change the original recommendation.

“NICE has recommended expensive drug treatments before, but the independent Committee that makes the final decision needs to be certain that the benefits offered justify the cost the NHS is being asked to pay.”

The manufacturer estimates that approximately 6,500 people per year might be eligible for the drug and, with the proposed patient access scheme, Roche is currently asking the NHS to pay around £20,800 per patient. If all these eligible patients received bevacizumab, the total cost to the NHS could potentially be as much as £135 million per year.


However, Professor Karol Sikora, one of the UK’s leading cancer specialists, said the Nice rejection of the offer was ‘madness’.

The professor, a director of Cancer Partners UK, a private provider of cancer services that works with the NHS, said: ‘Patients lose out all ways. Nice is completely discredited by this decision and has shown itself to be a bunch of bureaucrats that do not consider the best interests of the NHS or patients.’  Ian Beaumont, campaigns director at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We are naturally disappointed that Nice is not approving Bevacizumab for use on the NHS, especially when there is so much evidence of the treatment’s efficacy and it is so widely available to patients across the rest of Europe.”  The U.S., Australia, Canada, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy and almost all EU countries meet the cost of Avastin. Surveys show the UK has a much lower uptake of new cancer drugs than other countries, and our survival rates lag behind.

In the original proposed patient access scheme, bevacizumab would be supplied at a fixed cost of approximately £20,800 per patient for one year and would be free after 12 months of cumulative treatment. The cost of oxaliplatin would also be reimbursed. The new scheme included all these elements plus an additional upfront payment to the NHS for each person starting first-line treatment with bevacizumab. Both the independent Appraisal Committee and the Department of Health felt the patient access scheme proposed by the manufacturer was complex and the administrative costs were underestimated in the manufacturer’s calculations.


Sir Andrew Dillon said, “The very complex patient access scheme proposed by the manufacturer did not reduce the cost effectiveness estimates by anywhere near as much as the manufacturer suggests. Using the price that the NHS actually pays for oxaliplatin, the cost per QALY would actually be around £70,000 and not £25 – £30,000 as suggested by Roche.”

“We have recommended several treatments for various stages of colorectal cancer, including cetuximab for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. We are disappointed not to be able to add to this range of treatment options, but we have to be confident that the benefits justify the considerable cost of this drug, and the evidence for bevacizumab is just not as clear as it is for other treatments.”


NOTE: Until NICE issues final guidance, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments. People who are currently receiving bevacizumab should have the option to continue therapy until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop.


Alzheimer’s Can Be Predicted

Friday, 12 November 2010


The neurological decline that leads to Alzheimer's disease may begin in middle-age and can be predicted with a simple to administer test.


The study, led by Professor David Bunce - Professor of Psychology at Brunel University, West London and a visiting professorial fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research at The Australian National University (ANU) - has revealed that some apparently healthy adults living in the community aged between 44 and 48 years have minute white matter lesions in areas of their brains similar to those found in persons with Alzheimer's disease later in life. A further breakthrough generated as part of this research has allowed scientists to more easily predict which individuals may develop these lesions, through a simple-to-administer measure of attention.

The results suggest that the neurological decline thought to lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease may begin much earlier in people's lives than was originally thought.


The work is published in the open-access journal PLoS One. Professor Bunce said, "although we cannot be certain that these middle-aged people will go on to get dementia, the results are important for several reasons."

"First, the study is one of the first to show that lesions in areas of the brain that deteriorate in dementia are present in some adults aged in their 40s.

"Second, although the presence of the lesions was confirmed through MRI scans, we were able to predict those persons who had them through very simple to administer measures of attention tests.

"Finally, if the findings are repeated in laboratories elsewhere, the study lays open possibilities for screening, early detection and intervention in healthcare settings. The earlier we can intervene with people vulnerable to eventual dementia, the greater the chances of preventing or delaying the disease onset."


The researchers' paper, 'Cognitive Deficits are associated with Frontal and Temporal Lobe White Matter Lesions in Middle-Aged Adults Living in the Community' is published in the open-access journal PLoSONE (Public Library of Science-ONE). A copy of the paper is available at .

Professor Bunce is a Professor in the Dept of Psychology at Brunel University. He is currently working at ANU as a visiting professorial fellow. The paper arises from work in collaboration with colleagues at ANU.


This cohort of the PATH Through Life Project comprised 2530 individuals aged 44-48 years who were residents of the city of Canberra and surrounding areas, and were recruited randomly through the electoral roll. Enrolment to vote is compulsory for Australian citizens. A randomly selected subsample of 656 participants was offered an MRI scan, of which 503 accepted, and 431 (85.7%) eventually completed. There were no differences in age, sex and years of education between those who had an MRI scan and those who did not.



Organic food is no healthier than conventional food

Tuesday, 09 November 2010

It has been reported that organic vegetables are no healthier than food grown conventionally.


A scientific study has grown vegetables under both organic and conventional conditions and has found no difference to the levels of polyphenol compounds they contained.  There have been some claims that polyphenol antioxidants may reduce the risk of some cancers, dementia and cardiovascular disease. However, their effects have only been observed in studies of cells, and their health benefits in humans have yet to be confirmed. In this study, the levels of polyphenols in the crops were the same, regardless of whether they were grown with organic methods or using pesticides and non-organic fertilisers. This research suggests that organic farming methods do not increase the amount of polyphenol antioxidants, however, the decision to eat organic produce may be a lifestyle one for many people, influenced by factors such as taste and preferring farming methods that do not use pesticides. Fruit and vegetables have numerous health benefits far beyond their antioxidant content and, whether organic or not, it is important to try to eat at least five portions every day.


The research set out to examine whether the nutritional content of potatoes, carrots and onions was affected by how they are grown. The researchers specifically looked at polyphenol antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. They also set out to establish whether the concentrations of these compounds varied in different soil, locations and the years in which  the crops were grown. The study only looked at how farming methods affect the crops, and did not involve research into how animals or people absorb nutrients from food, or what impact this might have on health. It did not investigate broader health benefits of consuming fruit and vegetables grown by different methods, as polyphenol antioxidants are only one aspect of nutrition, and the health benefits of consuming them are not fully understood.


The researchers grew potatoes in a crop rotation experiment in three different locations from 2007 to 2008. Carrots and onions were grown at one location as part of another crop rotation experiment. Both experiments grew the crops under three systems: one ‘conventional’ (using pesticides and non-organic fertiliser) and two organic systems without pesticides (both using animal manure, but one also adding ‘cover crops’, which are used to improve soil fertility). Comparisons in nutritional content of the vegetables were made by harvesting on the same day in all farming systems, and a 15kg sample of each vegetable crop was analysed. Slices were taken from these, then processed and preserved by dry-freezing. The samples were analysed in a laboratory to determine the levels of flavonoids in onions and phenolic acids in potatoes and carrots.


Levels of flavonoids in onions were not found to vary between the different farming systems, although within each farming system there were variations in the levels of all the flavonoids measured. Within each system, there was some year-to-year variation in the levels of one of the flavonoids in onions. This may have been due to different weather conditions in each of the study years.The researchers made sure they took samples grown near each other to reduce any possible effect of microclimate or differences in soil fertility. The farming methods used also made no difference to the overall levels of phenolic acid found in carrots. However, within each system, carrots showed a greater variation in phenolic acid levels than the potatoes did. In the potatoes, levels of one phenolic acid (5-CQA) were found to be higher in the organic system using cover crops than in the conventional system.


The researchers found “no significant differences in the content of flavonoids and phenolic acids between the conventional and the two organic growth systems”. They speculated that the higher levels of one phenolic acid in potatoes in the second organic system may be due to them being grown on a different farm.

Their conclusions were that levels of synthesis of the compounds analysed did not vary dependening on growth conditions, the year the crops were grown or location.



This research suggests that organic farming methods do not affect the concentration of polyphenol antioxidants in a range of vegetables when compared with other farming methods. However, it is worth highlighting that the study did not assess other aspects of the nutritional composition of crops or  look at whether eating organic fruit and vegetables had any other health benefits. The specific benefits of polyphenol antioxidants are not fully understood, and only account for one of the numerous nutritional benefits from eating fruit and vegetables. With this in mind the study does not definitively answer the question of whether or not organically grown produce has different health benefits to crops grown by other farming methods or is better for your health.



Søltoft M, Nielsen J, Holst Laursen K Knuthsen et al. Effects of Organic and Conventional Growth Systems on the Content of Flavonoids in Onions and Phenolic Acids in Carrots and Potatoes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010, 58 (19), pp 10323–10329


Excercise can prevent a cold

Tuesday, 02 November 2010

Researchers say if you excercise regularly you are less likely to catch a cold.
In a study of 1,000 people they discovered that taking excercise and staying active almost halved the chances of catching a cold and often made any colds or viruses less severe. The research was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and the experts suggest their findings could be because exercise improves the immune system which helps to fight off infections. However, it does appear that those who merely think they are fit benefit from the same lower risk without necessarily doing that much excercise.
On average an adult can expect to catch between two to five colds per year. This latest research highlights that there are lifestyle choices you can make to improve your chances of not getting them in the first place or not suffering too badly from them. The research was carried out in the US and 1,000 healthy volunteers were asked to keep a record of any coughs and colds they had over a three-month period during the autumn and winter months. The volunteers were also asked how often they would do exercise lasting at least 20 minutes and enough to break a sweat in any given week. Volunteers were also quizzed about lifestyle, diet and any associated stressful events, as these can all affect a person's immune system.
Eating plenty of fruit helped to reduce the number of colds experienced but also being older, male and married seemed to reduce the frequency as well. However, the most significant factors that reduced the number of colds was how much exercise a person did and how fit they perceived themselves to be.
Taking regular excercise, being active and feeling fit cut the risk of having a cold by nearly 50%. People who did little or no excercise were unwell with a cold for nine days in a three-month period, but people who were physically active on five or more days of the week only suffered for five days of the same period. Significantly, even when they were ill, they suffered less with their symptoms and the effects of a cold. The severity of symptoms fell by 41% among those who felt the fittest and by 31% among those who were the most active.
The research was lead by Dr David Nieman, from Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and his team, who say periods of exercise cause a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body that can fight off foreign invaders. Although these levels fall back within a few hours, each session is likely to provide an immune boost to fight off infections like the common cold.
Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "This is yet more evidence for doing exercise. It reflects what we have believed for some time.
"Exercise makes us feel better and now here's more evidence that it is good for us."


5 key healthy lifestyle changes help prevent Bowel and Colon Cancer

Thursday, 28 October 2010

5 key healthy lifestyle changes could cut Bowel and Colon Cancer by almost a quarter.

Approximately 1.2 million cases of colon cancer diagnosed each year worldwide could be prevented by getting people to eat a healthy diet, stop smokiong, cut down on alcohol and exercise more said Scitentists on Wednesday.

Researchers from Denmark found that following recommended guidelines on physical activity, waist circumference, smoking, alcohol consumption and diet could reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer by as much as 23 percent.

"Our study reveals the useful public health message that even modest differences in lifestyle might have a substantial impact on colorectal cancer risk," said Anne Tjonneland of the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society, who led the study.

Colorectal cancer, ( or bowel or colon cancer), kills around half a million people each year worldwide. Xeloda from Roche Pharmaceuticals and Eloxatine from Sanofi-Aventis are among leading drugs licensed for the treatment of the disease. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1.23 million people in 2008.

Anne Tjonnel her colleagues studied data on 55,487 men and women aged between 50 and 64 who had not previously been diagnosed with cancer and followed them for almost 10 years.

Participants recorded lifestyle and diet histories and the researchers created a healthy lifestyle index using health recommendations from the World Health Organization, World Cancer Research Fund and the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations.

These included:
  1. not smoking
  2. at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity
  3. no more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a week for men
  4. a waist circumference below 88 cm (35 inches) for women and 102 cm (40 inches) for men
  5. eating a healthy diet

The results, published in the British Medical Journal, showed that during the follow-up period, 678 people were

diagnosed with bowel cancer. After analyzing how well the participants had kept to the five lifestyle tips, the researchers calculated that if all of

them had followed even one extra guideline, around 13 percent of colon cancer cases could have been prevented. If all of them had followed all five, 23 percent of cases could have been avoided. In previous studies, 14 gene variations have been identified that each increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer by up to 2 times, and a study published last month found how a single variant in a person's genetic code can lead to the development of the disease. But experts say a having good diet and healthy lifestyle are likely to play a far greater role in a person's colon cancer risk. The researchers said the findings emphasized the importance of continuing "vigorous efforts" to convince people to follow health lifelstyle recommendations.


Pioneering Asthma Drug For Children Turned Down By NICE

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has turned down a new treatment for children with severe asthma under 12 years of age.
Background: NICE Press release
Omalizumab (Xolair, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK) is not recommended as a treatment for severely asthmatic children under the age of 12, according to new guidance published today (27 October). The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) looked at whether use of the drug would be an appropriate use of NHS resources for children aged between six and eleven years old with severe persistent allergic asthma. Although omalizumab is recommended in specific circumstances for people aged 12 and over with this type of asthma, the evidence for this younger age group showed the drug offered limited benefits compared with currently available treatments, meaning the extra cost of the drug does not represent good value for money for the NHS.
However, the guidance does state that children currently receiving omalizumab should be able to continue with the treatment until it is considered appropriate to stop.
Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive, said: "The evidence reviewed by our independent advisory committee showed little benefit for young children between six and eleven years old. Omalizumab does not reduce hospitalisation rates, A&E visits, unscheduled doctor visits or total emergency visits. The only demonstrable benefit was in reducing the rate of clinically significant exacerbations for children who had had three or more exacerbations per year. With such little extra benefit for these young patients, NICE is unable to recommend diverting NHS resources to such a high cost treatment.
"We understand that this may be a disappointing decision, especially as NICE does recommend omalizumab for some people aged twelve and over. The Appraisal Committee who developed the guidance on behalf of NICE recognised that it would be preferable to have a single piece of guidance covering recommendations for all age groups. In light of this, NICE does intend to review its guidance on omalizumab for both age groups at the earliest opportunity."
During the development of this guidance, NICE received one appeal from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health but the points raised did not fall within the grounds for appeal and therefore the appeal did not proceed. The guidance published today now constitutes final guidance to the NHS. For more information, please visit
Asthma UK comment:
Neil Churchill, Chief Executive at Asthma UK, said: 'We are extremely disappointed that NICE has decided not to recommend Xolair for children under the age of 12. This action will deny children across England with the most severe, allergic asthma, a pioneering treatment that many doctors tell us they want to prescribe and that could free these children from endless trips to hospital and huge amounts of time off school. It is good news however, that the guidance indicates that those children who have already trialled Xolair and had their lives transformed, should not have their treatment withdrawn by their PCTs. We are also urging PCTs to consider exceptional funding for the very small number of children who would derive significant benefit from Xolair.'
Pioneering Asthma Drug For Children Turned Down By NICE


Research suggests early menopause test possible

Monday, 18 October 2010

In the United Kingdom, the condition known as early menopause affects approximately 5 percent of all women and researchers have been trying to find methods of detecting which women are at risk.


Recent research by scientists at  the University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) was able to identify a few genetic markers that appear to be linked with the onset of symptoms related to early menopause.

This kind of research is very important as more women in the UK are delaying having children until they reach an older age. If early menopause sets in, they are no longer able to have children.


In order to determine if and which genes were associated with the condition the researchers looked at around 4,000 women, half diagnosed with early menopause and half in a control group that did not suffer from the condition; the researchers then compared the genes of women in the two groups.

They discovered that each of  four genes identified individually raised the risk of a woman reaching menopause ahead of time. However, when the four were combined, the risk was significantly larger.


These discoveries were made as a part of the UK Breakthrough Generations Study, which was conducted with funds from The Wellcome Trust.

Details of the study were published in the October 17 issue of the medical journal Human Molecular Genetics.

Women who reach menopause earlier than normal were found in past studies to exhibit lower chances of developing breast cancer.

But this good news is counterbalanced by the fact that these females tend to develop other conditions, such as fertility reduction, cardiovascular problems, and osteoporosis.


“It is estimated that a woman's ability to conceive decreases on average ten years before she starts the menopause,” says University of Exeter Peninsula Medical School expert Dr Anna Murray.

“Therefore, those who are destined to have an early menopause and delay childbearing until their 30s are more likely to have problems conceiving,” adds Murray, who was also the lead scientists on the study.

“These findings are the first stage in developing an easy and relatively inexpensive genetic test which could help the one in 20 UK women who may be affected by early menopause,” she concludes.


Rise in surgery on wrong body parts

Saturday, 09 October 2010

Over 50 patients have had surgery on the wrong part of their body in the last year as a result of NHS errors.
Figures released yesterday by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) showed that 57 people in England went through "wrong site surgery" in 2009-10, despite government assurances that it should never happen.
When an operation is carried out on the wrong limb or organ, or on the wrong person, it is referred to as “wrong site surgery”.
There were a total of 111 incidents of "never events" – things that should never happen in the NHS – over the 12-month period, including 41 incidents of misplaced feeding tubes in adults and children, something that puts patients at risk of being fed directly into the respiratory tract.
The Department of Health announced it was proposing an extension to what is included on the list of never events, taking it from eight to 22.
The list would then also include medical instruments and swabs left in the body after surgery, the wrong route of administration of chemotherapy, death or injury resulting from the transfusion of the wrong blood type and death by falls from unrestricted windows in places such as mental health hospitals. If a never event occurs funding can be withheld from that hospital.
Simon Burns, the health minister, said "unsafe care is not to be tolerated", and warned that there will be "clear disincentives", including non-payment, for hospitals where such errors occur, as well as "clear incentives for quality".
"Across the NHS there must be a culture of patient safety above all else. These measures will help to protect patients and give commissioners the powers to take action if unacceptable mistakes happen."
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, said: "The fact that a modern NHS has produced 111 never events is unacceptable.
"There should never be any cases where a doctor operates on the wrong limb or the wrong person.
"We welcome the news that the Department of Health is going to place more stringent controls on hospitals to ensure patient safety."


NICE updates Alzheimer's drugs guidance

Thursday, 07 October 2010

Three drugs that NICE previously said should be withheld until the moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease will, under new draft guidance, now also be recommended as an option at the mild stage of the disease. NICE’s decision has been widely welcomed by people with Alzheimer’s and by charities that campaigned for earlier use of the drugs.
The charge that NICE took the wrong decision in September 2007 to withhold the drugs – donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl) and rivastigmine (Exelon) – until people had reached the moderate or severe stage of Alzheimer’s was rejected by the Chief Executive of NICE, Sir Andrew Dillon. He said “since we published our guidance in September 2007 clinical trials have continued to show the positive effects of these drugs and, in the case of memantine, have reduced the uncertainty about its clinical effectiveness.
“In addition, we now have more information about the costs of living with and treating this very distressing disease, as it progresses through its mild, moderate and severe stages.”
“Our increased confidence in the benefits and costs associated with the use of the three drugs for treating mild and moderate stages of the disease has enabled us to make a positive recommendation for their use in mild disease.”
The new draft guidance also recommends that memantine (Ebixa) may be prescribed for people with severe Alzheimer’s disease, and for people with moderate disease who are intolerant of, or have a contraindication to, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.
Ruth Sutherland from the Alzheimer’s Society welcomed the new draft guidance. She said: “This decision stands to benefit hundreds of thousands of people. The drugs aren’t a miracle cure but they can make important differences to people’s lives. For the price of a cup of coffee they can mean the difference between recognising your loved ones and playing with your grandchildren.”
She stressed the importance of fair implementation of the guidance: “It is critical that this draft decision becomes a reality and that all people with Alzheimer’s are given the opportunity to benefit from these treatments. It will be important to ensure any new guidance is monitored closely to end postcode prescribing and ensure these drugs are available across the country.”


Vitamin B may reduce risk of Alzheimer's

Friday, 10 September 2010

A new study suggests high doses of vitamin B may halve the speed of brain shrinkage in older people.


Brain shrinkage is one of the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, which often leads to dementia. Researchers believe this could be the first step towards discovering a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. Experts think these are important findings but more research is needed.
The researchers from the University of Oxford found that taking three tablets of B vitamins every day slows the brain shrinkage that happens with age, causing early signs of dementia such as memory lapses and language problems. The study, published in the journal Public Library of Science One, looked at 168 elderly people experiencing levels of mental decline known as mild cognitive impairment. Half of the volunteers were given a tablet containing levels of the B vitamins folate, B6 and B12 every day well above the recommended daily amount. The other half were given a placebo.
The average brain shrinks at a rate of 0.5% a year after the age of 60. The brains of those with mild cognitive impairment shrink twice as fast. Alzheimer's patients have brain shrinkage of 2.5% a year. The trial discovered that after two years, the rate at which their brains had shrunk was measured.  MRI scans showed the brains of those who had taken the vitamins had shrunk less – by 0.76 per cent a year – than those given placebo (1.08 per cent) – a 31 per cent difference. In the quarter of elderly people who responded best, the reduction in the rate of shrinkage was 53 per cent. Cognitive tests show those with the least shrinkage perform best. Although not designed to measure mental ability, the researchers found that people with the lowest rates of shrinkage had the highest mental test scores.
Large doses of around 300 times the daily recommended intake of B12 and four times the recommended levels of folic acid were used in the trial. The researchers said this meant they acted like a pharmaceutical drug rather than a nutritional supplement and would require further safety tests. They are now seeking funding for another trial.
A vitamin pill that reduces the mental decline associated with ageing would have significant implications. About 1.5 million people in the UK have problems with memory, language or other mental functions known as Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), half of whom go on to develop Alzheimer's or another form of dementia within five years. Even a slight slowing of this process would have huge benefits. B vitamins are found naturally in meat, fish, green vegetables, whole grains, eggs and potatoes. They promote cell growth, enhance the immune system and help maintain healthy skin and bones. Processed foods such contain lower levels of B vitamins and elderly people on a limited diet can become deficient. Low levels are common in Western populations. However, taking B vitamin supplements in large doses can be harmful. There are eight B vitamins, but only three were used in the study – B6, B12 and folic acid (B9).
Professor David Smith of the Department of Pharmacology, Oxford University, and co-leader of the trial, said: "This is a very striking, dramatic result. It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer's disease in many people who suffer from mild memory problems. "These are immensely promising results but we do need to do more trials to conclude whether these particular B vitamins can slow or prevent development of Alzheimer's. So I wouldn't yet recommend that anyone getting a bit older and beginning to be worried about memory lapses should rush out and buy vitamin B supplements without seeing a doctor."
Professor Smith stated that a key issue was whether MCI was a mild manifestation of the more extreme Alzheimer's disease. "Is this a continuum? Are we seeing a disease that begins a long time ago and gets worse and worse? I personally think so."The long-term effects of taking large amounts of the vitamins were not known, and there was some evidence that high folate intake could be linked to cancer, he said. However, asked if he would try the vitamin treatment if he was diagnosed with MCI he said: "Yes, no hesitation. I would take it."
The Alzheimer's Research Trust, which co-funded the study, also called for further investigation.
"These are very important results, with B vitamins now showing a prospect of protecting some people from Alzheimer's in old age," said chief executive Rebecca Wood. "The strong findings must inspire an expanded trial to follow people expected to develop Alzheimer's."
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a loss of cognitive ability caused by diseases such as Alzheimer's. It causes problems with memory and speech and the skills needed to carry out normal daily activities, meaning that many sufferers are unable to properly care for themselves. The condition is most common in the over-65s, affecting one in 20. It is thought that the cost to the UK economy of dealing with dementia will be £27bn a year by 2018.
Dementia usually worsens slowly over time and there is no cure. However, doctors can ease the severity of the symptoms and slow their onset using drugs and other treatments. Depression also affects 20 to 30 per cent of people who have dementia, and about 20 per cent have anxiety.



Vitamin D deficiency linked to autoimmune diseases and some cancers

Monday, 30 August 2010

Scientists have found that vitamin D deficiency plays a key role in causing autoimmune diseases, some cancers and type 1 diabetes, after scientists found over 200 genes that it directly influences.


Research recently published in the journal Genome Research, adds weight to the theory that vitamin D deficiency plays a key role in causing autoimmune diseases, after scientists found over 200 genes that it directly influences.


The researchers created a map of the specific locations on the human genome where vitamin D binds to DNA through proteins called vitamin D receptors. Vitamin D activates these receptors and influences the behaviour of genes that are associated with particular characteristics. The study showed that the vitamin D receptor was found in over 2,700 binding sites. Many of these sites were near genes that are associated with common autoimmune diseases and certain types of cancer.

In particular, the researchers found that vitamin D had a significant effect on genes associated with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D receptor binding was also found in regions on the genome that are linked with cancers such as leukaemia and colorectal cancer.

Vitamin D is produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight.  Many people don’t get enough from these sources. This is especially true if you live in a region that is nearer to the North or South Pole than to the equator (for example the UK, Canada or southern Argentina), where the sunlight needed to make vitamin D is only strong enough during the summer.


It’s already well known that vitamin D deficiency affects bone development, leading to conditions such as rickets, but this study supports previous research showing that vitamin D plays a role in the development of other diseases. Bupa recommends taking vitamin D supplements to reduce the chance of developing cancer by 26 percent. Taking at least 1,500 to 2,000 international units (IU) a day, which equates to three to four high-strength capsules (12.5 micrograms/capsule),will reduce your risk of developing a number of cancers as well as various bone-related conditions such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia.

Dr Virginia Warren, Assistant Medical Director at Bupa, commented on the research: “It is exciting that these researchers have shown that vitamin D is involved in determining the extent to which more than 200 genes are turned on. Vitamin D insufficiency is common in the UK and deficiency happens too. Optimal levels of vitamin D can be achieved with supplements and/or spending time in summer sun without sunscreen but being careful not to let the skin get red or burn.”


Key facts:

One billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency.

Around one in six middle-aged white people in Britain have vitamin D deficiency at the end of winter, and one in 30 still do at the end of summer. Levels of insufficiency - when vitamin D levels are below normal - are higher, at nearly one in two people at the end of winter and one in six at the end of summer.

Vitamin D can be found in oily fish, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel, and in fortified breakfast cereals. It is also produced naturally by your skin when it is exposed to sunlight.

In the UK, some groups of people (such as those of Asian origin or those who are housebound) are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because of low vitamin D intake from food and/or inadequate exposure of skin to sunshine.

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to help keep bones and teeth healthy.


1,400 'Pressure Stations' set up for "Know Your Numbers Week"

Monday, 30 August 2010

1,400 'Pressure Stations' set up to support the Blood Pressure Associations "Know Your Numbers Week"


One in three UK adults have high blood pressure, but Blood Pressure Association research found that almost three quarters of adults do not know their blood pressure.


Know your Numbers! is the Blood Pressure Association's flagship awareness campaign. It encourages adults across the UK to know their blood pressure numbers and take the necessary action to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.


The highlight is Know your Numbers! Week, the nation's largest annual blood pressure testing and awareness event. This takes place in the second week of September each year and provides free checks for around 250,000 adults across the UK. Since its launch in 2001, Know your Numbers! Week has ensured more than 1.5million people have had their blood pressure checked so that they know their blood pressure numbers in the same way as their height and weight.


Know your Numbers! Week involves hundreds of nationwide organisations signing up to provide free blood pressure tests and information at venues known as Pressure Stations. Pressure Stations are located throughout the community including pharmacies, workplaces, GP surgeries, hospitals, health clubs, leisure centres, shopping centres and supermarkets.


Know your Numbers! Week 2010 takes place fom the 13th to the 19th of September. Check with your local pharmacy and get yourself tested!


  • High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. There is also increasing evidence that it is a risk factor for vascular dementia. (1)
  • High blood pressure is a level consistently at or above140mmHg and/or 90mmHg(2)
  • Approximately 16 million people in the UK have high blood pressure. (3)
  • 30 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men have high blood pressure. (5)
  • Up to the age of 64 there are higher rates of men with high blood pressure than women. (5)
  • People with high blood pressure are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke and twice as likely to die from these as people with a normal blood pressure. (3)
  • Approximately 62,000 unnecessary deaths from stroke and heart attacks occur due to poor blood pressure control (4)
  • High blood pressure rarely has any symptoms, the only way for people to know if they have the condition is to have their blood pressure measured
  • Approximately one third of people with high blood pressuredo not know that they have it(5)
  • More than 90 per cent of people with high blood pressure who are receiving treatment are not controlled to 140/90 mmHg. (5)
  • Most people with high blood pressure who need to take medications, will need to take two or more to ensure that their blood pressure is lowered down to a target of 140/85mmHg (2)
  • Among women, levels of high blood pressure increase as income decreases(5)
  • The risks increase as blood pressure rises, whether you have high blood pressure or a normal blood pressure – between the age of 40 and 70, for every rise of 20mmHg systolic or every 10mmHg diastolic the risk of heart disease and stroke doubles; for the range 115/75 up to 185/115mmHg. (6)



1. Forette F, Seux M, Staessen J. Prevention of dementia in randomised double-blind placebo controlled systolic hypertension in Europe (Syst-Eur) trial. The Lancet 1998;352:1346-51

2. Williams B et al.Guidelines for management of hypertension: report of the fourth working party of the British Hypertension Society, 2004 - BHS IV. The Journal of Human Hypertension 2004;18 :139-185 (available on the British Hypertension Society web site at

3.The Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Health 2001 (

4.He F, MacGregor G.Cost of poor blood pressure control in the UK : 62 000 unnecessary deaths per year. Journal of Human Hypertension 2003; 17: 455-457 (

5. Health Survey for England 2003. Department of Health publication available at

6. National Institutes of Health and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of high blood pressure 2003 (



New trials on existing medicine show potential to prevent heart failure

Monday, 30 August 2010

Trial results have shown that an existing £10 a week pill for chest pains has the potential to save the lives of thousands of heart failure patients and  save the NHS milions in the cost of hospital admissions.
Conservative estimates suggest that up to 10,000 deaths a year in the UK could be prevented.
One expert described the evidence as a "significant breakthrough" and said it would compel him to change his clinical practice.
The drug, ivabradine, is already available in the UK for Angina, the pain caused by insufficient blood reaching the heart. However, only around 10% of treated angina patients are prescribed it.
At a recent meeting of experts in Stockholm trial results suggested that ivabradine could be resurrected as a cost-effective treatment for many thousands of patients with moderate to severe heart failure. The drug cut the risk of death from heart failure by 26% in the patient population studied over a two year period. It had a similar impact on the likelihood of being admitted to hospital because of worsening symptoms.
More than 700,000 people over the age of 45 live with heart failure, which occurs when damage to the heart leaves it too weak to pump blood efficiently round the body.
An estimated 68,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Heart failure causes symptoms of fatigue, breathlessness, increased heart rate, and swollen ankles. It can lead to serious complications, and around 40% of those affected are dead after a year.
Heart failure soaks up 1% to 2% of the total NHS budget, with direct medical costs alone amounting to £625 million a year.
The Shift (Systolic Heart failure treatment with the If inhibitor ivabradine Trial) trial involved more than 6,500 patients in 37 countries already on standard treatments such as beta-blocker drugs.


Test could predict menopause

Monday, 05 July 2010

A number of newspapers have covered the story of a new blood test to predict when the menopause will occur which “could close the baby gap” by telling women how long they will remain fertile for.

They reported on the hormone-based menopause test, saying that home testing kits could be available in a few years.
The news is based on a study that has been presented at fertility conference, although because it is unpublished it is difficult to assess the methods and quality of the research.
It is important to stress that a woman’s fertility level and ability to conceive start to decline long before her periods stop and, therefore, a test predicting menopause may be of limited value in this area. Also, fertility levels are affected by other factors, such as blocked ovarian tubes or the quality of a man’s sperm.  The limited information available suggests further testing will be needed and although the test may have a role in predicting early menopause, further results are needed to confirm this. The reports are based on a press release and conference abstract presented at the 2010 conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. Only limited details of the study carried out by researchers from Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences in Iran were presented.  No information is available as to if or when the research may be published in a peer-reviewed journal, or about how the research was funded. Most papers also published comments from independent experts, who set the research in context and addressed the fact that such a test is only of limited use to most women because fertility levels start to fall well before the menopause occurs.  A home testing kit may be on sale within three years. It was not reported in any of the stories that the information was based on a conference abstract and press release and that the full results have not yet been published.
This research aimed to test a statistical model developed to predict the age at which the menopause would occur.  The model is based on assessing levels of a hormone called anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), which is produced by the ovaries.  AMH controls the development of ovarian follicles from which eggs develop, and some experts have suggested it could be a marker for ovarian function. The researchers wanted to test whether measuring AMH at various ages could predict when women would reach the menopause.
Only limited information is available on the methods used in this research.  However according to the abstract and press release, the researchers took blood samples to measure blood levels of AMH in 266 women, aged 20-49, randomly selected from a larger, prospective cohort study called the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study.  This ongoing study was looking at cardiovascular risk factors among the Iranian population.
In this smaller study, the researchers measured AMH levels twice more, at three-yearly intervals. They also collected information on the women’s reproductive background and reproductive history. They then developed and tested a statistical model for estimating the women’s age at menopause using a single measurement of AMH in blood samples.
The researchers say they found a “high degree of correlation” between the estimated ages at menopause provided by their formula model and the actual age at menopause seen in a subgroup of 63 women who reached menopause during the study.  The average difference between the predicted age using the model and the women’s actual age was only a third of a year and the maximum margin of error of three to four years.
Using this statistical model, the researchers say they were able to identify the specific AMH levels at different ages (20, 25 and 30 years) that would predict if women were likely to have an early menopause (before 45) or reach menopause over 50 years.  Among the group studied, the average age at the menopause was 52 years.
As the research has not yet been published and subjected to peer review and with the lack of  sufficient details it must be treated with caution.  This was a small study carried out over a limited period (about six years), which tested whether levels of AMH in women of reproductive age could be used to predict the age they will reach the menopause.  It seems to have been designed with a reasonable cut-off point set for the test, the first step in preparing a potential test for clinical use.
If validated by further studies, such a test could be particularly useful in predicting early menopause, giving women who may experience it time to plan their future and balance careers with family.
The fact that so far only 63 women actually reached menopause in the study and only three of them were under 45, means the mathematical formula has only undergone limited testing. It should be stressed that until there are larger studies following women from the age of 20 to the age they actually reach menopause, the method the researchers used has not been proven.
It will be important to follow up this initial study with others, setting a cut-off point that can establish the sensitivity and specificity of the test. What is needed are statistical measures that relate to the number of women correctly identified by the test as going on to an early menopause (or late menopause) and also the number of women incorrectly identified or predicted as heading for early or late menopause when they do not. These results, when published, will help decide the true value of the test.
Links to the research


A hearty cup of tea?

Monday, 05 July 2010

A hearty cup of tea?

“People who drink several cups of tea or coffee a day could be at lower risk of heart disease,” according to reports.  Is suggested that drinking tea could cut the chances of a heart attack by up to a third.
The news is based on a Dutch study that followed 38,000 people for over 10 years, analysing their risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease and death.  When looking at the association between coffee consumption and events relating to heart disease, the study found that drinking moderate amounts of coffee (two to three cups a day) was better than a little or a lot.  With tea, drinking more than six cups a day was linked to the lowest risk.
There have been a number of contradictory research findings about the benefits and harms of caffeine.  For example, a separate Italian study recently found an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis for women who drink tea.  The Dutch study’s limitations mean that it cannot prove that coffee and tea have a direct effect on heart attack risk.

The study was carried out in the Netherlands by researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht and the National Institute for Public Health and Environment.  It was funded by the European Commission, the Dutch Cancer Society, the World Cancer Research Fund, the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development and the Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Heart Association.
The study can be considered in the wider context of better established evidence about reducing coronary heart disease risk. A senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation was quoted as follows:  “It's worth remembering that leading a healthy overall lifestyle is the thing that really matters when it comes to keeping your heart in top condition.  Having a cigarette with your coffee could completely cancel any benefits, while drinking lots of tea in front of the TV for hours on end without exercising is unlikely to offer your heart much protection at all."

The research

This large cohort study assessed the effects of tea and coffee consumption on health outcomes over a 13-year period, specifically any effects on cardiovascular health. The researchers have attempted to adjust their calculations to account for some potentially confounding factors (that may link the consumption of tea and coffee with adverse outcomes).  As with all observational studies, there is a concern over whether all possible confounding factors have been addressed or fully adjusted for.  The researchers have discussed some of the potential shortcomings of their study.

What was involved?

The researchers highlight the controversy that surrounds the benefits and harms of coffee consumption and note that the association between coffee and cardiovascular diseases remains controversial.  They also say that for tea consumption, a systematic review assessing the association with coronary heart disease and stroke is inconclusive, but in the European region, tea consumption appears beneficial in relation to myocardial infarction.
In this study, researchers investigated the relationship between tea and coffee consumption and cardiovascular disease in a large cohort of healthy Dutch men and women.  There were 37,514 participants, who were also participating in one of two other cohort studies and who were recruited from 1993 to 1997.  The first study enrolled women aged 50 to 69 who were participating in a breast screening programme and the second was in men and women aged 20 to 65.  The researchers excluded all those who had missing information about tea and coffee consumption or had cardiovascular disease at baseline (the start of the study).
At baseline, the participants completed a questionnaire asking about chronic diseases, presence of a variety of potential risk factors, demographics and their medical and lifestyle histories.  Their height, weight, hip-and-waist circumference and blood pressure were measured.  Physical activity was assessed according to a validated physical activity index.
Participants were also given a food frequency questionnaire that assessed their average daily consumption of 178 different foods during the previous year, including how many cups of coffee or tea they regularly drank during the past year and which types of coffee (regular, decaffeinated, other etc).  Tea and coffee consumption was then divided into six ranges (less than one cup per day, one to two, two to three, three to four, four to six, more than six cups per day).  Some of these categories were collapsed during analyses due to the small number of people within each group.
The researchers then noted the health outcomes of the participants up to 13 years after the baseline questionnaires, specifically any events or deaths from coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.  They also analysed the combined outcome of morbidity and mortality (events plus deaths) for stroke, CHD and death due to any cause.  Their study then assessed whether there was an association between the different levels of consumption of coffee and tea and the negative health outcomes, while taking into account a number of possible confounding factors.  The results were adjusted for age, gender, education, physical activity, smoking, waist circumference, menopausal status and HRT use, alcohol intake, total energy intake and intake of saturated fat, fibre, vitamin C and total fluid intake.

What were the basic results?

Over the course of follow-up, 1,950 cardiovascular events occurred (563 from stroke, and 1,387 from coronary heart disease (CHD)).  There were 1,405 deaths (including 70 from stroke and 123 from coronary heart disease).
The researchers found the lowest risk of CHD events to be linked with drinking more than two but less than three cups of caffeinated coffee per day.  The increased risk of stroke with more than six cups of coffee per day was no longer significant once the researchers had adjusted for confounding factors.  After taking into account these confounders, coffee consumption was not associated with death from stroke, death from any cause or death from coronary heart disease (although the researchers state that “although not significant, coffee slightly reduced the risk for CHD mortality”).
For tea, consumption of more than six cups per day was associated with the lowest risk of CHD events (HR 0.64, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.90, p=0.02).  The relationship between tea and stroke risk was not significant after adjusting for confounders.  There was a significant link between tea consumption and death from CHD, with the lowest risk of CHD death linked to two of the consumption ranges: one to three cups per day and more than three but less than six cups per day. After adjusting for confounding factors, there was no significant link between tea consumption and deaths from stroke or due to any cause.
The researchers say that “high tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of CHD mortality”.  They note that their results suggest “a slight risk reduction for CHD mortality with moderate coffee consumption” and “strengthen the evidence on the lower risk of CHD with coffee and tea consumption”.
For coffee, the relationship with CHD events was “U-shaped”, i.e. higher risk with both very low and very high consumption.  For tea, there was a linear inverse association, reducing risk with increasing consumption.


This large cohort study with a long follow-up time has found an association between some levels of tea and coffee consumption and reduced risk of coronary heart disease events.  The study does highlight the following important limitations in the research, many of which are relevant because of the study design:
A relatively small number of people died during the course of follow-up (123 from CHD and 70 from stroke).  When considering these particular outcomes, the small numbers seen do not provide much statistical power to detect differences between the different consumption groups.
They had also relied on participants to recall their tea and coffee consumption over the course of a year at baseline.  There are two potential problems with this.  Recall may not be 100% accurate and collecting information on consumption only at baseline does not take into account very likely changes in consumption patterns over time.
Assumptions were made about the type of tea consumed (as this was not specified in the baseline questionnaires); i.e. that the majority of tea consumed was black tea.
Importantly, they note that they cannot exclude the possibility that some factors were commonly linked with the exposure (i.e. tea and coffee consumption) and with the outcome (CHD events).  In particular they say that coffee drinkers tend to smoke more and have less healthy lifestyles than tea drinkers and that this could explain higher risk of adverse outcomes in people consuming a lot of coffee.  While they have adjusted for some lifestyle factors, they acknowledge that they may not have done this fully.
While they acknowledge that adjustment for the presence of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol did not alter the associations, this may be because of the crude way they measured the presence of these diseases (through self-reporting at baseline).
Overall, the limitations and design of this study means that it adds more to the discussion about the benefits and harms of caffeine, but cannot be taken as proof that tea or coffee cause reductions in the risk of heart disease.  There are well-established ways of reducing the risk of heart disease, including healthy eating and physical activity, rather than relying on high tea consumption or moderate coffee intake.  The food standards agency makes particular recommendations about caffeine consumption for pregnant women (recommending no more than 200mg of caffeine per day, which is approximately two mugs of instant coffee or tea).


Lifestyle Could Prevent Asthma

Friday, 11 June 2010

150 million people around the world suffer from asthma and prevention is better than cure, so they say. British researchers have found that it could be possible to prevent asthma in those at high risk by avoiding certain foods and dust mites in the first few months of life.
Professor Syed Hasan Arshad* and his team from the David Hide Asthma and Allergy Centre in the Isle of Wight have been monitoring 120 children since 1990 in the Isle of Wight Primary Prevention Study. The children were considered to be at high risk of developing allergic disease on the basis that two or more family members had an allergic disorder.
“The 58 infants up to one year old and their mothers in the prevention group followed a diet that avoided dairy products, soya and nuts”, said Professor Arshad. “We checked their compliance by randomly testing breast milk,” he added. The infants were also given vinyl mattresses and covers, and acracide was used to reduce the level of house dust mite. The mothers of the 62 infants in the control group did not make these changes to their diet and bedding.
Dr Martha Scott, who conducted the 18 year follow-up of the children, presented the results at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology today. She reported that at one, two, four and eight years old, there was a consistent reduction in atopy (an immediate allergic reaction) in those children in the prevention group. At 18 years of age, there was significantly less asthma in the prevention group compared to the control group. A further analysis of allergic and non-allergic asthma found lower rates of allergic asthma in the prevention group.
Previous research has shown the complexity of asthma and the importance of the interaction between genetic and environmental factors particularly, but not exclusively, in the early years of life. Atopy is arguably the most significant genetic risk factor for asthma. Despite intensive efforts to develop new treatments, asthma is still an incurable disease.
Evidence of changes in the child’s airways consistent with asthma suggests that early intervention within the first few months of life is likely to be crucial in preventing the remodelling of airways which is the hallmark of asthma.
“Whilst this study is small it does suggest that it is possible to prevent the onset of asthma in high-risk individuals by instituting a strict regime that avoids some of the common triggers for asthma in the first year of life. We have shown that the beneficial effect lasts for many years,” said Dr Scott.
This study is important as a proof of the concept that environmental manipulation in early life reduces the prevalence of asthma in high risk individuals. This small study needs to be repeated on a larger scale to identify who is most likely to benefit from this type of prevention strategy.
*Professor S Hasan Arshad, Chair in Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and Dr Martha Scott, Research Fellow, The David Hide Asthma and Allergy Research Centre,University of Southampton Isle of Wight


Fish And Farm Life Ward Off Allergies

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Eating fish and living on or near a farm could protect infants from allergies in later life, research teams in Germany and Sweden have found. The immune system is shaped in the early years of life and a farm environment or eating fish help to develop a tolerance to allergens (proteins that cause allergy) that cause wheezing, hay fever and eczema.
In studies of more than 8000 families in Western Sweden since 2003, Dr Emma Goksör* from the University of Gothenburg has found that children who ate fish before the age of nine months had less allergic rhinitis (sneezing and runny nose) at age 4.5 years old than children who did not eat fish before the age of nine months.
The families answered questionnaires about the babies aged six and 12 months, and nearly 4,500 of them completed another questionnaire when the children were 4.5 years old to determine risk and protective factors for rhinitis. The analysis took the parents’ own allergies, lifestyle and their children’s early feeding patterns into account. At 4.5 years old, one in 20 children reported symptoms of allergic rhinitis during the previous year. Allergic rhinitis was only half as common in children who received fish before the age of nine months compared to those who did not eat fish until later.
“We found that parents who gave their children fish during the first nine months of life appear to reduce the risk of allergies in the child,” she said at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology congress in London this week. The percentage of children statistically attributable to late fish introduction, that is introduction after the age of nine months, is about 10%. That is, if all children were introduced to fish before the age of nine months, every tenth case of allergic rhinitis at preschool age could be avoided, according to this study.
It is not known why fish has a protective effect against allergies, but research suggests that the composition of fat intake influences the child’s response to allergens. Solid food in the first year of life helps to kick start the gut and the body to develop its immune system and inflammatory responses and eating fish by the age of nine months is particularly beneficial.
“There is no rationale for delaying the introduction of solids into a baby’s diet,” said Dr Goksör. “Don’t wait too long too long to give fish to a baby as we believe that it could help reduce the risk of allergies and eczema later in life.”
With the rise in asthma and allergies in the last decade, Dr Sabina Illi** at the University of Munich in Germany, has also been looking for reasons why. “Traditional small family farms where children play in the stables and go with their parents into the barns provide a protective environment against allergies and asthma,” she said. Even before birth, exposure to hay, straw and animals that typically cause hay fever or asthma may act as a natural form of immunotherapy in the first three years of life. The protective effects were seen not only in children who live on a farm, but also in those exposed to farming though not living on a farm themselves.
Her research divided 34,500 children aged six to 12 years into groups who lived on a farm, who were exposed to farming environment though not living on a farm or who had no contact with a farm in rural areas of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Dr Illi found that the rate of allergies in children who had no contact with a farm was two thirds greater than in children who lived on or who were exposed to a farm. It is not clear yet, however, how much exposure to a farm a pregnant woman or a child needs, or whether it is farm animals or their fodder or the combination of the two that improves immunity.
Previous studies by the same group suggest that when T cells in the body that regulate the immune response are activated, and pro-allergic cytokines (specific communication cells involved in inflammation) are decreased. This co-ordinated biological response influences the risk of developing allergy. The research team found that the quantity and activity of the T cells and cytokines were passed on to babies whose mothers had exposure to a farming environment during pregnancy.
Recently, Dr Illi and her team have analysed 400 dust samples from these children’s bedrooms and found specific fungi and bacteria present in the dust to be protective against asthma and allergy. “Our goal is to identify agents that exert protection to develop preventive measures for children in urban areas in the future. We cannot yet translate our findings for pregnant mums in the city,” she added.
It could be argued that allergic people move to the city to avoid contact with hay and animals which could in part explain the prevalence of urban versus rural allergies, but the beneficial effects of a farm environment are seen even in children whose parents are not farmers.
Both studies represent a major step forward in understanding how to prevent asthma and allergy. They show that it is possible for diet and environment to influence a child’s development and long-term health quite profoundly.
*Dr Emma Goksör, Department of Paediatrics, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
**Dr Sabina Illi, University Childrens Hospital, Germany


Birthweight reveals risk of asthma and eczema

Wednesday, 09 June 2010

Babies whose birth weight is low are more prone to asthma whereas heavier babies are at greater risk of eczema in childhood, according to two Swedish studies of more than 10,000 twins. The findings, presented at a congress in London today, suggest this is due to the development of the lungs and the immune system being impaired.
Dr Catarina Almqvist Malmros*, a paediatrician and associate professor at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet analysed data from a questionnaire completed by the parents of nine to 12 year old twins on the Swedish Twin Registry. The twin registry estimates how genes or environment influence different diseases. The study was linked to the national Swedish Medical Birth Registry which includes birth weight and how long into the pregnancy the babies were born.
Speaking at the congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Dr Almqvist Malmros said, “We can see a clear link between a baby’s birth weight and eczema or asthma that is independent of whether the babies were born prematurely and environmental or genetic factors.”
The studies examined twins born under 2000g (4.4lbs) and more than 3500g (7.7lbs). The rate of atopic eczema increased with birth weight, from 13% in twin children born under 2000g to 17% in children more than 3500g. The association of birth weight with asthma, however, was the opposite, with 22% risk of asthma among the smallest babies born under 2000g, and 12% among those born more than 3500g. Where the twins were different weights at birth, the smaller twin was more likely to develop asthma than the larger twin, while atopic eczema was more likely to occur in the larger twin.
Twins share the same DNA, conditions in the uterus and in early infancy, so twin studies are an ideal way to examine the relationship between foetal growth and childhood disease. Low birth weight is a possible symptom of malnutrition in the womb and impaired lung development.
“Studying genetic and environmental factors in twins when one twin has asthma and the other one does not is a powerful method to identify those at risk of allergic diseases. The results open up ways to prevent and reduce the prevalence of allergies,” she said.
*Catarina Almqvist Malmros MD PhD, Associate Professor and Board certified Specialist in Paediatrics, Dept of Woman and Child Health and Dept of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden. Email:
•It is estimated that 150 million people around the world suffer from asthma and 2-5% children have atopic eczema.


Blood test can detect cancer

Wednesday, 02 June 2010

British scientists have developed a simple blood test that can detect a cancer before a tumour has formed.  It has been described as offering a ‘paradigm shift’ in diagnosing cancer and is due to be introduced early next year.
This is the first test to accurately identify the signals sent out by a person’s immune system as a cancer begins.  It appears from research that these signals can be detected up to five years before a tumour is noticeable, giving doctors the chance to intervene at the earliest moment when a solid tumour appears, a huge help in improving the outcome.
The test was initially designed for lung cancer and scientists described it as a way to improve the country’s poor record of early diagnosis and disease survival compared to most other European countries.  Detection of lung or pancreas cancer is often so late that there is little that can be done except confirm the approach of death.
The likeliest reason for treatment is when physical symptoms are noticeable and these often don’t appear until two thirds of the way through the cancer’s development.  With lung cancer the tumour can already be the size of a tennis ball by this time.  Even with early screening detection the cancer is only picked up after more than 20 cell divisions, while death normally comes after about 40.
The new test was developed after 15 years of research by clinicians in Nottingham, and in Kansas, and is due to be introduced in America later this month.  To begin with it will be used to screen smokers at high risk of lung cancer, alongside normal screening.
University of Nottingham scientists developed the technology which works by identifying how the immune system responds to the first signs of cancer development.  Research has shown that cancers involve unusual cells producing small amounts of antigens – a protein material.  These prompt the immune system to react, producing large amounts of auto antibodies.
By following this activity, and identifying which combination of antigens shows the presence of a particular cancer, scientists have been able to devise a blood test which simply requires a small amount of blood from a patient (10ml).
The research was led by Professor John Robertson, a breast cancer specialist, who said that it proved that accurate identification of auto antibodies caused by antigens, and the cancer they represented, could be transformed into a simple test.  They have begun work on a breast cancer blood test.  He said that the technology should improve significantly the detection of 90 per cent of solid cancers.
“The earliest cancer we have seen is a cancer that has been screen detected, and yet biologically that’s late in the road of cancer development,” he said.
“We are starting to understand carcinogenesis in a way that we have never seen before — seeing which proteins are going wrong, and how the immune system responds. It’s as if your body is shouting ‘I’ve got cancer’ way before a tumour can be detected.”
More than 8,000 individuals were involved with the research in Britain and America and the technology is due to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual conference next week, in Chicago.
The test costs £300 and is being trialled on smokers in the US by respiratory specialists and GP’s.  In many cases it either confirmed suspicions of a cancer, or prompted surgical intervention where it was previously thought to be benign.
According to Geoffrey Hamilton-Fairley, executive chairman of Oncimmune, the company responsible for development, the test, known as EarlyCDT-Lung, would be available from early 2011 in Britain.  Initially it will be supplied to private healthcare groups — at a cost similar to the US rate.
The national clinical director for cancer, Professor Sir Mike Richards, has already held meetings to discuss the test and described it as “a very exciting concept” with the potential to improve Britain’s poor cancer survival rates.  Professor Richards also said that it would require large-scale randomised trials to prove its benefits across the populations for use on the NHS.
“Now that the test is shortly to become available [privately] we have to think about doing a wider programme to show that it can save the lives, as we hope it might.”


Lack of excercise worse than obesity?

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lack of exercise worse than obesity?


According to reports a lack of exercise is “worse for health than being obese”.  Experts believe that being unfit is the root cause of more illness than excess body fat.


There have been two opinion pieces published recently by medical experts with opposing views about how to improve public health and reduce the risk of major health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.  One article suggests that health policy should focus entirely on increasing people’s physical activity rather than worrying about losing weight.  The other article argues that treatment to prevent and reduce obesity is crucial, and that radical changes to diet and lifestyle are needed.

Together, these arguments illustrate the dilemma behind forming public health policy, but they both endorse the fact that staying active and eating healthily are both important health goals for individuals to pursue.


The news comes from two opinion-based pieces debating the priorities for public health policies:

• The first is by Dr Richard Weiler, a specialist registrar in sport and exercise medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, London, and colleagues. He maintains that health policy should focus on fitness rather than losing weight.

• The second is by Associate Professor Timothy Gill, principal research fellow at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition and Exercise, University of Sydney, and colleagues. He argues that health policy should focus on losing weight rather than fitness.


The opinion pieces were both published in the same issue of the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal.

In a ‘head to head’, both experts discussed their professional opinions and experiences on whether health policy should focus on increasing physical inactivity or target the prevention and treatment of obesity and provided supporting medical literature.


The first paper, by Dr Weiler, proposes that improving physical activity is associated with general improvements in health, even if no weight is lost. A lack of physical activity presents “one of the greatest health threats facing developed nations today”, he believes, particularly as 95% of the UK population do not reach recommended amounts. To support his view, he references several large studies, which found that physical inactivity, rather than obesity, is the cause of many major life-threatening disorders, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, dementia and mental health problems.  He draws particular attention to one set of reviews, which has found that physically active people have a reduced risk of many of these disorders.

Dr Weiler goes on to cite evidence that cardiovascular fitness, which is developed and maintained by regular physical activity, is a better predictor of mortality than obesity. He also cites a Scottish Health Survey, which found that even when BMI (body mass index) is factored in, all types of physical activity are linked to reduced mortality.

He also argues that while drugs and bariatric surgery are now becoming more commonly used for treating obesity, they have serious risks and do not offer the same health benefits as physical activity. Dr Weiler also highlights a report suggesting that since the 1980s we have become less active because of our environment.  He argues that policy makers should look at changing our environment, patterns of land use and transport infrastructure to encourage greater physical activity.


In the second paper, Professor Gill argues that although physical activity is important, ignoring the problem of obesity and poor diet is unlikely to bring overall improvements in health. He suggests that lack of excercise is just one marker of a society’s overall “obesogenic lifestyle”. He highlights a report from the World Health Organization in 2003, which he says examined a wide range of evidence and identified poor-quality nutrition as a major contributor to obesity and other health problems, such as tooth decay, high blood pressure and various cancers.

He also cites evidence that the health risks of obesity are associated with more severe chronic disease and early death. He believes that physical activity alone, while able to reverse some of these negative health consequences, is not enough to counteract all of them.

Professor Gill says that obese people need access to high-quality treatment and well-trained professionals, but these facilities are often under-resourced. He says that although previous programmes on obesity have had limited success, there is now evidence that small group- and community-based lifestyle programmes can be effective.

Professor Gill also emphasises the need for improved urban planning – for example, more cycle lanes, improved public transport and increased access to green space. But he also promotes changes in local food production and food pricing strategies as a way of encouraging healthier eating.


What are the conclusions?


Dr Weiler concludes that for health policy to focus solely on weight loss is “largely misleading” and that health risks can be greatly reduced by increasing physical activity, which leads to improved fitness, even in the absence of weight loss.

Professor Gill says that a focus on reducing obesity through a broad range of actions, including diet and behavioural issues, is likely to be more effective than focusing entirely on physical inactivity.

Interestingly, both specialists agree that there is a need for wider programmes to improve the environment, how are where we live and encourage changes in behaviour.




Both physical inactivity and obesity are both major public health problems, which policymakers and professionals must work hard to address. Both authors write convincingly about the subject and provide good references and evidence to support their opinions.  This debate highlights the difficulty in agreeing on the best approach to public health problems, particularly when there is good evidence for different policies.

Both authors were in agreement that reducing the risk factors for major illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes is vital to public health, although they disagree about whether the emphasis should be on physical activity alone or whether it should include the prevention and treatment of obesity. They both agree that the wider environment needs to change in order to encourage individual behavioural change.

It is also important to note that this debate is about the merits of different health policies and how to best allocate finite health resources. The articles are not intended to offer advice on individual behaviour or to decide whether a person’s inactivity poses a greater or lesser risk than their obesity. Indeed, there is no reason why individuals cannot tackle both problems by adopting a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every day.


The answer, of course, is a combination of both is desirable.




Addiction to computer games affecting teenagers

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Addiction to computer games affecting teenagers.

CGD, Computer Game Addiction, is the compulsive use of computer and game consoles that has our teenagers in its grip according to Dr Alex Yellowlees, Medical Director of The Priory Hospital and clinics.  He has identified not only the ‘at risk’ group of teenagers afflicted by this new addiction, but also the signs for parents to look out for that may indicate addiction.
CGD interferes with daily life and can lead to a teenager isolating themselves from family and friends and even to physical problems such as sleep deprivation, poor appetite, head/neck aches and hand problems. Other signs to watch for are spending increased hours on game playing (i.e. 6 – 8 hours daily); not socialising with friends or family in favour of playing games; decreased performance at school; lying about time spent playing games, and irritability when denied access to play games. Those in the ‘at risk’ group include: shy, socially avoidant and socially anxious teenagers; those who may be depressed, and those who may have family problems or other school or bullying issues to escape from. Teenagers who may be bottling up a lot of anger will also engage in aggressive video games. While Facebook, and other social networking sites, are now accepted as a normal form of teenage interaction, computer games isolate teenagers while giving them a sense of power and mastery over their 'world' and environment. This power and mastery over their otherwise powerless lives, becomes the place of escape from problems and their lack of self esteem.
Dr Yellowlees encourages parents to educate themselves about computer games and the internet; opening up a dialogue with their teenagers about gaming and even joining in with them; keeping a constant awareness of the time spent on the PC and having the console in a more public space in the home. Parents also need to be proactive in setting limits on the total time spent on the PC, encourage involvement in other activities which will increase the teenager’s sense of power and mastery over their world –e.g. sports, clubs, even gaming centres involving other teenagers and socialising opportunities. One of the biggest ways for parents to help is to remain open to listening to their teenagers no matter what – being non-judgmental and loving while enforcing boundaries and limits.


Childhood Meningitis C vaccine wears off in teens, Calls for teenage Meningitis booster grow

Monday, 10 May 2010

Researchers suggest that Three-quarters of children vaccinated against meningitis C lose their protection against the disease by their early teens, researchers suggest.


The Oxford Vaccine Group research team at Oxford University says its findings fuel calls for a booster jab to be offered  to adolescents.


A study of 250 children aged six to 12 looked at immunity seven years after the jab was given. The children, who had all been vaccinated against meningitis C, were tested for levels of antibodies against the  bacteria in their bloodstream. Only a quater of the children had sufficiently high levels of the antibodies to give them protection against the disease.

The researchers say that British children are still protected against the potentially fatal bacteria at the moment, through the existence of herd immunity where vaccination has reduced the level of meningitis in the population to the extent that people who are not vaccinated are also protected.

But the researchers, led by Professor Andrew Pollard, told the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID)  meeting in Nice, France, that if herd immunity starts to decline many children will be vulnerable. Falling immunity levels  against meningitis C vaccination have been reported in Greece, the Netherlands and Spain.

Professor Pollard said: "This study is just the latest to show that the personal protection given by meningitis C vaccines  in early childhood doesn't last forever and several countries have now responded to these findings by introducing teenage  boosters, before protection fails in the population."

Austria, Canada and Switzerland have already introduced booster jabs.

Dr Jamie Findlow, deputy head of the Health Protection Agency's Vaccine Evaluation Unit in Manchester, said: "By giving each teenager a booster dose of meningococcal vaccine as they are entering adolescence, we can ensure that they are  protected when they most need it."

Professor Ray Borrow, head of the unit, said: "Parents should not be worried - at the moment cases of meningitis C are at  an all time low. In 2008-2009 in England and Wales there were just 13 cases - and nine of these were in adults over 25 who may not have  been vaccinated. We and other researchers are looking at how and when a booster could be introduced, but it doesn't have to come tomorrow." He said herd immunity should last until around 2015.

Sue Davie, chief executive of the Meningitis Trust said the Oxford team's research raised "significant concerns" and that "vaccination is the only way to prevent meningitis and save lives. We support the use of safe and effective vaccines and  encourage people to receive the vaccines that are currently available. If, as a result of this research, a booster programme is introduced, we would actively encourage the introduction of this."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The number of cases of meningococcal C disease is currently very low. "All new research on vaccines will be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation."


Ignorance could be putting Children With Asthma At Risk

Tuesday, 04 May 2010

Today, new data* released by Asthma UK on World Asthma Day (4 May) suggests that 88% of UK adults would not be completely confident about what to do if a child with asthma in their care had an asthma attack.

The lack of public awareness about asthma was highlighted by the recent inquest into the death of 11 year old Samuel Linton, from Stockport, who was left in a corridor at school for several hours after suffering an asthma attack. The inquest found that school staff lacked vital training on how to recognise an asthma attack and what to do in an emergency situation. Separate survey data** shows that three quarters of teachers in England do not feel completely confident about what to do if a child in their class has an asthma attack, which is particularly worrying as asthma is the most common long-term condition in children in the UK and affects over a million children.

Asthma is believed by many to be a mild and harmless condition, yet a child is admitted to hospital as a result of the condition every 19 minutes in the UK and the equivalent of a classroom of children die from asthma every year.

Neil Churchill, Asthma UK’s Chief Executive says: “The complacency that exists about asthma in the UK is shocking and dangerous and cannot continue. Every member of the public needs to know the signs of worsening asthma and what steps to take if someone suffers an asthma attack. Not acting quickly enough can result in needless deaths that shatter lives. The NHS also needs to take a zero tolerance approach to asthma deaths - parents who have lost children to asthma have told us they feel that a more proactive approach from health professionals might have made a crucial difference.”

Asthma UK recommends that anyone unsure of what to do in an asthma attack should order an Asthma Attack Card, to support children and adults with the condition. The wallet sized card carries life saving information on the simple steps to take and can be ordered through, by calling 0800 121 62 55 or emailing

The majority of life threatening asthma attacks could be avoided through better routine asthma management and the use of tools such as personal asthma action plans. Asthma UK’s advice for everyone with asthma is to have an action plan as those with a plan are four times less likely to suffer a serious asthma attack requiring hospital treatment. Asthma action plans play a key part in helping people to stay in control of their asthma. Completed with you by your doctor or nurse, it contains details about your asthma medicines, how to tell when your symptoms are getting worse and what to do, including in the case of an asthma attack. Action plans are available from your surgery or from Asthma UK.

World Asthma Day coincides with Asthma UK’s annual fundraising week Putting Asthma in the Limelight, which runs from 1 to 9 May. This year the week is led by Heart DJ Toby Anstis and people are urged to raise funds to enable Asthma UK to fund research that will result in new treatments for adults and children with asthma and provide support and advice to over 5 million people with asthma. Supporters are encouraged to help by being sponsored to wear a lime green wig for the day, selling lime iced cakes in the office or having a karaoke night with friends as part of a UK wide Big Sing Song organised on World Asthma Day.

* All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2273 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th - 15th April 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
** From a representative sample of over 1,600 teachers across England in a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (Teacher Voice Omnibus) in February 2009.

Asthma facts:
There are 1.1m children with asthma in the UK
Asthma attacks result in more than 27,000 emergency hospital admissions each year among those aged 14 or under
1 in 8 of those aged under 15 experience asthma attacks so severe they can¡¦t speak
Many hospital admissions for asthma and asthma deaths could be avoided if parents, carers and children themselves knew how to manage asthma better on a day to day basis
Around 10% have such severe, difficult to control asthma, that it can’t be controlled by any of the treatments currently available

To order free Asthma Attack Cards and Personal Asthma Action Plans please call 0800 121 62 55 or email

For independent and confidential advice on asthma, call the Asthma UK Adviceline, which is staffed by asthma nurse specialists. It is open weekdays from 9am to 5pm on 0800 121 62 44. Asthma UK is the leading UK charity dedicated to improving the health of people whose lives are affected by asthma.


Depression Awareness Week 19 April 2010

Monday, 19 April 2010

Depression Awareness Week 19 April 2010.

Depression is the most common psychological disorder in the western world and the World Health Organisation predicts that it may soon be the second largest cause of illness world-wide. One in ten of the population are affected at any one time and 20% or more will experience the condition in their lifetime.

This kind of true depression is not the same experience as a few days of feeling down nor is it a sign of weakness, self pity or something which can be dealt with by ‘pulling oneself together’.

In our society the true meaning of the term ‘depression’ has become blurred, masking the fact that real clinical depression exists and must be taken seriously.

Symptoms vary in type, severity and cultural expression but the depressive condition has been unequivocally scientifically validated. Winston Churchill called it his ‘black dog’ while for many women it’s known as the ‘baby blues’.

Depression can develop at any age including childhood. Women are twice as likely as men to present with the condition while men are three times more likely to successfully commit suicide when depressed. Sadly in men
the condition is often missed.

So what is clinical depression? There are different kinds of depressive disorder such as a depressive episode, postnatal depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) through to manic depression (bipolar disorder) and psychotic depression.


Advice As Ash Cloud Remains Over The UK

Monday, 19 April 2010

In light of the news that ash has started to reach ground level in the UK, the British Lung Foundation is advising people with a lung condition in affected areas to carry their medication as a precaution as they may experience short-term worsening of symptoms. However the British Lung Foundation stresses that the ash does not pose a significant health risk to the public.

The eruption which took place in Iceland on Wednesday is the second in the Eyjafjallajoekull area in one month. Several earthquakes have been registered in the area and geologists have said the eruption is likely to be taking place directly under a huge ice sheet.

Professor Malcolm Green, British Lung Foundation spokesperson says: “In light of the latest news that ash from the volcanic eruption in Iceland has started to reach ground level in the UK, we would advise people living with a lung condition in affected areas to carry their medication as a precaution as they may experience a short term worsening of symptoms. The British Lung Foundation’s Helpline can also provide advice to anyone concerned about the ash cloud on 08458 50 50 20.”
The eruption has caused travel chaos for many, with flights being grounded and every airport in the country being closed for the first time ever.

For the latest news and advice, please go to Health Protection Agency

Key Facts

1.The British Lung Foundation is the only UK charity working for everyone affected by lung disease. The charity focuses its resources on providing support for people affected by lung disease today; and works in a variety of ways (including funding world-class research) to bring about positive change, to improve treatment, care and support for people affected by lung disease in the future.

2.It provides information via the website and telephone helpline 08458 50 50 20

3.One person in every seven in the UK is affected by lung disease – this equates to approximately 8 million people

4.Respiratory disease is the second biggest killer in the UK (117,456 deaths in 2004) after all non-respiratory cancers combined which only account for slightly more deaths (122,500 deaths in UK in 2004)

5.Respiratory disease now kills one in five people in the UK

6.The UK’s death rate from respiratory disease is almost double the European average and the 6th highest in Europe

7.Respiratory disease is the most commonly reported long term illness in children and the third most commonly reported in adults. One in 7 boys and 1 in 8 girls aged 2 – 15 report having long term respiratory illness in England


Asthma UK Campaign Calls On Schools To Be 'Alert To Asthma'

Monday, 19 April 2010

Asthma UK is today urging all schools across the UK to act now to keep children with asthma safe at school and is launching an emergency appeal for donations to fund life saving training and resources.

The charity is launching its Alert to Asthma campaign following the tragic death of Samuel Linton who died after an asthma attack at his school in Stockport. A recent inquest found that the school's negligence significantly contributed to his death which highlights a disturbing lack of awareness about a condition affecting over a million children in the UK and causes the death of the equivalent of a large classroom full of children every year.

Asthma UK is contacting every school and local education authority in the UK urging them to organise regular asthma training for all staff and to ensure they have a policy to support children with asthma. The charity is also calling for the Government to make it compulsory for schools to have a medical conditions policy in place and parents are encouraged to show their support by joining an online campaign to raise awareness.

An urgent call for funds is also being made to enable Asthma UK to support schools, for example by providing its hugely successful Alert to Asthma training for school staff. Currently this training only runs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with a pilot in the North West and urgent funds are needed to extend this across England.

Asthma UK provides a range of resources for teachers and school nurses to support early years to secondary school age pupils with asthma. Resources include the Medical Conditions at School:A Policy Resource pack*, to enable school staff to set up a policy to ensure children with asthma and other medical conditions are protected at school and a tool for school nurses to support them in delivering awareness sessions on asthma.

Key advice for teachers on how to be alert to asthma is:

ALERT Know which pupils in your class have asthma and if their asthma has been getting worse.

CHECK Make sure you know where a pupil's reliever inhaler (usually blue) is kept and you are aware of the symptoms of an asthma attack¡ a tight feeling in the chest, breathing hard and fast, coughing or wheezing, being quieter than usual/unable to speak.

TREATMENT If you believe a child is having an asthma attack they need to use their reliever inhaler (usually blue) immediately¡ preferably through a spacer. If there is no immediate improvement they need to continue to take one puff of their reliever inhaler every minute for five minutes or until symptoms improve. If no improvement in five minutes, call for an ambulance. The child should keep using their reliever inhaler every minute until help arrives.

Neil Churchill, Asthma UK Chief Executive says: Schools should be safe environments and parents and carers should be able to feel secure leaving children with asthma in their care. Three quarters of teachers in England admit to not being confident about what to do in an asthma attack, which is frankly appalling. It's vitally important that every school takes asthma seriously and has in place policies and regular training to support children with asthma to prevent avoidable deaths. With a child hospitalised every 19 minutes in the UK, we urge schools to take action now and the public to get behind our campaign by making a donation.

*downloadable from

To make a donation go to, call Asthma UK on 0800 121 62 55 or email

Important things to remember in an asthma attack

Never leave a pupil having an asthma attack.

If the pupil does not have their inhaler and/or spacer with them, send another teacher or pupil to their classroom or assigned room to get their spare inhaler and/or spacer.

In an emergency situation school staff are required under common law, duty of care, to act like any reasonably prudent parent.

Reliever medicine is very safe. During an asthma attack do not worry about a pupil overdosing.

Send another pupil to get another teacher/adult if an ambulance needs to be called.

Contact the pupil's parents immediately after calling the ambulance/doctor.

A member of staff should always accompany a pupil taken to hospital by ambulance and stay with them until their parent arrives.

Generally staff should not take pupils to hospital in their own car.

Other important information

It is essential that all pupils with asthma are allowed to access their reliever inhaler freely at all times. Reliever inhalers should never be kept in a locked room or drawer.

All parents of pupils with asthma should be asked to provide a spare reliever inhaler, separate from the one the pupil carries with them all the time. This ensures that if a pupil forgets or loses their everyday inhaler, a spare is available.


Marriage between cousins increases risks to children

Monday, 19 April 2010

The rise in marriages between cousins ‘is putting children’s health at risk’.

A leading professor is highlighting the dangers of marriage between first cousins, warning that their children are at risk of disabilities.

Baroness Deech, a crossbencher and family law professor has called for a “vigorous” public campaign to deter the practice, which is rising and particularly prevalent in Muslim and immigrant communities. The practice was debated five years ago when the MP for Keighley, Ann Cryer, highlighted the number of disabled babies being born in the town and called for marriage between cousins to be stopped.

55% of British Pakistanis are married to first cousins while in Bradford the figure is 75 per cent. Only 3% of all births in Britain are to British Pakistanis parents but they make up one third of children with genetic disorders.

Lady Deech also warns that marriage between first cousins can be a barrier to integration for minority communities. She believes there should be testing for genetic defects where such marriages are arranged and people who carry genetic diseases should be held on a register, so that two carriers are not introduced. “Some variant of this could be possible in cities such as Bradford with a high density of immigrant population,” she says.

Lady Deech chaired the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for eight years and suggests that married first cousins test embryos for recessive diseases.

She argues that “Human rights and religious and cultural practices are respected by not banning cousin marriage”. “But those involved must be made aware of the consequences.” She says “The local estimate was that 75 per cent of Bradford disabled children had cousin parents and the rate of cousin marriage in the UK Pakistani community is increasing”.

Another city with a substantial immigrant community, Birmingham, has 10% of children of first cousins that die in infancy or have a disability.

Baroness Deech states that the practice has long been associated with immigrants and the poor and is “at odds with freedom of choice, romantic love and integration”. However, factors linked to cousin marriage in the British immigrant community are working against what she calls its “otherwise inevitable decline”.

Finance for instance, as such marriages can be arranged to settle debts. Another can be financial support of relatives abroad. Another may be that it provides a “ready-made framework of supportive family members for a new immigrant spouse”; or that it enables relatives to come to Britain as a fiancé or spouse.

She feels that cousin marriage can be a hinderance to integration of immigrant communities and “arguably to democracy as we know it abroad”. It also carries genetic problems that can be “replicated generation after generation, with accumulated suffering in an extended family”. But Lady Deech does not think we should ban first-cousin marriages like the United States.

“The State would have to show that it had compelling reasons to limit the right to marry and that the means are related to the goal.” But there are compelling arguments to act on health grounds. Personal health is the “fetish of the late 20th century” and people are targeted over smoking, drinking, eating and exercise.

Yet there are cultural differences or ignorance about disabled children, she says. In some minority cultures Women may be blamed for being childless or having disabled children; while the “Muslim view . . . is that it is a consequence of Allah’s will, and they may therefore approach it with fatalism”.

Lady Deech believes in measures to prevent the genetic problems arising from cousin marriage but not in an outright ban.

She says: “There is no reason, one could argue, why there should not be a campaign to highlight the risks and the preventative measures, every bit as vigorous as those centring on smoking, obesity and Aids.” While there was reluctance to “target or upset Muslims over cousin-marriage issues” the practice was not mandated by religion, only permitted, so it is not central to religion, she argues.

Lady Deech thinks a campaign of education needs to start in schools so they understand about genetics and what it means to carry a mutant gene.

“Where marriages are arranged, it is possible to test for carrier status and record the results, without stigmatising individuals.” In the Orthodox Jewish community young people are screened for Tay-Sachs disease, a genetic disorder that prevents mental and physical development, but not given the result. When a match is proposed, a register is checked to ensure two young people who are carriers are not introduced. “Some variant of this could be possible in cities such as Bradford, with a high density of immigrant population”, she argues. Finally she suggests in-vitro embryo testing: ethical objections about this being a slippery slope to eugenics are met by current guidelines under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, she says.

The Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed Lady Deech’s comments, Inayat Bunglawala said that cousin marriage was popular even though Islamic teaching encouraged wedlock outside the immediate family.

“Certainly education has an important role to play in this area. There are clear dangers in marrying a close relative, which need to be better understood. Professor Deech’s recommendation appear to be sensible,” he said.


Ticks appear in the warmer weather

Sunday, 18 April 2010

As the warmer weather encourages people and their pets out into parks and the countryside, Lyme disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK) is warning to be aware of tick-borne disease whilst out and about over the months ahead.

Ticks carrying Borreliosis (also known as Lyme disease) have been found in and around the UK, so even a romantic stroll or a kick about in a park or gardens could be a health hazard.

“Many areas with good ground cover and diverse wildlife (such as squirrels, hedgehogs and deer) can pose a potential risk” says Wendy Fox, Chair of BADA-UK, and a Lyme disease sufferer.

Tick Prevention Week, organised by BADA-UK, runs from April 12 – April 18th and aims to provide information to help prevent ticks from biting people and pets. It also gives advice on what to do if ticks do attach. This year's theme of 'DO ONE THING to raise awareness' provides lots of ideas and local pharmacies, schools, activity clubs etc. are encouraged to do their bit to raise awareness. Leaflets, posters and much more can be found at disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick and can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show a year-on-year increase in cases of Lyme disease, with a marked increase over the past six years from 292 in 2003 to 813 in 2008 (the latest figures). However the HPA estimate up to 3,000 cases every year.

It is not just the UK which is seeing an increase in confirmed cases of tick-borne disease, cases of Tick Borne Encephalitis (TBE) in some European countries popular with outdoor enthusiasts are back to levels seen 20 years ago.

Scientists at the ISW, a group of experts in Austria investigating the disease, say TBE is again on the increase and that initial information from 11 of the 27 countries where TBE is endemic show a rise in cases.

In four countries - Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic and Slovenia – TBE last year almost reached the peak recorded in 1991.

More information about Lyme disease and BADA-UK can be found at
More information about Tick Borne Encephalitis and risk areas can be found at

•A number of measures can be taken to reduce the risk of infection: these include using an insect repellent, wearing trousers and long-sleeved clothing to cover all areas of exposed skin, regularly inspecting for ticks and carefully removing any found.
•TBE-endemic countries are: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.
•Lyme disease areas of the UK highlighted by the Health Protection Agency are: Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Thetford Forest, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Moors and the Scottish Highlands.


Too many gp visits for minor ailments, make more use of pharmacy

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A group of doctors and health campaigners say far too many people are going to see their GP with minor problems, such as coughs and colds or athlete's foot.

The "Self-Care Campaign" published the report which says common ailments account for about 20% of GPs' workload.

It highlights that in England alone the cost to the health service is nearly £2bn a year.

The "Self-Care Campaign" is funded by drugs companies who sell over-the-counter medicines (medicines you can buy without any prescription) and has won backing from doctors, pharmacists, nurses and health charities.

The report shows many people with minor ailments go to their doctor out of convenience, habit or dependency rather than need, which has a huge cost to the health service and concludes that this cannot be sustained.

However does make clear noone is suggesting patients are malingerers and does add: "This does not mean denying treatment to those who are sick but making sure that people receive the services they actually need."

Drawing on research funded by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain - which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter medicines in the UK - the report says there are more than 50 million consultations every year that are solely for "minor" ailments.

These include back pain, cols and coughs, dermatitis and nasal congestion.

The campaign makes suggestions including training for doctors and nurses on how to help people to treat themselves, and public information campaigns on how to manage minor ailments. People should certainly be making more use of their local pharmacist and pharmacy as well where good advice is available as well as the treatments.

The report suggests the NHS £10bn over the next five years by tackling the problem without any cuts to services.

Both The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) support the move towards better self-care.

The RCGP president Professor Steve Field, said: "Patients with long-term and complex conditions need more time with their GP to discuss their care and treatment options.

"We need to look at ways of encouraging a change in attitude towards the treatment of minor illnesses so that health care and services are properly directed at those most in need."

Katherine Murphy, from the Patients Association, said: "This whole question is about responsibility. Of course patients should be responsible about their health services, but so should every clinician being paid from the public purse.

"It is part of their professional duty to ensure that their patients are accurately informed about what they should do and when, about aspects of their health.

"Above all patients should be able to rely on timely access to a clinician when they are sick or worried sick. Every primary care contractor has a way to go on joining up the NHS for their patients before they start blaming the customer. We need to get this balance right."


Fluctuating blood pressure may increase risk of stroke

Friday, 12 March 2010

New research suggests that people with occasionally high blood pressure are more at risk of stroke than those with consistently high readings.

People with fluctuating blood pressure could be more at risk of stroke

New research suggests that people with occasionally high blood pressure are more at risk of stroke than those with consistently high readings.

To reduce the chance of suffering a stroke current guidelines focus on the need to lower blood pressure levels.

This latest research says doctors should aim to achieve steady blood pressure levels and no longer ignore an occasional high reading.

The Stroke Association called for national guidelines to be overhauled.

UK and Swedish researchers looked at the variability in blood pressure readings by doctors.

They established that people with fluctuating readings at different visits had the greatest risk of having a stroke in the future regardless of what their average blood pressure reading was.

The research also reviewed previous trials and found that the differences in effectiveness of a number of blood pressure drugs could be explained by how well they kept blood pressure steady.

In a separate study in The Lancet, some drugs were found to increase variation in blood pressure, this was particularly true of beta blockers.

Professor Peter Rothwell of the Department of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford, who led the research, said the findings have major implications for guidnace given to GPs to help them spot and treat people at high risk of a stroke.

"At the moment, the guidelines for GPs say not to believe a one-off unusual reading, to bring the patient back and measure again, and as long as it's not consistently high, there is no need to treat.

"What we're saying is don't discount that one-off high blood pressure reading."

He added that GPs would also need to try and prescribe drug combinations that lower blood pressure but also stabilise it.

The research has not established why fluctuations would increase a person's risk of stroke but it is thought the body's system is put under extra stress.

"If you get rapid fluctuations that can cause turbulent flow of blood which can cause damage and stiffening in the arteries," said Professor Rothwell.

He said anyone with high blood pressure who tests themselves at home with a blood pressure monitor should mention to their GP if they get variations in their results.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's guidelines on high blood pressure is in the process of being rewritten and these latest studies will be taken into account.

Joe Korner, director of communications at The Stroke Association said people who have occasional high blood pressure readings (known as episodic hypertension) are often not treated.

"With this new research it is now important that the clinical guidelines about treating high blood pressure are reviewed."

"In the meantime we urge GPs to read this research to help them prescribe the best treatment for people at risk of stroke."

Experts stressed that those who are getting fluctuations and/or already prescribed medication for high blood pressure should not worry or stop taking their pills; it is a long term view.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation said: "Current practice is not wrong, but this might add a new measure to help doctors make decisions on who to treat for hypertension and which drug to use."


New hope for peanut allergy sufferers

Monday, 08 March 2010

In the largest ever trial to find a treatment 104 British children with severe peanut allergies are to undergo an experimental desensitising therapy that has had promising early results.

The trial will begin next month at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge where University researchers will give Sufferers a tiny, increasing daily amount of peanut flour, up to the equivalent of five nuts a day, to build up their tolerance.  

Twenty out of 23 sufferers in an earlier study showed substantial improvement over six months and became able to eat more than 30 peanuts safely, up to 12 nuts a day.

The new trial could lead to a widely available treatment after scientists were awarded a £1 million, three year grant by the National Institute for Health Research.

“The families involved say that it’s changed their lives,” said Andrew Clark, a consultant in paediatric allergy who leads the project, at an American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego.

“Before they were checking every food label every time they ate food. They would worry it would cause a reaction or even kill them, but now they can go out and eat curries and Chinese food.

“They can eat everyday snacks and treats. For their birthday they can have chocolate cake and chocolates without any fear of reactions. So that's our real motiviation — to try to develop that as a clinical treatment that we could spread to the rest of the country.”

About one in 50 children in the UK suffers from peanut allergies which are becoming more common.  Reactions can range from mild itching to breathing problems, and in severe cases, to a potentially fatal reaction called anaphylaxis.

“This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether it works and whether it’s safe,” Dr Clark said. He emphasised that parents should not try the treatment without medical supervision.

“I think in two or three years time we will be in a position where we have a treatment that works but we are still working on a long-term cure.

“It’s likely to be a treatment that lasts at last two or three years, and we hope that once that's over we can withdraw the treatment and maintain long-term tolerance, but we need a long-term study to find out.”


Obesity related deaths increase

Monday, 08 March 2010

Researchers say there has been a "dramatic rise" in deaths in England in which obesity was a contributory factor.
They said death certificates showed there were 757 obesity related deaths in 2009, compared with 358 in 2000.

The team from the University of Oxford said it is likely that many more deaths had a link to obesity but it was not recorded.

It comes as the Scottish government warned of a "ticking time bomb", saying nearly 40% of Scots could be obese by 2030.

One public health expert said people often did not realise obesity was linked with many other serious conditions.  

The team of researchers said as obesity was rarely listed as the main cause of death, many death certificates would not have highlighted the rise.

The significant increase became apparent when they included contributing causes of death in the analysis.

Other figures recently released by ministers showed more than 190 people under 65 died as a direct result of obesity in 2009 compared with 88 in 2000.

With contributing factors included, there were 757 obesity related deaths in 2009 compared with 358 in 2000.

About 25% of UK adults are now classed as obese, which is thought to cost the NHS more than £3bn a year.

The Scottish government said if things do not change 40% of Scots could be classed as obese by 2030.

Scotland's Public Health Minister Shona Robison is due to launch an anti-obesity strategy soon.

Study leader Professor Michael Goldacre said although the death certificate figures tallied with rises in levels of obesity in the population over the same period, they did not know before the study whether doctors would be recording obesity on death certificates.

"We know for example obesity contributes to heart disease but if someone dies of heart disease you don't necessarily expect doctors to note if they were obese.

"But this shows doctors are increasingly recognising obesity as a cause of death."

He added: "One of the key messages is you can't rely on underlying causes alone - if you don't look at other causes you cannot see what is contributing to disease."

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said people in the "early stages" of obesity often did not realise how dangerous being overweight could be and their weight commonly "creeps up" without them noticing.

"People do not realise how closely linked it is with serious conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

"We have to take obesity seriously."


‘Brain flushing’ saves lives of premature babies

Monday, 08 March 2010

A new technique that "washes out" the brains of severely ill premature babies may help survival.
According to a study from Bristol University this new technique could have significant benefits in helping severely ill premature babies survive bleeding in the brain.

Bleeding in the brain is one of the most serious complications for very premature babies as it can lead to brain damage or death.

The study of 77 babies found the 'brain washing' technique - involving draining the brain while introducing new fluid - could reduce the risk.

It is suggested the process could help about 100 babies a year.

The researchers say the technique takes place over a couple of days and needs to be closeley monitored to make sure the pressure in the baby's brain does not rise too high.

Specialists and experts are encouraged by the findings.

It would only be used for the most premature babies who have large haemorrhages, causing the brain and head to excessively expnad, which is a condition called hydrocephalus.

At the moment the usual way of treating the condition is by inserting needles repeatedly into the head or spine to get rid of the fluid that has built up, this takes place over a number of months before a shunt is inserted to drain fluid into the stomach.
This new treatment is called drift and has found to be more effective suggests the study, published in the Pediatrics journal.

39 babies received the treatment, and of those 39, 54% had died or were severely disabled by the age of two, compared with 71% who had the standard treatment.

One of the lead researchers, paediatric neurosurgeon Ian Pople, hoped the technique would soon be used in the NHS saying

"This is the first time that any treatment anywhere in the world has been shown to benefit these very vulnerable babies."

Isaac Walker-Cox, nine, from South Gloucestershire was one of the first babies to be given this treatment before the latest study took place. Born 13 weeks early he was given a 1% chance of survival.

Rebekah Walker-Cox, his mother, said that while he has mild paralysis on the left-side of his body, he is living a normal childhood.

"Mentally he has no problems at all, he has an above average reading age and is very good with computers. He just gets on with life and is an outgoing, happy little boy."

Andy Cole, of the premature baby charity Bliss, said: "This is a very interesting piece of new research and we always welcome anything that has the potential to improve outcomes for babies born sick and premature.

"The early results of this technique are encouraging and we look forward to seeing how these findings might be translated into treatments that could ensure better outcomes for these vulnerable babies."


Healthy don't need daily asprin

Monday, 08 March 2010

Taking asprin everyday if you are healthy in the hope of preventing a heart attack or stroke may be doing more harm than good.
It is also claimed that healthy people who take a low dose of aspirin daily also increase theof likelihood of major internal bleeding.

The news is based on a study of nearly 30,000 men and women aged between 50 and 75 without known heart disease. It found that taking 100mg of aspirin everyday almost doubled the risk of serious internal bleeding compared to dummy pills (placebo), while having no effect on heart attacks or strokes.

This respected study suggests that the risks and benefits of aspirin in this group of patients at low risk of vascular disease are small. It is possible that the risks outweigh the benefits but neither outcome reached statistical significance. Other groups of patients at higher vascular risk, like those with high blood pressure, cholesterol or diabetes, may benefit from aspirin. Anyone taking aspirin following a heart attack or stroke should continue to do so as instructed.

Who conducted the research?

This research was carried out by F. Gerald R. Fowkes and colleagues for the Aspirin for Asymptomatic Atherosclerosis Trialists. The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation and the Chief Scientist’s Office in Scotland. The the aspirin, placebo tablets and funds for packaging, dispensing, and some statistical analysis was all provided by Bayer Healthcare.

The study was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The research tested the effectiveness of aspirin at preventing cardiovascular events in people who were thought to be at risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular events highlighted by screening. The study, a double-blind randomised controlled trial, was carried out from 1998 to 2008 in Scotland. The research wanted to identify both good and bad outcomes. Initially they set out to see if fatal or non-fatal heart attacks, strokes or deaths were reduced by aspirin, but they also monitored the group for side effects, such as bleeding.

What was involved?

The screening consisted of the ankle brachial index (ABI), which is a simple, inexpensive test. It involves participants lying down for five minutes, during which the blood pressure in their feet is compared to that in their arms. The blood pressures is recorded (above 0.95 is thought to be normal and below 0.95 to indicate narrowing of the arteries to the legs).

The researchers wanted to see if the ABI test could be used in population screening programs to identify people who might benefit from preventive treatments.

The participants were recruited from a community health registry of people living in central Scotland.  28,980 men and women between 50 and 75 years of age were screened. The researchers then excluded anyone who already had diagnosed vascular disease, were already taking medication such as aspirin or warfarin, or were unwilling to take part. This left 3,350 people with an ABI of 0.95 or less who were given aspirin or placebo randomly.

The participants were split into two groups. 1,675 received 100mg of aspirin daily and 1,675 received a placebo. The researchers followed all (except 10) participants for over eight years. Participants were seen at intervals of three months, one year and five years in the clinic and were then contacted annually by phone. They also received a mid-year letter, enquiring generally about any problems, and an end-of-year newsletter.

The researchers monitored fatal or non-fatal heart attacks, stroke or revascularisation (such as angioplasty or bypass grafts). They also looked for all deaths, angina, intermittent claudication (pain in the legs when walking) and warning strokes (transient ischemic attacks). Results were analysed according to the groups which the patients were originally allocated.

Basic results

By the end of the trial, 357 participants had had a fatal or non-fatal heart attack, stroke or revascularisation; a rate of 13.5 events per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI], 12.2 to 15.0).

There was no statistically significant difference between groups. There were 13.7 events per 1,000 person-years in the aspirin group compared to 13.3 in the placebo group (hazard ratio [HR] 1.03,
95% CI 0.84 to 1.27).

No statistical significance between groups in other outcomes including death from any cause (176 deaths in the aspirin group compared with 186 in the placebo group).

A first major haemorrhage requiring hospital admission occurred in 34 participants in the aspirin group (2.5 per 1,000 person-years) and 20 in the placebo group (1.5 per 1,000 person-years; HR in favour of placebo group, 1.71, 95% CI, 0.99 to 2.97).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say that in this study “the administration of aspirin compared with placebo did not result in a significant reduction in vascular events.”


The trial tried to determine who should be given aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. It used a systematic method to screen people and followed a reasonably large group of patients for up to 10 years in some cases. The finding of “no statistical significance” suggests that any benefits from taking aspirin for this group of people are likely to be small. The risk of bleeding was also small.

    * There is a non-significant trend in the results towards aspirin being harmful. As there is also a suggestion that the study may have been underpowered (planned for too few people), this implies that a larger study may have detected a significant increase in major bleeding in the aspirin group. However, the fact that the reported results were not statistically significant has been picked up by the newspapers.
    * Although there were more bleeds in the aspirin group than the placebo group, they varied in their severity. and not all bleeds had the same implication for patients. For example, some episodes of bleeding from stomach ulcers were easily treated, while other cases of bleeding from haemorrhagic stroke were fatal. There were three fatal haemorrhagic strokes in both groups. Fourteen patients in the aspirin group required admission to control bleeding (reasons not given) compared to five in the placebo group. By combining the bleeding outcomes important information is lost.
    * Considering this trial originally screened about 30,000 people, it is important to keep the small number of patients (9) who died from major haemorrhage in perspective.

Overall, this study has found that aspirin doesn’t appear to be of benefit in preventing cardiovascular disease in this group of patients at least, and suggests it could even increase bleeding. There are other groups of patients, for example, those with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes who may benefit from aspirin. People taking aspirin following a heart attack or stroke should continue to do so, and others should consider being assessed for vascular risk.

References links

Fowkes FGR, Price JF, Stewart MCW, et al. Aspirin for Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in a General Population Screened for a Low Ankle Brachial Index. JAMA 2010; 303: 841-848

Berger JS. Aspirin as Preventive Therapy in Patients With Asymptomatic Vascular Disease. JAMA 2010; 303: 880-882


Lack of nursing cover means terminally ill ‘unable to die at home'

Monday, 08 March 2010

Government plans to allow the terminally ill to die at home is being threatened by A lack of 24-hour nursing cover and poor planning by doctors, say campaigners.
More than a third of family GP's are not reviewing the needs and wishes of dying patients, while there is also a lack of round-the-clock nursing care to give patients care at weekends and at night in many areas.

Thousands of patients suffering from conditions such as cancer are taken into hospital or hospices to die when they would rather stay at home because of the shortfalls, according to the charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

Ministers started a consultation in November on whether a legal right to die at home — wherever possible — should be enshrined in the NHS constitution, after the publication of an End of Life Care Strategy in 2008.

But up to 40 per cent of doctor surgeries in England are still not participating in a “gold standards framework” to keep registers of patients who are close to death, and make efforts to respond to their needs accordingly.

Although two thirds of people say that they would prefer to die at home only one in five deaths occur there, compared with about 60 per cent of people who die in hospital.

Macmillan’s chief medical officer, Professor Jane Maher, said that many doctors were still too reluctant to prepare or discuss plans for death with patients nearing the end of their lives.

“Many doctors are still uncomfortable reviewing terminally ill patients or bringing it up in consultations, but patients need to be asked about their plans and wishes for dying in the same way as they might plan for a pregnancy or any other medical condition,” Professor Maher said.

However, community nurses or health visitors are often not available at night even if GP's do discuss plans with patients.

It was recently pledged by Gordon Brown that all cancer patients would have access to specialist nurses trained in their condition. Macmillan says that these services would typically be available only during the day, however, leaving 24-hour care to be provided by nurses with more general skills.

The National Audit Office (NAO) and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advise that all patients should have access to 24-hour nursing services. But a report by the NAO in 2008 found that only just over half (53.2 per cent) of local health authorities provided such a service to all patients seven days a week.

In areas such as Dorset, the variation has created a postcode lottery, where round-the-clock nursing care is funded in the east of the county but not in the west. According to Charles Campion-Smith, a GP in Dorchester and Macmillan adviser, there was no cover in his area from 10pm to 6am the next morning.

“Patients have lost control of a lot of things by the end of life, and wanting to maintain control about where they die is one of the most fundamental things they value,” he said. The National Council for Palliative Care and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) supported the call for round-the-clock nursing for dying patients.

Peter Carter, the general secretary of the RCN, said: “Sadly it is often the case that patients at the end of their lives are admitted to hospital in the middle of the night simply due to the unavailability of district nursing services.”



Teenage Pregnancy Rates Are On the Decline

Monday, 08 March 2010

New Data Reveal That Teenage Pregnancy Rates Are On the Decline
This morning the 2008 (provisional) conception statistics were published by the Office for National Statistics.  The statistics for England showed the under-18 conception rate had dropped to 40.4 per 1000, a decrease of 3.2% from the 2007 rate and the lowest rate for over 20 years. This means the under-18 rate has now fallen 13.3% since the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy began. In 2008, the estimated number of conceptions to women aged under 18 was 38,750 compared with 40,298 in 2007. Of these, 50 per cent led to a legal abortion compared with 51 per cent in 2007.

Anne Quesney, Policy & Parliamentary Adviser from international leading sexual health agency Marie Stopes International (MSI) issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the teenage conception rate in England has decreased.  The general downward trend over the last decade is confirmation that where implemented appropriately, the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy contributes to reductions in the teenage conception rate, and the Government should be congratulated on this achievement.  We hope that the strategy will receive even more support, to ensure that we are able to continue to improve the sexual health of Britain’s young people.

Moving forward, parents, educators, politicians and health and social services need to work together and re-double efforts if we are to keep the conception statistics on a downward trend.  We are delighted by today’s announcement that the Government bill to guarantee the provision of age-appropriate sex and relationships education (SRE) has passed through Report Stage in the House of Commons. Coupled with the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, this will provide teenagers with vital knowledge, information and confidence to be able to say no to unwanted sex and then when they are ready, to negotiate their sexual lives safely using contraception effectively and protecting themselves against unplanned pregnancy.   In support of the Government’s concerted sexual health strategies, health and social services need to facilitate the provision of accessible contraceptive advice, supplies and sexual health services specifically tailored to young people’s needs, and parents should try to promote an open attitude towards talking about sex, to ensure their children approach them for advice if needed.  

Although parenthood might be a planned choice for some young women, for others becoming a teenage mum unintentionally can cost them their education and career. We are pleased that those teenagers who have aspirations other than motherhood appear to be protecting themselves against unintended pregnancy. However, no method of contraception is 100% effective, and it is noticeable from the statistics that approximately half of the young women faced with an unintended pregnancy are recognising that the life outcomes for them and their future family may be better if they delay parenthood.

The evidence is clear that when men and women of all ages are given sex and relationships education coupled with access to a variety of contraceptive methods, real reductions in unintended pregnancy rates, and consequently abortion rates, can be achieved. We need to continue to prioritise sexual health to ensure that the future conception rates reach an all-time low.”

All quotes are attributable to Anne Quesney, Policy & Parliamentary Adviser UK and Europe, Marie Stopes International.

For further information on the conceptions statistics please visit


'better-fitting condoms' needed

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Men need condoms that fit better, one size does not fit all, say experts.


National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) withdrawn

Friday, 12 February 2010



Society Affected By Health Inequalities

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Most people in England aren’t living as long as the best off and spend longer in ill-health


Swine flu latest

Thursday, 04 February 2010

The National Pandemic Flu Service to close


Parents warned over 'souvenir' baby scans

Wednesday, 03 February 2010

According to reports “Parents-to-be should weigh the possible risks of going for non-essential scans purely to get keepsake pictures of their unborn babies”


Shingles vaccination proposal for elderly

Sunday, 31 January 2010

According to several newspapers millions of people in their seventies could be vaccinated against shingles


New emergency contraception option for women

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A recently licensed type of emergency contraception may offer women protection from pregnancy even when
taken five days after sex.


--- Reductil (Sibutramine) Withdrawn ---

Friday, 22 January 2010

One of the most commonly presribed weightloss drugs, Reductil, has been withdrawn from use.


Roche still talking to Nice on Avastin

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Roche, the leading Cancer therapy pharmaceutical giant, is hoping to strike a deal with the health watchdog, Nice, after it again rejected the bowel cancer drug Avastin for use on the NHS.


Swine Flu Vaccination

Monday, 23 November 2009



Risk of blood clots caused by the combined contraceptive pill is still very low

Wednesday, 07 October 2009

Marie Stopes responds to recent studies of risks of thrombosis to women taking the contraceptive pill


Dentists may stop NHS work

Thursday, 01 October 2009

Dentists may stop treating NHS patients in protest at the government's attempt to impose a new contract


Out of hours GP care unsafe?

Thursday, 01 October 2009

Care Quality Commission report warns that a lack of scrutiny threatens patient safety.


New Breast Cancer drug trial shows positive results

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Women with breast cancer lived significantly longer without their disease getting worse in new drug trial.


Surgery improves advanced breast cancer survival

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Removal of the primary breast tumour in women whose cancer has already spread to other parts of the body can have a significant effect on their survival