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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK


Relenza: The reaction

Relenza can cut the duration of flu attacks

The decision not to allow flu drug Relenza to be prescribed on the NHS has already attracted both criticism and support.

Ian Semmons, honorary company secretary, Patients' Association

"Personally I think it's a bad decision. I think we have to look at the broader issue.

"Flu keeps a lot of people away from work, and costs the country in terms of revenue.

"If you can encourage people to take preventive measures, it also eases the pressure on the health service.

"This is a short-sighted decision. What the Department of Health should be doing is asking: 'Will this benefit the wellbeing of the country?'

"The drug may cost £24 over five days, but if somebody is off work for five hours - that could be £25."

Dr Doug Fleming, involved in trials of Relenza for Glaxo Wellcome.

"I have to say I do not think this is the optimum judgement the committee could come to.

"Relenza has been tested in a number of countries in a number of trials and I believe it is effective, especially in high-risk groups.

"The problem is that in some trials the effectiveness among high-risk groups has not appeared statistically significant, but they are not statistically significant groups in themselves.

"We are talking about small numbers of people here who are severely affected and if they are at high risk, then they should have been vaccinated anyway.

"I am disappointed because it means that people who could benefit form this drug will not get it."

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, chief executive, King's Fund.

"The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has laid down a major challenge for the health secretary by rejecting Relenza.

"Priority-setting in the NHS is a political matter, not merely a scientific one. It involves more than just measuring the cost effectiveness of an individual drug.

"It means making choices between different priorities and people. Resolving those tensions is a difficult process, but it must be done.

"NICE has thrown down the gauntlet to Frank Dobson. He must now either follow its guidance and ban the drug from the NHS, or ignore its advice and make it available selectively.

"The best response would be to take a more honest approach to priority-setting in the NHS and open out the debate to the public. The worst would be to leave decisions about Relenza to the usual lottery of rationing by postcode.

"The King's Fund has shown that the British public can engage in rational debate about priorities for health care. Citizens juries, people's panels and deliberative polls allow ordinary people to make informed choices about how they as patients and taxpayers want the NHS to work. The time has come to give them the opportunity."

Dr George Rae, chairman, GP prescribing committee, British Medical Association (BMA)

"What we would hope is that the government will now alleviate the concerns that GPs have about Relenza.

"There could be a huge impact on GP's workload if it was freely available, as patients have to be seen within the first two days. I, for one, simply don't want patients turning up in the first two days.

"What we normally advise is that patients stay at home and take paracetamol for the first few days. It is only after that, when there is a risk of complications setting in, that they should go and see their GP.

"GPs are also going to have pretty much cash limited budgets for the drugs they prescribe - when you compare the cost of Relenza against a few days of paracetamol, it makes a big difference.

"GPs can already help people who are at high risk from flu, with vaccinations."

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01 Oct 99†|†Health
Anti-flu drug rejected for NHS use

01 Oct 99†|†Health
Relenza: the implications

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