Postcode lottery for vital drugs? Britain’s priorities are all wrong

WE all know the NHS is in deep financial trouble. But reading about the ­medication postcode lottery must have made more than a few people shudder.

It turns out that whether or not you can get effective NHS treatment for some chronic and lifelong ­conditions depends on whether you live in the right area.

We must make sure our citizens are getting the support and health care they need

Specifically, many women across the UK have had the essential drug liothyronine (or T3), withdrawn for no apparent reason. It is used to treat hypothyroidism, which affects around four million British people, the majority of whom are women

Hypothyroidism is when your ­thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormones that are key to maintaining energy. Patients feel chronically under the weather, tired all the time, with low libido and mood. They also gain weight.

The standard treatment is a ­synthetic version of the ­hormone, known as T4, which works for most patients but is in- effective for around 300,000. Patients who are given ­liothyronine experience an almost overnight end to all the symptoms that, let’s face it, sound pretty ­ruinous.

Imagine the relief of being given T3 and your symptoms vanishing. And then imagine the devastation of that pill being withdrawn overnight. Depending on where you live, you may have your prescription refused or stopped. Or you may have a decent chance of getting T3.

There is no rhyme nor reason with the postcode ­lottery. In certain areas the NHS will prescribe it and in others they won’t. It seems completely random. But if your regional NHS has withdrawn it from the list, you can’t get a prescription for it.

NHS England first ­proposed withdrawing T3 three years ago, claiming there was no good evidence it worked. Could it be a coincidence that the drug had also become very ­expensive?

The price has risen by 4,600 per cent since 2007, from £4.46 for a 28-day course, to £204.39 in 2017. There’s not space here to go into the ethics of drug companies choosing to raise their prices overnight. But this kind of decision is one the NHS should not be forced to make.


The problem is, partly, funding. And of course, money does not grow on trees.  But this story raises the question of just where our priorities lie. On the same day as reading about the postcode lottery, I read we have spent £21million on a project to link British children with those in developing countries to ­discuss issues such as hunger and climate change.

Vital issues, yes, but do we really need to spend £21million on it when people aren’t getting the medication they require for their basic well-being?

I am leaving to one side the ­outrage I feel about the aid budget being so colossal or the very questionable issue of whether said aid budget should be used to fund lessons in British schools, instead of tackling humanitarian disasters abroad (which is surely what it is intended for).

The facts of this spending were contained in the Department for International Development’s annual report, which also revealed it took on an extra 450 staff in 2018/19, pushing the total wage bill up by 21 per cent in just one year, to £200million-plus.

The report also revealed an eight per cent rise in the amount of aid cash lost through fraud, to £1.1million last year. Words fail me. But Tory MP Philip Davies put it like this: “It seems that DFID have either lost sight of what they were set up to do or have so much money to spray around that they have to waste it in this way.

Spending money on school propaganda to justify their own existence is pretty outrageous, even by DFID’s wasteful standards.”

I’ve said it before, but we have our priorities all wrong. We need to get our own house in order and make sure our citizens are getting the support and health care they need before we hand over huge chunks of cash to other countries.

That in itself is annoying enough. But when we learn what is actually being done with the money, it feels downright scandalous.

Smuggler has price toupee

This man tried to smuggle cocaine into Barcelona by hiding it under his wig

I HAD to laugh looking at the photos of the frankly inept Colombian ­trying to smuggle a bulky half-kilo of cocaine into Barcelona airport  . . .  under his toupee!

I guess it was the boss’s day off and this guy must have been the brawn, not the brains behind this particular operation.

Fantastic read

TONY PARSONS, my fellow Sun on Sunday columnist, has a new book out in his Max Wolfe series, called Taken, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It’s a story of a hard-nosed detective who loves his work, his daughter and his dog – although not in that order. It’s gripping and in parts the love he shows for his daughter brought me to tears.

A fantastic read. Roll on book number seven, please.

Injection is jab fab for boys

I WAS delighted to hear the announcement that 12-year-old boys are to receive the HPV vaccination.  From September, the injection against the human papilloma virus (HPV) is to be extended to boys in Year 8.

All boys and men should have this vaccination
Getty – Contributor

It has been part of the vaccination programme for girls since 2008, and lots of people still see it as a vaccination for girls only. But this virus is the cause of 99.7 per cent of cervical cancers, and because it is sexually transmitted, vaccinating boys will help protect their partners.

Reducing the circulation of the virus, which is linked to one in 20 cancers, will also help prevent genital cancers and some cancers of the head and neck, as well as genital warts.

The vaccination is given to 12 and 13-year-olds because it is most effective if administered before sexual activity begins. But the next question is: Should older boys receive the jab, too?

In my view, the answer is, unequivocally YES. All boys and men should have this vaccination, which is why I made sure my son had it 11 years ago.

That’s a bit rich, Winslet

YOU know Kate Winslet, who is so famously down to earth she had her wedding party in a pub and served her guests bangers and mash?

Hearing Winslet talk with such disdain about how disgusted she would be if her ancestors had money somehow feels a bit hollow
AFP – Getty

Well, that Kate Winslet now lives in a £4.1million Sussex mansion and is worth an estimated £62million. And good on her for doing so bloody well for herself. She’s a brilliant actress, has worked hard and has an Oscar under her belt, so she deserves it.

But it does make her declarations that she would be “upset” and “disgusted” if she discovered her ancestors had been rich or royal a little hard to stomach.

You probably saw that the 43-year-old Titanic star told how her “socialist” parents “frowned upon the wealthy” after tracing her family tree for the new series of the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?.

It made me think of that J-Lo song: Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still Katie from the block. I do agree that values are important. I also think it’s key that none of us forgets where we came from in life.

But hearing Winslet talk with such disdain about how disgusted she would be if her ancestors had money somehow feels a bit hollow, given her colossal fortune.

And maybe even if she DOES think that, she should keep those thoughts to herself.

Knockout figure

Demi has a knockout figure

BODY of the week has to belong to Demi Rose, who posed in this micro neon pink bikini while on holiday.

I’m pretty sure she has to turn sideways to walk through a door, but boy, that’s some knockout figure.

Interesting and beautiful

YOU’VE got to love Dame Helen Mirren, who is 73, for consistently keeping it real and reminding us all that, even though she is often talked about as one of our most beautiful women, she is proud of her natural face.

Hopefully Dame Mirren will inspire a new generation of women to do the same
Getty – Contributor

This week, in an interview, she said she thinks Instagram filters are “on the way out” and that soon people will go: “No, I’m not doing that, it’s much more interesting to not do that!”

I couldn’t agree more.

And hopefully she will inspire a new generation of women to do the same, as there is no doubt she is interesting ­– as well as beautiful.


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