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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…


Breakthrough by St Andrews scientists in fight against ‘antibiotics apocalypse’

November 25 2016

Growing resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics is one of the biggest public health threats of modern times with the potential to cause 80,000 deaths in the UK over the next 20 years. But a team of scientists at St Andrews University –  awarded a prestigious prize in London this week – is fighting back. Michael Alexander reports. It has been described by the United Nations and World Health Organisation as one of the biggest known threats to humanity – an “antibiotics apocalypse” where a simple cut to your finger could leave you fighting for your life and where getting an appendix removed could prove deadly. Experts say an increase in drug resistant disease could cost 10s of millions of lives in the next few decades as simple infections could soon become entirely untreatable with existing drugs. The problem has been caused by over-use of antimicrobial medicines for humans, animals and agriculture. But now medical scientists at St Andrews University have made a breakthrough which they hope will help counter the threat. © SuppliedL to R – Stephen Gillespie, Robert Hammond and research assistant Kerry Falconer with the prototype SLIC device. The researchers have created a laser that can identify the right antibiotic to treat bacteria present in an infection, in minutes instead of hours. The team hope that faster diagnosis will mean more targeted use of prescription drugs and ultimately a reduction of antibiotic resistance. In an interview with The Courier, Professor Stephen Gillespie, Sir James Black Professor of Medicine at St Andrews, who is leading the research team, said antibiotic resistance is “one of the most important threats facing humanity” with an estimated $50 trillion price tag for health care if nothing is done about it. He said: “In the 19th century the father of modern surgery Joseph Lister said that every surgery was an experiment in getting under someone’s skin. At the moment in modern medicine by comparison, there’s a danger of going back to those days. “Modern medicine is only made possible because we can treat infection. If infection becomes drug resistant then complicated surgery will disappear. “Operations and treatments that people now take for granted are going to become increasingly difficult.” © SuppliedAntibiotic resistance could take medicine back to before the days of Alexander Fleming who invented penicillin Current estimates are that drug resistant infections already claim about 700,000 live per year globally. And if we do not create new antibiotics, or prevent the loss of the ones we have, it is estimated that this will rise to more than 10 million deaths a year globally within the next few decades. It’s for this reason that the Orbital Diagnostics team at St Andrews have developed a device – the Scattered Light Integrated Collector (SLIC) – to reduce the time taken to test bacteria for resistance. Current testing frequently takes 24 hours to produce a result, but the SLIC team can produce a similar result in around 20 minutes. The new tool aims to help patients get the right treatment faster. This reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance by helping ensure bacteria are not exposed to antibiotics unnecessarily. Professor Gillespie, a practising clinical microbiologist, explained that SLIC was a sophisticated technique of seeing very small numbers of bacteria. At its heart is a sphere and inside that a spherical mirror. A laser beam enters one end and 98% of its energy leaves the other. However, the small amount of light that’s left is scattered multiple times throughout the internal face of the sphere and passes through the bacteria, counting the bacteria present. He added: “Our very sensitive device detects bacteria in very small numbers. This means when they grow in the presence of antibiotics, we can show that quickly. “Conventional tests take up to 24 hours – for some bugs we can now do the same job in less than 20 minutes. “At the moment this promising test can only be used in the laboratory; the challenge is to turn it into a test that can be used in a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy.” © SuppliedAntibiotics Dr Robert Hammond, co-inventor and senior scientist, said the device could make a real difference if it came into everyday use. He added: “We aim to develop SLIC to enable a person with a suspected urinary tract infection to give a sample to a practice nurse or pharmacist – then within two hours be given an antibiotic prescription knowing that the infecting bacteria are susceptible. “This will be faster and better for the individual. It will mean that fewer unnecessary prescriptions will be issued, reducing chances that bugs will develop resistance.” The team’s ambition to develop it for practical use in surgeries has been bolstered this week by receipt of the prestigious Longitude Prize Discovery Award at a ceremony held at the Royal Society in London. The prize will help the team develop a device that can challenge for the coveted Longitude Prize, a challenge with a £10 million prize fund to reward a point of care diagnostic test that helps solve the global problem. The Orbital Diagnostics team is supported by Scottish Enterprise to form a company that will take the SLIC device to market. Eleanor Mitchell, High Growth Ventures Director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “This prestigious award is fantastic recognition of Orbital Diagnostics’ strong progress in developing the SLIC device, which has significant global market potential. “Scottish Enterprise is delighted to be supporting the team to commercialise this emerging technology which exemplifies the strength of innovation in Scotland’s healthcare sector.” © SuppliedThe SLIC team

Angus & The Mearns

Prescription drugs putting increasing burden on Tayside Substance Misuse Service

February 19 2015

Complex problems are placing a specialist service for Tayside drug users under greater pressure than ever before. Over the past decade the Tayside Substance Misuse Service has seen a massive increase in the number of drug users requiring its aid. In 2005 it had nearly 800 clients from across the region who were seeking methadone treatment or detox, but by the end of 2014 that number had rocketed to around 2,400. Dr Brian Kidd is NHS Tayside’s lead clinician for substance misuses and heads the service, which helps people across Tayside who require treatment for significant addictions. “Drug use is an increasingly complex issue as there are now very few people with ‘simple’ drug problems such as the injecting of heroin alone,” he said. “The people who are turning to specialist treatment services such as NHS Tayside’s are far more likely to be abusing a combination of drugs. “They are taking a cocktail of substances, often including heroin and other opiates, mixed with prescription drugs diverted into illicit use and often legal highs and alcohol too.” Dr Kidd added: “Drug use is a far more complex than many people realise, with prescription drugs an increasingly great problem across the country. “In the USA, researchers have long claimed that abuse of prescribed painkillers is a more severe problem than illicit heroin use. “In recent years there has, however, been a massive increase across Scotland in the prescribing of opiates and other drugs that carry with them the potential for abuse. “You can be prescribed the medication for a few days in the wake of a serious operation and be discharged, only to find that the pain is worse than anticipated. “A visit to a GP can see a second prescription made and then it becomes a repeat prescription and by this stage a drug that was to be taken for a few days has been used for three weeks. “That can be the beginning of a serious problem.”


Public urged to help cut £2 million wasted drugs cost

November 26 2016

Fifers are being urged to help cut a £2 million annual bill for wasted medicines. NHS Fife has asked locals to play their role in reducing drug waste by launching Love Your NHS Fife campaign. Medical Director Dr Frances Elliot said: “We can all do our bit. “We all love and value our NHS and we all have a responsibility ensure its resources are being used in the most efficient way possible. “Medicines worth £2m are wasted each year in Fife – money that could be better spent improving the services we provide for patients.” There are a host of unavoidable reasons why some medicines go to waste – a health condition improves and the medicine is no longer needed or a prescription is changed because the original medication is not working well enough. However, people who have repeat prescriptions may sometimes find they have more than they need and this is where they can help reduce waste. Dr Elliot added: “There are simple things people can do to help. “People tend to get their prescriptions in bulk over Christmas, afraid that their pharmacy will be closed over the festive season. “However, if they order too much of something they use relatively infrequently the chances of this going out of date and having to be disposed of increases. “So we are asking people to request medicines only in quantities that they will use. “There is no need to stockpile”. People are also asked to check their medicines before they leave a pharmacy to ensure the bag they are handed contains the correct medicines and only those they need. “Many people are under the misconception that returned or unwanted medicines can be reused, but returned medicines must be incinerated on the grounds of safety. “Once medicines leave the pharmacy premises those medicine cannot be reused even if they are returned unopened,” she added. “It is also important to consider whether every item on their prescription is the best use of NHS resources. “A box of paracetamol on a prescription costs the NHS around 20 times more than it costs if bought over the counter. “While prescriptions are free to patients, the medicines prescribed are not and the associated costs of these medicines have risen very significantly over recent years.”

Police probe how woman jailed in Egypt obtained prescription painkillers

January 10 2018

Police have launched an investigation into how a British woman came to possess strong painkillers which led to her being jailed in Egypt. Laura Plummer, 33, from Hull, was sentenced to three years in prison for taking 290 Tramadol tablets into the country. The shop worker told the court she had got the tablets for her Egyptian partner, Omar Caboo, who suffers from severe back pain, and she had no idea what she was doing was wrong. She said she obtained the drugs, which were in her suitcase, from a friend in the UK. Now the British authorities have started an investigation into how she got hold of the prescription medication. Detective Inspector Jon Cross, of Humberside Police, said: “Following the arrest and subsequent conviction of Laura Plummer, we are looking into the circumstances of how the prescription drugs came to be in her possession and if any further individual has committed any offences. “This investigation is still ongoing. “If you have information you believe could assist us in this inquiry, please call 101.” Ms Plummer was arrested at Hurghada airport on October 9 when she flew into the Red Sea resort. It is thought she will appeal against her sentence and supporters have said the Tramadol was not hidden in her luggage. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By PA Reporters'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', '5a6b728c-dc2e-4352-a5d7-08c5e8efed46'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:news,paservice:news:uk,paservice:news:world'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story-enriched'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'Police probe how woman jailed in Egypt obtained prescription painkillers'});


Up to 60,000 Scots patients receiving ‘high-risk’ medication

June 22 2011

Around 60,000 patients in Scotland are being prescribed drugs with a high risk of side-effects, according to new research from Dundee University. The report concludes that high rates and large variation between practices is consistent with significant room for improvement. Dr Guthrie said, “It’s all about improving the quality of prescribing. At the moment, GP practices do not get this kind of information. “We feel it would be helpful to let practices know how they compare to others and think the number of vulnerable patients being prescribed high risk drugs can be reduced.” NHS Quality Improvement Scotland and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office funded the study. Dr Guthrie says the next stage is further research into guidelines to reduce the number of deaths and ill health caused by high-risk prescribing. Photo used under a Creative Commons licence courtesy of Flickr user Charles Williams. Professor Bruce Guthrie and colleagues in the medical school’s Centre for Primary Care and Population Research examined the frequency of high-risk prescribing in primary medical care and the patient and practice characteristics associated with it. They studied prescribing records and other data from 315 Scottish general practices with 1.76 million registered patients and examined the proportion of patients receiving a high-risk prescription using a composite of 15 indicators. These included using anti-psychotic drugs in dementia sufferers, prescription of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to people with previous stomach ulcer or kidney problems and prescription of drugs recommended to be avoided in people with heart failure. The team found that high-risk prescribing is common, with 139,404 (7.9%) registered patients defined as being “at risk” of receiving selected high-risk drug due to their age, pre-existing disease or co-prescription. Almost 20,000 of those had been prescribed at least one high-risk drug in the previous year. This study shows that high-risk prescribing associated with harm can be reliably measured using routine clinical data, that it is relatively common and that rates of such prescribing vary greatly in different general practices. Professor Guthrie says it is important to recognise that high-risk prescriptions can be appropriate because clinicians and patients try to balance benefit and risk in complex situations where there is no “correct” action. However, the big differences between practices indicate that prescribing could be made safer. Dr Guthrie said, “The implications are that our study looked at a sample of about a third of Scottish patients. “If you take this across the whole of Scotland, then approximately 60,000 people particularly vulnerable to side-effects might be being prescribed high-risk drugs. “This may be the correct course of action and bring benefits to the patient but it has to be balanced against the dangers.”Particular risk”We’re not saying that all this type of prescribing should not be happening, but that we have to be satisfied that it’s appropriate and ensure that doing so doesn’t put the patient at more risk. “All prescribing is risky to some extent, but the drugs we examined are particularly risky in some patients and we have to balance the benefits derived from these drugs and with the risks of taking them. “We can’t make sweeping statements about people routinely being put at risk because of inappropriate prescribing. “We would need to know more about the individual circumstances of the patient, but the fact high-risk prescribing varies between practices suggests that there is scope to make prescribing safer.” Continued…

UK & World

Review into prescription drug addiction in England

January 24 2018

The growing problem of prescription drug addiction is to be reviewed by health officials, the Government has announced. Public health minister Steve Brine has commissioned Public Health England (PHE) to examine why one patient in every 11 was prescribed a potentially addictive drug last year. Mr Brine said the issue was a “huge problem” in countries such as the United States, adding: “we must absolutely make sure it doesn’t become one here”. How addictive are gabapentin and pregabalin? A systematic review https://t.co/mi41WoOofL— SSA (@SSA_Addiction) October 17, 2017 The review will consider why: – Prescribing of “addictive medicines” has increased 3% over five years. – 8.9% of patients were prescribed one of these medicines last year. – Antidepressant prescriptions in England have more than doubled in the past 10 years. – And the number of adults taking prescription-only painkillers not prescribed to them, with a recent poll suggesting the figure may be as high as 7.6%. The Department of Health and Social Care said PHE will review the evidence and also make recommendations on how to address the issue. It said many people benefit from medicines that treat problems like pain, anxiety and insomnia, but some of these medicines are highly addictive and result in dependence and withdrawal. The review will cover benzodiazepines and z-drugs, pregabalin and gabapentin, opioid pain medicines and antidepressants. While antidepressants are not generally recognised as dependence-forming, some patients experience difficulties when they try to stop taking them. Mr Brine said: “We know this is a huge problem in other countries like the United States and we must absolutely make sure it doesn’t become one here. “While we are world-leading in offering free treatment for addiction, we cannot be complacent. That’s why I’ve asked PHE to conduct this review. “PHE has an excellent track record in robust evidence reviews, and this will help us understand the scale of this issue here and how we can address it.” Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at PHE, added: “It is of real concern that so many people find themselves dependent on or suffering withdrawal symptoms from prescribed medicines. “Many will have sought help for a health problem only to find later on they have a further obstacle to overcome. “PHE very much welcomes this opportunity as it is vital that we have the best understanding possible of how widespread these problems are, the harms they cause, as well as the most effective ways to prevent them happening and how best to help those in need.” The All Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence welcomed the move, saying the issue is a growing problem. The news comes as experts at the University of Warwick launched a trial to help end long-term dependency on painkillers. Researchers from Warwick Medical School and The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough have developed a support programme that they hope will help people with long term pain reduce their dependency to opioids. Participants in the trial will either receive usual GP care plus a self-help booklet and relaxation CD, or this treatment alongside the new support programme. One of the study lead authors, Dr Harbinder Sandhu, associate professor at Warwick Medical School, said: “Evidence suggests that opioids are only effective in the short term and patients take them long term then need to manage a range of side effects and can suffer devastating withdrawal symptoms. “However in the UK reports indicate that between 2000-2010 prescriptions of opioids for non-cancer pain increased by 466% and in 2015 there were 16 million opioid prescriptions costing over £200 million. “We hope that the results of our study will be used to help patients with long-term pain in the future.” (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Ella Pickover, Press Association Health Correspondent'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', 'c548a337-65ec-4de9-9ac5-5cca50f28669'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:news,paservice:news:uk'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'Review into prescription drug addiction in England'});

Angus & The Mearns

Hundreds of prescription drugs go missing from hospitals in Tayside

January 21 2016

Hundreds of prescription drugs have gone missing from Tayside hospitals. Dozens of different substances have disappeared ranging from simple painkillers to well-known narcotic substitutes since April 2011. Among them was a box of mifepristone, a drug typically used in abortions, along with vials of ketamine, an anaesthetic and analgesic drug used illicitly as a hallucinogen. Between April 2013 and April 2014, 20 different substances went missing from hospitals across the region. These included heroin substitute methadone and 14.25ml of morphine. An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said the impact on its budget was minimal. She added: “We have robust procedures in place so that when medicines appear to be missing immediate action is taken. “Follow-up investigation or actions are taken where considered necessary and this may involve contacting the police.”

UK & World

One in five antibiotic prescriptions by GPs ‘inappropriate’

February 27 2018

As many as one in five prescriptions for antibiotics written by GPs may be “inappropriate”, health officials have said.Public Health England (PHE) warned that using antibiotics when they are not needed “threatens their long-term effectiveness” as it published new research estimating that 20% of all antibiotic prescriptions written in primary care in England are inappropriate.It said that to align with ambitions to cut levels of inappropriate prescribing in half, prescribing rates should reduce by 10% in the next two years.Health experts have previously warned that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer.In recent years, the UK has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance.Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria.If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.The new research articles, published in a supplement to the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, found that antibiotic prescribing rates varied substantially between GP practices, which the authors said means that there is potential to reduce prescribing in at least some practices.They found that the majority of antibiotic prescriptions in English primary care were for infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts – but in almost one-third of all prescriptions no clinical justification was documented. PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: “Using antibiotics when you don’t need them threatens their long term effectiveness and we all have a part to play to ensure they continue to help us, our families and communities in the future. “This publication highlights the role GPs can play and I urge all practices to look at ways they can reduce their inappropriate prescribing levels to help make sure the antibiotics that save lives today can save lives tomorrow.”Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “Drug-resistant infections are one of the biggest threats to modern medicine and inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics is only exacerbating this problem. “We are leading the world in our response — since 2012, antibiotics prescribing in England is down by 5% and we’ve invested more than £615 million at home and abroad in research, development and surveillance. But we need to go further and faster otherwise we risk a world where superbugs kill more people a year than cancer and routine operations become too dangerous.” Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Today’s figures are extremely disappointing but they must not be used as an excuse for criticising GPs who are working their hardest to reduce antibiotic prescribing, whilst grappling with countless other workload pressures and a shortage of GPs.“If GPs do prescribe antibiotics, it is because, in their expert opinion, they are the most appropriate treatment available, given the unique circumstances of the patients before us. However we are still coming under considerable pressure from some patients who need to understand that antibiotics are not a ‘catch all’ for every illness.“Antibiotics are excellent drugs when used appropriately, and for many bacterial infections there is no alternative.“But antimicrobial resistance is now a major global health threat and responsibility for tackling this does not lie solely at the door of GPs – the whole of society must play its part.”

UK & World

Authorities warn damage caused by drug-driving is likely to be worse than official figures suggest

October 4 2011

Over 300 people in Tayside and Fife have been caught driving under the influence of drugs over the last five years. Figures released to The Courier under freedom of information legislation revealed that 172 people in Fife have been charged for driving while unfit through drugs or drink since 2006. In Tayside, 238 people were charged for the same offence which is not the same as being unfit to drive because of excess alcohol while a further 24 people were charged with being in charge of a vehicle while unfit over the same five-year period. People who are suspected of driving while drunk but who do not provide a blood sample can also be charged with the offence. Motorists who are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs are subjected to a series of roadside tests to evaluate their coordination. If the driver is believed to be guilty they are then asked to report to a police station for a medical examination and may be required to give a blood sample. However, the law does not just apply to illegal substances such as cannabis or ecstasy. Many prescription drugs can impair reactions and anyone caught driving under their influence will face the same penalties as those who have been using recreational substances. Kevin Clinton, head of road safety with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said drug-driving was judged responsible for the deaths of 42 people on Britain’s roads last year but actual figures could be much higher. He said: ”In 2010, provisional figures show that 250 people were killed as a result of a drink-driving crash. ‘Impairment through illicit or medicinal drugs’ was listed as a contributory factor in 42 fatalities and 208 serious injuries in 2010. ”However, this is likely to be an underestimate as it is still very difficult to test for drugs at the time of the accident. ”RoSPA has long called for the drink-drive limit to be lowered and for it to be easier for the police to catch those driving above the legal alcohol limit or under the influence of drugs, and we hope that new testing equipment and improved procedures will go a long way towards this. ”The vast majority of people now see drink-driving as the anti-social and dangerous practice that it is and we need to keep reinforcing this message. However, we must raise awareness of the dangers of drug-driving too, including prescription drugs. ”It should be emphasised that legitimate medicines can impair judgment in much the same way as alcohol or illegal drugs, and people should always check the information that comes with medication or ask their GP.” Earlier this year the Department of Transport published a report that said more must be done to raise awareness of the dangers of drug-driving. It found that many users of illegal drugs deny their driving is impaired and discount the changes of getting caught. It also found that drug-driving is ”commonplace” among some groups. The penalties for driving under the influence of drugs are the same as for drink-driving. Offenders face a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record and can be fined up to £5,000. There will be a specific record on the driving licence for 11 years that details a conviction for drug-driving. If the driver is convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, they will receive a prison sentence of up to 14 years.