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Heart pill ‘lifesaver’, new hope for alcoholics…and two weeks to save the NHS

A round-up of the health news in the papers on Tuesday 6 March

‘The £1.40 heart pill lifesaver’ is the Daily Mail‘s front page splash this morning in reference to ivabradine, a drug which has been shown to slow the heart rate, improve its pumping ability and cut deaths by up to 39% in trials.

Professor Martin Cowie, consultant cardiologist and specialist in heart failure at the Royal Brompton Hospital, said at a conservative estimate, the pill, which is currently used to treat angina, could save between 5,000 and 10,000 lives a year if NICE approves it for use against heart failure.

The Mail has also, rather thoughtfully, put together a two-page guide to the health bill, outlining its pros and cons for concerned readers who have seen people shouting at Andrew Lansley but aren’t really sure why. The guide includes a prominent box which first sets out what the reforms won’t do, including: cut waiting times, end postcode lotteries, improve nursing or tackle poor out-of hours care. Surely not a great start in the eyes of most rational people and Mail readers.

It then outlines fwhat the Mail thinks are the pros and cons, starting with the heading: ‘Your GP will foot your medical bills’. The paper’s GP-bloodthirsty attack dogs are kept on the lead today – as the benefits of removing layers of bureaucracy are balanced against the concerns that GPs are not trained bookkeepers, and that decision making will likely be outsourced to private companies and merely rubberstamped by clinicians. The guide continues by looking at quality of care, hospitals being allowed to ‘go bust’, increasing competition and patient empowerment.

The Telegraph reports (not online) that a ‘drink less’ pill, currently going through clinical trials, will bring new hope for alcoholics. The drug apparently works by blocking mechanisms in the brain that give alcoholics enjoyment from drink. Trials found that patients who took the drug, along with counselling, more than halved the amount of alcohol they drank and binged on fewer days.

And finally, leading academics in the Independent have said that we have just two weeks to save the NHS. Colin Leys and Allyson Pollock, leading health academics, issued a ‘rallying call’ at the Bath Festival of Literature (the ideal venue for a rallying call), stating that the Lib Dem conference next week is the last opportunity to stop Mr Lansley’s reforms. Ms Pollock, professor of health policy and health services research at London University told the crowd: ‘If you care for the future, you need to focus now on stopping the bill.’