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Cancer drugs rejected, statins reduce risk of heart attack and a red light for liver damage

A round-up of the health news headlines on Wednesday 29 August

NICE is getting its regular kicking in the Daily Mail today after the publication of a report by a pressure group claiming that the number of cancer drugs being rejected has risen by 50 in two years.

The Rarer Cancers Foundation report claims that 11 new treatments were rejected by NICE in 2011/12 out of 19 put forward. This is compared with seven drugs rejected in 2009/10 out of 15 in total.

It claims that the Government's Cancer Drugs Fund, which set aside £200m a year for doctors to pay for drugs that have not been approved by NICE, has made the regulator more inclined to reject new treatments.  

On average, the cost of cancer drugs being assessed by NICE was £44,956 per patient last year, down from £51,797 in 2009/10.

On the subject of subscribing, an Oxford University professor says that everyone over the age of 50 should consider taking statins to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Sir Rory Collins said taking cholesterol-lowering statins before warning signs start to appear could provide much more protection from heart attacks or stroke, the Telegraph reports.

Everyone over 50 should consider taking statins to reduce the risk of a heart attack because the possible side effects have been exaggerated, a leading expert has said.

Medical regulators have overstated the possible side effects of statins, Sir Roy said after a keynote lecture at the European Society of Cardiology's annual congress in Munich yesterday.

The drugs could provide patients with ‘more bang for your buck', he added. What effect his comments had on the heart conditions of the hierarchies at the various regulators is not yet known.

Finally, the BBC reports that a traffic-light colour-coded blood test can reveal hidden liver damage caused by heavy drinking.

Researchers from the University of Southampton said that ultimately the test could be offered to patients, especially since many people do not recognise unsafe drinking.

The traffic-light test can give an early colour-coded warning - green means damage is unlikely, amber means there is a 50:50 chance it is there, and red means the liver is most probably damaged and potentially irreversibly, the report in the British Journal of General Practice said.

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