August 20, 2007

US Old Media Virtually Silent As UK Severely Restricts Use of Alzheimer’s Drug

Even as one of them heatedly denies that she advocates “socialized medicine,” it is a fact that each major US presidential candidate on the Democratic side favors some form of nationalized health care. Additionally, while governor of Massachusetts, Republican candidate Mitt Romney was firmly behind health-care legislation that, as commentator John Stossel noted back in May, the Wall Street Journal described as “a death warrant for small business in the Bay State.”

Given its potential as a top-tier 2008 presidential campaign issue, you would think that there would be Old Media interest in how nationalized health care is working out in other countries.

But if there was, you would have surely heard about this news a week ago without having to go to British newspapers to learn of it:

Drug companies and campaigners yesterday lost a high court appeal for people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s to be prescribed on the NHS a £2.50-a-day drug (about $5/day in $US — Ed.) which is said to provide relief from the symptoms and respite for families.

….. The ruling means the drug will not be available for people in the earliest stages of the disease, allowing the decision of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), that Aricept’s benefits are too slight to justify prescribing, to stand.

….. Eisai and Pfizer, which make and market Aricept, supported by patient groups, (had) sought a judicial review.

Yesterday, Paul Hooper, managing director of Eisai, said: “The guidance Nice has issued is morally reprehensible. They are denying patients access to early treatment and that is wrong. This is about patients, not profits. For Nice to deny treatment to patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease is disgraceful.”

The Alzheimer’s Society said it was frustrated at the decision.

“Frustrated”? I would characterize the Alzheimer’s Society’s reaction as a bit stronger than that:

However, the result is deeply disappointing for everyone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and their carers. Without further change to the guidance, people in the early stages of the disease will still be refused drugs because NICE considers that these people are not worth £2.50 a day. This is insulting and devastating news. People will be forced to deteriorate before they get the treatment they need. Is this the sort of society we want to live in?

NICE failed to listen to the views of thousands of carers who told them drug treatments make a huge difference to their lives. It is deeply disturbing that a public body, required to use rigorous standards of evidence based decision making, can simply guess at vital data. This is simply unacceptable.

When NICE speaks it has huge implications for people’s lives. Its decision on Alzheimer’s affects hundreds of thousands of people. NICE must get it right. To retain its authority as a public body it must command the confidence of the public. The result of this case must call into question whether NICE has lost that confidence. It is up to Government to consider the changes needed to stop this from happening again.

Some context:

  • According to this press release written before the high court NICE ruling came down, “700,000 people in the UK have a form of dementia, more than half have Alzheimer’s disease. In less than 20 years nearly a million people will be living with dementia. This will soar to 1.7 million people by 2051. 1 in 5 people over 80 have dementia.” The ruling clearly denies treatment to hundreds of thousands of UK citizens.
  • Aricept (also known as Donezepil) was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, an agency not exactly know for moving quickly, in 199611 years ago — for mild to moderate dementia.
  • The FDA approved the drug for use in cases of severe dementia in October of last year. The NHS/NICE, as noted above, is limiting Aricept’s use to severe cases.
  • This March 2006 Consumer Reports article, written before the FDA’s severe-case approval, designated Aricept one of three Best Buy drugs for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Exemplifying NHS’s top-down control, a Nottingham (UK) University Hospital “Medicines Management Report” on “Controlling the Drugs Budget” from two years ago specifically states (in table row C2 near the bottom of the document in the middle column) that doctors are to “Stop all NICE approved prescribing outside guidelines.” So the government, aka the British National Health Service’s supposedly “NICE” guys, is deciding what drugs every one of its millions of patients are allowed to take — purely based on NICE’s, and not the doctor’s or patient’s, cost-benefit considerations. There’s outrage in the US when a managed-care organization attempts to do this in relatively isolated instances.

Given the stringent guideline just noted and the strong cost-control language in the Nottingham report, it’s not unreasonable to believe that doctors will be under severe pressure to defer a diagnosis of severe dementia until the latest possible moment.

Negative government intervention in the doctor-patient relationship has happened in every country that I am aware of where nationalized health care has been imposed. Yet politicians, including many of the 2008 presidential aspirants, continue to pretend that it won’t happen here. It will, and it’s only a question of how quickly it occurs.

As if anyone should be surprised, a New York Times search on “Alzheimer’s” has no articles relating to the UK ruling. A Google News Search on “Alzheimer’s NHS” without quotes, and limited to US sources, shows only one Old Media reference — a CNNMoney.com article that is no longer there.

We don’t hear much from Old Media in the US about how nationalized health care is working elsewhere — because it hasn’t worked elsewhere. It’s hard not to conclude that the coverage of foreign nationalized health care failures is light because exposing the truth would hurt US presidential candidates who favor it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: A BizzyBlog blast from the past, encouraged by Joe C’s comment, on how the cost of LASIK eye surgery has dropped like a rock, largely because it’s an uncovered, usually non-insurable procedure. That decline has continued even since the March 2006 date of the post, and I believe some even more innovative procedures have come along that may supplant LASIK. What’s not to like?

Cutting Down the Blade’s Distorted Sense of Accomplishment

The Blade puffs its chest once again about breaking the Noe Coingate story, and about having accomplished its true mission in the process:

The Blade first reported in April, 2005, about problems with a $50 million rare-coin investment the bureau placed with Tom Noe, a GOP fund-raiser and Toledo-area coin dealer.

Fallout from the scandal helped end a dozen years of GOP power in the state.

This is getting really tiresome. So I’ll ask a couple of questions.

Quick: How much money has the State lost in the Noe affair?

Think hard ….. Ready?

AnswerSurprise! Probably nothing:

State likely to recoup over $50M in Noe case
Asset liquidation nets $42M so far

COLUMBUS — The sale of rare coins and other memorabilia should bring more than the $50 million the state gave a coin dealer convicted of stealing from the funds he managed for the workers’ compensation bureau, the broker handling the collection’s liquidation said yesterday.

….. “It is clear now we are going to retrieve more than $50 million. The question is how much,” Mr. Brandt said.

The state confirmed the total raised so far and it expects the sale of remaining assets to surpass $50 million as well, said Leo Jennings, a spokesman for Attorney General Marc Dann.

….. Noe was awarded the state contracts by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The former chief financial officer of the bureau and an investment marketer also were sentenced in the scandal. Overall, the bureau has lost $300 million in investments since 1998.

All right, a reasonable riposte would be that the money could have been invested for a few years and achieved at least a modest return return of 6% or so per year. Fair enough — Go ahead and be aggressive in all the assumptions. Assume the state will only break even, and that the lost investment income is about $17 million (6% for at most 5 years on $50 million, compounded).

Heck, even throw in the $13.7 million stolen, even though I believe that at least part of what has been recovered includes a portion of that $13.7 million. Thrown in another 5 years of lost investment income on the $13.7 million, and make the loss on stolen money $18 million.

So the highest conceivable worst-case loss on Mr. Noe’s handiwork is $35 million ($17 mil plus $18 mil).

Next question: How much money did the state lose with Mark Lay, the oh-so-conveniently unnamed, and oh-so-typically non-party-identified, Democratic “investment marketer” named in the last paragraph of the excerpt?

Think hard ….. Remember that it’s a long distance from Noe’s worst-case loss to the BWC’s total losses of $300 million noted in the excerpt above …..

Ready?

Answer: $216 freaking million — and unlike the recovery noted in Noe’s case, Lay’s trading losses are NOT coming back. The money that could have been made on Lay’s disappeared capital will compound on itself — FOR-EV-ER.

There’s certainly no “Free Tom Noe” movement in the works here, but where’s the perspective?

It’s clear from the Blade’s ongoing celebration that its workers’ comp scandal investigation was driven far more by its own opportunistic partisanship than it was by any desire to inform Ohio’s taxpayers and voters of the full breadth and scope of the Bureau’s problems and losses. If the Blade’s journalists weren’t on a partisan mission, Mark Lay’s name would be at least as well-known in Ohio as Tom Noe’s.

The main point — We’re right back to where RAB was at the top of this morning’s SOBer Thoughts post. Ohioans wouldn’t have to put up with, or even worry about, cronies of either party siphoning off or poorly investing state money if the whole workers’ comp system was handled by private and competing insurance companies — as is the case, I must note once again, in 47 states.

SOBer Thoughts (082007)

Filed under: Immigration,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:06 am

Last week, Matt at Right Angle called yet again for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to be privatized, as 47 states have done without falling into the ocean, and generally, if not completely, without neglecting injured workers’ interests.

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I’d be shamelessly plugging this too – In what I believe is the first international reference to an SOB blog post, Boring Made Dull went global at the BBC. Heartiest congrats!

Fellow Akronite (?) Pho notes a really weak case of non-linking by the Beeb, further weakened by the fact that the it DID link to the very next blog reference.

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Interested-Participant has posts on things illegal aliens are doing that US citizens mostly aren’t: Transporting multimillion-dollar stashes of illegal drugs, and killing off construction workers. Charming.

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Ben Keeler has a post on the nascent movement to lower the drinking age to 18. I support it, especially in light of the history, which one of his commenters cited:

I remember voting down the raising of the drinking age to 21 in Ohio. Unfortunately, the state ignored the will of the people and raised the drinking age to 21 when the feds threatened to withhold highway funds from states that didn’t raise the drinking age.

Reagan’s new federalism sort of fell flat on this issue.

This was a clear Reagan Admin failure, spearheaded by a misguided Liddy Dole.

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Thanks to King’s Right Site, I have finally seen a potential class-action suit I can support:

The fact that Cleveland raised almost $1.5 million in fines for illegal speeding tickets (illegal because the city never sent out a release for its use of mobile traffic cameras, as its own law required — Ed.) does not faze the administration one bit! Mayor Jackson’s office feel the above ruling is no big deal and any previously tired cases cannot be challenged.

Mr. Jackson’s placing of himself above the law is becoming a habit (fifth item at post).

Those previously ticketed illegally in Cleveland would appear to have an open-and-shut case for refunds or more (y’know, send the mayor “a message”) if they’d band together and go after the city.

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Liberally Conservative didn’t directly mean to, but he explains why people like Patrick Poole are performing an invaluable service by keeping up with what those who consort with known terrorists, or who openly express sympathies for terrorist groups like the Somali Taliban and extra-constitutional Sharia law, are doing.

Of course, when there is no defense or argument against facts (UPDATEeven when vindicated in claiming that Old Media’s Columbus Dispatch was whitewashing a terror sympathizer), Mr. Poole and those of us who believe his work needs to be more widely read are called racists and religious bigots. Complete, utter, horse, manure.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (082007)

Thanks to a clever new tool called Wikiscanner, we learn that some folks at the New York Times apparently have too much time on their hands. They have been whiling away spare hours as Wikipedia vandals targeting entries relating to conservatives (here, here, and here). It turns out that the Times was warned about acts of vandalism originating from its IP address range late last year (via this comment at Dan Riehl’s place.

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Shameless shillingAlthough it happened two weeks ago, I just noticed that Michelle Malkin linked in an update to yours truly’s cross-posted NewsBusters entry on the Alms for Jihad book suppression.

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The BBC is caught dead to rights engaging in selective censorship — and it IS censorship in the traditional sense of the word, since the Beeb is a “public body, funded by the taxpayer” (HT LGF via Instapundit):

The BBC has been forced to remove statements from its website referring to Jesus as a ‘bastard’.

It is the latest in a string of offensive comments that BBC editors have allowed members of the public to post.

The remarks have been allowed to remain for weeks, despite complaints from religious groups.

It has led to claims that the BBC is allowing its output to be hijacked by extremists while censoring anti-Muslim sentiment.

….. One website user wanted to see if BBC editors were allowing these offensive remarks to remain while blocking others. He wrote: “No one can surpass the Muslims for denial of their role in Terrorism and Suicide bombing.” The remarks were almost immediately deleted.

Instapundit “It’s as if they reflexively side with the enemies of Western civilization.” Delete the “It’s as if,” and he’s about right.

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I can attest personally to the fact that there is a lot, lot, LOT of resistance to buying a new computer with Vista out there on the part of experienced users. Jim Louderback at PC World, who is moving on to another gig, is just one:

So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn’t work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly.

….. I could go on and on about the lack of drivers, the bizarre wake-up rituals, the strange and nonreproducible system quirks, and more. But I won’t bore you with the details. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain’t cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can’t get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux.

If a lot of users hold on to their XP computers until the absolute ends of their useful lives, tech retailers and resellers could have a very unhappy Christmas season. Though I think it’s a long shot, we might even get the “Microsoft recession” I was speculating about last year (“If Mister Softee keeps diddling around with Vista and slows down the tech sector, maybe we should call the next downturn The Microsoft Recession.”)

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As to the flap over the surveillance bill (HT Moderate Voice) — Doesn’t anyone else notice the disconnect between “Bush is dumber than a box of rocks” and “Bush fooled us into giving him even more power.”?

Positivity: Boys, 4 and 5, Help Save Grandmother’s Life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Chicago:

August 12, 2007

Two Chicago boys are credited with helping to save their grandmother’s life this weekend.

Steven Rosario, 5, and 4-year-old David Rosario knew what to do when their grandmother, Barbara Rosario passed out Sunday morning from issues with her diabetes.

They were about to dial 911 when a family friend happened to call at that very moment. The friend called paramedics while the boys went downstairs to wait for help.

” We told them once or twice, ‘If grandma is acting funny to call 911.’ Sandy [the friend] called before they called 911, but they would have done it,” said Barbara Rosario.

“I was outside. The firemen and me were locked out, but I told him how to open the door, and he got it straight, and then he opened the door,” said Steven.

“At 4 and 5 years old, to tell us what was going on and start to tell us who the family members were, what grandma takes&I would say they absolutely saved her life,” said paramedic Alicia Brown.

For doing such a good job, Steven and David got to sit in a fire truck while their grandma hugged each of the paramedics who came to her rescue.