Tag Archives: systems

Cancer Treatment and Health Care Reform

Blogged by: BarbaraOBrien1

One argument you may hear against health care reform concerns cancer survival rates. The United States has higher cancer survivor rates than countries with national health care systems, we’re told. Doesn’t this mean we should keep what we’ve got and not change it?

Certainly cancer survival rates are a critical issue for people suffering from the deadly lung mesothelioma cancer. So let’s look at this claim and see if there is any substance to it.

First, it’s important to understand that “cancer survival rate” doesn’t mean the rate of people who are cured of a cancer. The cancer survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time, usually five years after diagnosis.

For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the survivor rate of prostate cancer in the United States is 98 percent. This means that 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later. However, this statistic does not tell us whether the men who have survived for five years still have cancer or what number of them may die from it eventually.

Misunderstanding of the term “survivor rate” sometimes is exploited to make misleading claims. For example, in 2007 a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug used to treat colon cancer released statistics showing superior survival rates for its drug over other treatments. Some journalists who used this data in their reporting assumed it meant that the people who survived were cured of cancer, and they wrote that the drug “saved lives.” The drug did extend the lives of of patients, on average by a few months. However, the mortality rate for people who used this drug — meaning the rate of patients who died of the disease — was not improved.

But bloggers and editorial writers who oppose health care reform seized these stories about “saving lives,” noting that this wondrous drug was available in the United States for at least a year before it was in use in Great Britain. Further, Britain has lower cancer survival rates than the U.S. This proved, they said, the superiority of U.S. health care over “socialist” countries.

This is one way propagandists use data to argue that health care in the United States is superior to countries with government-funded health care systems. They selectively compare the most favorable data from the United States with data from the nations least successful at treating cancer. A favorite “comparison” country is Great Britain, whose underfunded National Health Service is struggling.

It is true that the United States compares very well in the area of cancer survival rates, but other countries with national health care systems have similar results.

For example, in 2008 the British medical journal Lancet Oncology published a widely hailed study comparing cancer survival rates in 31 countries. Called the CONCORD study, the researchers found that United States has the highest survival rates for breast and prostate cancer. However, Japan has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in men, and France has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in women. Canada and Australia also ranked relatively high for most cancers. The differences in the survival data for these “best” countries is very small, and is possibly caused by discrepancies in reporting of data and not the treatment result itself.

And it should be noted that Japan, France, Canada and Australia all have government-funded national health care systems. So, there is no reason to assume that changing the way health care is funded in the U.S. would reduce the quality of cancer care.

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Filed under Austrailia, Cancer, Culture, England, France, Health, Health Care Reform, Japan, Medicine, Mesothelioma, News, Opinions, Uncategorized, Women's Issues, World

Great Britain: Tamiflu-Resistant Strain of Swine Flu Spreading

Posted by Audiegrl

Resistant strain discovered in Cardiff hospital, prompting concern among health officials

guardian.co.uk/Owen Bowcott—Doctors in Wales have discovered a Tamiflu-resistant strain of swine flu that has been spreading from patient to patient in a Cardiff hospital.

The emergence of an easily transmissible, resistant strain is a worrying development for health officials and appears to be the first documented case in Europe.

Five patients at University Hospital Wales, in Cardiff, were infected and isolated for treatment. All had severe underlying conditions that left them with weakened immune systems. At least three had acquired the infection in hospital.

There have been a handful of reported cases from around the world of Tamiflu-resistant strains of the H1N1 virus. Only one previous case, at a US summer camp, however, involved person-to-person transmission.

The Cardiff patients have been treated with an alternative anti-viral drug. Two have recovered and been discharged and three others remain in hospital, one in intensive care.

Dr Roland Salmon, the director of the communicable disease surveillance center in Wales, said: “The emergence of [H1N1] viruses that are resistant to Tamiflu is not unexpected in patients with serious underlying conditions and suppressed immune systems, who still test positive for the virus despite treatment.

In this case, the resistant strain of swine flu does not appear to be any more severe than the swine flu virus that has been circulating since April.

For the vast majority of people, Tamiflu has proved effective in reducing the severity of illness. Vaccination remains the most effective tool we have in preventing swine flu so I urge people identified as being at risk to look out for their invitation to be vaccinated by their GP surgery.

Any spread of a Tamiflu-resistant strain of the virus into the community would constitute a serious public health concern. The government recently reminded those who caught swine flu to take Tamiflu as a first line of medical defense.

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Filed under England, Europe, H1N1/Swine Flu, Health, Medicine, News, Uncategorized