The Herceptin fraud
Have you heard about Herceptin, the new wonder drug that cures breast cancer early? Well, it doesn’t exist. Oh, there’s a drug called Herceptin alright, and it is used to treat cancer. However, it’s only been shown to be effective at reducing the recurrence rate – after you’ve been cured by other methods, and the published data only cover a year of treatment so we’ve no idea how long the effect might last. Where, then, does this furore over the drug come from, and why is it so strong that women are going to court to demand the drug? The Guardian has a shrewd idea.
Lisa Jardine was at home recovering from chemotherapy one evening last May when the phone rang…
“Halfway through the following week, the phone goes at home,” says Jardine, professor of Renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, writer and well-known television presenter. “It’s a really nice woman. She says to me, ‘I read about you in the paper and I gather you’d like access to Herceptin and you can’t get it.’”
By now, however, Jardine had decided that she did not want the drug. “I said, ‘No – that’s not the case with me. I have decided not to have Herceptin.’
“She said, ‘Even if you don’t want it yourself, would you come and talk to some of our seminars because we’re running a big campaign to promote Herceptin? Either we could find funding for Herceptin or, if you really don’t want it or decide against it, there would be fees for appearances.’
“I said, ‘Could you tell me where you are from?’ She said, ‘We work for Roche.’
That’s right – the manufacturer was offering to pay Jardine to fuel its advertising campaign. A campaign, be it noted, to encourage the use of a drug outside the areas in which it has been shown to work. Because Herceptin is available in the UK and is being prescribed. But it’s only being prescribed where it will be effective – not everywhere that Roche thinks that it can make money. Herceptin will work in only 20% of women, and its side effects include heart problems including heart failure.
Apparently, they’ve forgotten that the UK health market doesn’t work like the one in the USA (where you can buy any drug you like, more or less). Or perhaps they want to turn the UK into the USA. It’s rather worrying either way.
pax et bonum
Gloves off for ID cards?
Andy Burnham MP was on the Today programme this rmorning on BBC Radio 4, defending the UK Government’s policy on ID cards. And it’s gloves off time over the issue of compulsion – the issue on which the House of Lords is holding up the Bill. The Government has always been clear, apparently, that ID cards would be compulsory straight away, because of the link with the Passport. And the manifesto pledge about their being voluntary is irrelevant because the Bill started its progress before the last General Election.
Which could prove to be a huge own goal – the basis for the Government to over-ride the Lords has been trumpeted as the Salisbury Convention (an agreement from the 1950s under which the Lords agreed not to oppose any promises made by the Government in its election manifesto). And if there was no manifesto pledge about their voluntary status, there is no basis upon which to use the Salisbury Convention.
Burnham also made the claim that the majority of Britons are quite happy with the idea that we will be compelled under serious financial penalty to possess, keep up to date and present on demand their new ID card. And this flies in the face of much recent evidence (such as this Open University report) that support for the ID scheme drops dramatically once it become clear that it is compulsory and centralised.
pax et bonum
Now, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but I fiddle. That is to say, I play the fiddle. Not the violin, please note – the fiddle. Over the years, I had enough of playing instruments by written scores (piano, trumpet, even guitar) and I eventually gave up because it was too much like work and not enough like fun. A few years ago, though, I decided to take up the fiddle. Folk music isn’t all “stick your finger in your ear and wail” stuff – there’s some very good music out there. And, for me, it was ideal because the usual way to learn folk music is by ear: listen, then play, then listen some more, then play some more.
Having small children steals your time, though, and my fiddling lapsed somewhat. But I’m back into it again now, and I’ve got my eyes set on some lovely new kit. I’ve already got some new strings thanks to StringMail, who delivered within 2 days! I’ve also laid my hands on a new Incredibow (from Dance of Delight). These are odd things – instead of the usual concave shape of a violin bow, they are convex, almost like a Baroque bow. There’s no tension adjuster because you never need to loosen off the bow. Made of carbon fibre and with synthetic hair rather than horsehair, it nonetheless plays rather nicely. The bow only arrived today so I’ve not had much chance to test it yet, but first impressions are quite good. It’s more stable than my old wooden/horsehair bow and less prone to wolf notes, but does seem to bounce a trifle more. I might try out the featherweight Incredibow – the one I’ve got is their standard weight and it’s actually a little heavier than my wooden bow was! Fortunately, Dance of Delight has a generous 60-day return policy
Anyhow, there’s a little pic above of the new bow (top) in my fiddle case – also, on the left, there’s the little container of Tartini rosin that I got for the new bow. You can (obviously) also see my fiddle. It’s a 19th-century French one, allegedly, but was extensively rebuilt by the local luthier I bought it off after it got badly damaged – he buys broken violins and rebuilds them, then sells them on. Despite this instrument’s checkered past, it has a good tone and is very loud. But I still lust after a Bridge electric fiddle. One day, perhaps, I’ll get one, and couple it with a Black Box. Mmmmmm…
pax et bonum
A Few Things Ill Considered has an excellent collection of answers to objections that we still sometimes see to the statement that human activity is leading to global climate change. These include such old chestnuts as “It’s just natural variation,” “a warmer climate is a good thing,” “natural emissions dwarf human activity,” and the old favorite, “global warming is a hoax!”
(Thanks to Mike at WorD for the tip.)
pax et bonum
ID Cards compulsory again
As The Register reports, the UK Identity Cards legislation has been bounced around for a third time, with the Commons reinstating the compulsory aspect of the scheme (compelling anyone who takes out a passport also to take an ID card and be entered on the national identity database). Sadly, it looks like this will be decided not on the actual merits and demerits of the scheme but on constitutional details – whether the Lords can continue to stymie the Commons.
If you haven’t written to your MP yet to make your opinions known, can I ask you please to do so? It’s very easy to do, thanks to TheyWorkForYou.
No2ID is also reporting that the ID card will no longer be tied to biometrics. Instead, companies will be able to “verify” an ID-card holder’s identity using a simple 4-digit PIN. The database storing all of our important, identifying information will be no more secure than its weakest link – and PINs are very vulnerable to stealing and hacking. Given the prizes available for forging ID cards, expect such a system to be broken into quickly, thoroughly and often.
pax et bonum
Heather at Driftwood comments on the recent announcement of a £500,000 advertising campaign to educate young men on the need for consent before sex.
I Blame The Patriarchy makes some good points about how some people are trying to address poor performance at school.
It makes me sad to see people defend monopolies. It is as if we are returning to 100 years ago and the unbounded corporate power of those times. Corporations are not natural but deliberately created by government authority. They are quite the briliant invention aggregating large amounts of economic power by the simple device of making shares safe to own and trade. Bringing together so much capital enables valuable things which are by their nature big. Things like wiring the nation together for the telephone and the internet.
But it should be no great surprise that concentrating power also brings dangers.
This is an interesting thought, it seems to me. I often read, especially when debating certain legal cases floating around at the moment, that governments ought to leave business alone, that business shouldn’t be “shackled” by legislation. Instead, they say, the “free market” will sort everything out. And, of course, the trouble is that “big business” isn’t a natural thing. It exists only because governments created laws to allow it to be. And so governments ought surely to create laws that also restrict the power that such big businesses can wield. Especially in a democracy – whatever the faults of our Government, at least we get to vote for them. I never had a say in who runs IBM, Microsoft, Time-Warner, Exxon/Esso etc.
pax et bonum
Money and music
Ever wondered how much of the price you pay for your songs of iTunes (or wherever) goes to the person who actually made the music? Now you can find out.
Big and small
Lib Dems have a leader
So, it’s Menzies Campbell now leading the UK Liberal Democrat party.
New online database for child workers
The UK Government is set to establish a new database containing the eligibility details of anyone wanting to work with children (or anyone barred from doing so). Might sound like a good idea – even apart from the logistical nightmare of actually creating it. But there are two problems that are immediately apparent.
First, by its nature, it requires that anyone can have access to the database to check potential employees (the Government is specifically talking about parents employing nannies or music teachers being able to check the database). The security implications of this are multiple – for example, someone can be barred from working with children for many reasons, including strictly temporary bans, but we know that there are idiots out there who can’t even tell the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile; what will such people make of this list?
Second, the plans are set to make it a criminal offence to seek to work with children without being on this database, and a criminal offence to employ someone to work with children without checking the list (although that second provision will apparently not apply to parents in a private capacity – you may use the database but you don’t have to). But does this really mean that, if you want to get someone to babysit for you, they have to be on the list? And does that apply to the neighbours’ 16-year-old who does casual babysitting? And is it really sensible to criminalise someone just for applying for a job? Not everyone who’d be on the list is really a danger to children (the lists it would be compiled from cover various offences) and, as I’ve said, some are only on the list temporarily (as a caution).
Guarding the safety of children is laudable, but pandering to the panic of the mob is not. And entrusting our children’s care to yet another Government IT project seems like a bad idea. We need more carefully thought out legislation than this.
pax et bonum