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DDT linked to Alzheimer's, NHS's £24m payout, NICE under fire and diabetes to be wiped out in 20 years?

Our round-up of the health news headlines on Tuesday 28 January.

Today’s particularly glum Digest starts off with a report in the BBC that says researchers have found a link between the use of the DDT pesticide and Alzheimer’s disease.

A study by US researchers, published in JAMA Neurology, found that patients with Alzheimer’s had four times the levels of DDT lingering in the body than healthy people.

The pesticide was banned in the US in 1972 but the World Health Organization still recommends using DDT to keep malaria in check.

The Guardian reports a harrowing case which has led to the NHS having to pay out £24m after a mix-up left a 10-year-old girl with catastrophic brain damage.

The payout – which is the largest in a case of medical negligence – occurred after workers at the Great Ormond Street Hospital mistook a syringe containing glue for one containing dye

Maisha Najeeb is in a wheelchair, can barely move, is blind in one eye, needs round the clock care and suffers from painful spasms in her legs. Her lawyers described her condition as “catastrophic and permanent brain damage”.

She will receive an initial £2.8m plus annual payments of £383,000 until she is 19. That will then rise to £423,000 a year until she dies.

The hospital offered “unreserved apologies for the shortcomings in her care, the consequences of which have been tragic and devastating for Maisha and her family.”

The NHS Litigation Authority, which insures hospitals against lawsuits for medical negligence and acts on their behalf, will pay the agreed damages rather than Great Ormond Street itself.

The Telegraph meanwhile reports that charities have accused NICE of playing ‘fast and loose’ with the lives of men with prostate cancer following a U-turn on the use of the drug enzalutamide (Xtandi)

Three months ago NICE ruled that the drug would be made available to those with cancer which has spread beyond the prostate, and stopped responding to treatment, after the manufacturers agreed a discount on the £25,000 per patient price.

But the watchdog has issued new restrictions - which mean that the NHS will only fund the drug if men have not tried the only other drug available for such cases.

Owen Sharp, chief executive at Prostate Cancer UK said Nice had acted in secrecy, and given no explanation for a ‘blatant U-turn’ which will cost lives.

Finally, to end on a more upbeat note, the Express reports that diabetes experts are confident they can wipe out the disease within 20 years.

Dr Nick Oliver, diabetes consultant at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, told the paper: “There is a race on, that’s why what we are doing is incredibly exciting.”

Asked whether the disease could ever be cured he added: ‘I really hope so. I am reasonably early in my career and there is lots of really exciting work going on behind the scenes.’

Dr Alasdair Rankin, director of research for Diabetes UK, said: ‘We think it is possible we could have a vaccine for Type 1 within 20 years.’

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