Access To Medicines

BUS was recently invited to participate in a debate on ‘How Can We Improve Earlier Access to Medicines for Patients in the UK?’  The debate was set up by Les Halpin, a very inspirational man who founded EMPOWER: Access To Medicine following his diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease and realising that there were few medications licensed for this disease and that if research was undertaken on new medications, it would take many months or even years before  the medicine was available for use.

This debate was held at the King’s Fund in London and brought together a range of leading and influential individuals including:

▪   Lois Rogers, leading health journalist and contributor to publications including The Sunday Times, The Economist and New Statesman and consultant to the Department of Health and other government agencies

▪   Dr Richard Barker, Director of the Centre for Accelerating Medical Innovations, Oxford University and former head of the ABPI

▪   Yogi Amin, human rights and medical ethics lawyer, Irwin Mitchell

▪   Alastair Kent, Director of Genetic Alliance UK

▪   Professor Sir Peter Lachmann, Emeritus Sheila Joan Smith Professor of Immunology in the University of Cambridge and a fellow of Christ’s College

BUS has received a thank you letter for its input into the debate, which is copied below and gives information on how you can become involved in this campaign and how you can access the film of Les Halpin talking about the campaign:

Empower: Access to Medicine

I would like to personally thank you for attending the Empower: Access to Medicine debate at the King’s Fund last week. We appreciate your interest in and support for such an important subject.

I am very heartened by the response to this campaign. Whilst there are many separate discussions that are taking place on this issue, my main interest is in the voice of the patient which I believe has been least heard to date.

I am therefore delighted that patient advocacy groups from around the country have responded so positively. My key aim moving forward will be to support a unified patient voice so we can together deliver much needed change.

A longer and more comprehensive version of the film that was shown at the debate is now available online at www.accesstomedicine.co.uk and I would urge you to share this with colleagues and networks that may also be interested.

You can also join the conversation online through Twitter – find us on @empoweratm

The Empower team is now defining its campaign objectives as we continue to reach out to interested individuals and groups and we will keep you informed of our next steps.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions about the campaign, please contact Karen, James or Sarah at JBP on 0203 267 0074.

Yours sincerely,

Les Halpin

Founder, Empower: Access to Medicine

 

Winter Benefit – tickets now available!

We are thrilled to announce that tickets are now available for our first Winter Benefit – it promises to be a fun evening and a great excuse to get together, party and raise much-needed funds.

DATE:            Saturday 3rd November

VENUE:        The Rifles Club,52-56 Davies Street,London W1K

TICKETS:     £80 each

The evening will commence at 7.30pm with a champagne & canapé reception, followed by a three course dinner with wine, and dancing until the early hours!

Fundraising activities during the night will include a silent auction and raffle. We are looking for companies to help sponsor the event and also for prizes, so if anyone has suggestions for either or if you would like to order tickets please contact either lorraine@birdshot.org.uk or suew@birdshot.org.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!

Easyfundraising.org.uk – please sign up and raise funds for free!

This website does exactly what it says – you can raise money for BUS every time you shop online and it won’t cost you anything, it’s that easy! Simply sign up at www.easyfundraising.org.uk and specify “Birdshot Uveitis Society” as the charity for which you are raising funds, then every time you make any purchase online you just need to do so via the easyfundraising website and the retailer will automatically make a donation to BUS. There is absolutely no cost to you, the site covers all of the major online retailers, and BUS benefits from a donation.

I recently booked the flights for a family holiday this way and we just got a donation of £17.85!

Please, if you do even a little shopping online, sign up today, we really do need your help!

Accessing unlicensed medications

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the agency that regulates all new medicines.  They weigh up the risks and benefits of each new medicine, following the completion of phase III trials and then decide whether to license it or not.  Some of us with Birdshot will know that we are unable to get some medications that may be licensed elsewhere (e.g. in the US) or that have been tested at phase III trials, but have to go through the sometimes lengthy procedure to be licensed.

The MHRA is now consulting on whether they should provide early access to medicines before they are formally licensed.  The consultation period ends on 5 October, and if the MHRA goes ahead with this scheme, it may mean that those of us who have tried all the more traditional approaches to controlling our Birdshot without success can get hold of newer medications earlier.

There are a few provisos, of course!  The scheme will be voluntary and limited to medicines that show a “significant advance in treatment in an area of unmet need”.  The MHRA also expects to limit the scheme to only one or two medicines each year.  Finally, the scheme will be limited to those medicines that have reached phase III trials (apart from exceptional cases – yet to be defined).  If this scheme goes ahead, the MHRA will provide an opinion of the risks and benefits of the medicine on its web site to help clinicians and patients decide, and it would then be up to the funding body (your local clinical commissioning group made up of GPs in your area; or specialist commissioning group) to decide whether to fund the medicine or not.

So, even if the scheme is launched, there will still be hurdles to jump over, but at least it provides hope for those of us who are struggling to get hold of medicines on the NHS which are not licensed here.

It would be really, really helpful if our patient and professional members could give their comments to the MHRA

To read more about the proposed scheme, please click on the link below:

http://www.mhra.gov.uk/NewsCentre/Pressreleases/CON174774

If you want to give your comment on this scheme, you can email earlyaccess@mhra.gsi.gov.uk by 5 October 2012

Launching the Human Ocular Immunology Consortium

On Tuesday 22 May, Rea and Annie were privileged to be invited to the launch of the Human Ocular Immunology Consortium.  This Consortium is a partnership between the National Eye Institute (NEI) in the United States and the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre in the UK.  Researchers from London, Bristol and Washington will be developing joint research programmes in the field of Ocular Immunology.  This is really exciting, as it gives us a much wider group of experts who can look into the causes of, and better medication for Birdshot.  It also opens up the possibility of having an international biobank for Birdshot and other posterior, auto-immune forms of uveitis.

The launch was introduced by Professor Peng Khaw  (Director of Research and Development, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Director of NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre and President of ARVO – the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology).  For those of you who attended the Birdshot Day in March of this year, you may remember that one of our US members, Doris Lapporte, asked why there could not be an agreement for Birdshot research across the UK and the US, as US Birdshotters were missing out.  Peng Khaw referred to this in his opening remarks – he then went on to say that we had been listened to!   Well done Doris!!  Peng has always been a strong supporter of the Birdshot Uveitis Society and the Birdshot Days and he kindly provided the narrative on our 2010 Birdshot Day short film.

We are so excited by this development, especially as it demonstrates how influential we can be when we Birdshotters work together.

 

Next SE/London Meeting – June 9th 2012 with exciting new research update!

The next meeting for Birdshot Friends in the London/SE area will be held on Saturday 9th June, from 10.30am – 1.00pm at St Thomas’s Hospital, Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7EH.

The meeting will take place in South Wing Lecture Theatre on the Ground Floor, near to the eye department. We might even go for lunch afterwards!

Joining us will be Professor Glen Jeffrey who has some new research to share with us and who is asking for our help – very exciting!!

There will also be some other guests on the day – watch this space!! – and plenty of opportunity to chat and catch up on all things Birdshot!

Everyone is welcome! If you are planning to come along please do e mail us at southeast@birdshot.org.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!

South East Team x

2nd Birdshot Day, 2012 on You Tube

We have now posted  all of the talks from the 2nd Birdshot Day held on 3 March 2012.  To access these, please go to You Tube and type in Birdshot Uveitis Society to find our channel.

Alternatively, click on the links below.

Birdshot Day Speakers

Mike Brace, CBE – The importance of the Birdshot Day

Miss Narciss Okhravi – Introduction to the Birdshot Day

Professor Andrew Dick – Patient, Clinician and Researcher Partnerships

Rea Mattocks – Introduction to BUS

Dr Graham Wallace – The Science of Birdshot

Mr Nigel Hall – Diagnosing, Testing and Monitoring

Professor Miles Stanford – Medication Options

Morning Question and Answer Session

Miss Dhanes Thomas – Introduction to Biobanks

Professor Phil Murray – The National Birdshot Research Network

Lorraine O’Mullane – Appeal for funding Birdshot Research

Julian Jackson – Fight for Sight and funding Birdshot research

Professor Will Ayliffe – Quality of Life Survey for Birdshot

Simon Denegri – Patient involvement in research (INVOLVE)

Mr Carlos Pavesio – Current research into Birdshot

Mr Alastair Denniston – Outcomes of research

Professor Glen Jeffrey – Vitamin D and Inflammatory Diseases

Interviews:-

Kathy Evans Royal College of Ophthalmologists – Talking about BUS

Niss Narciss Okhravi – The National Birdshot Research Network

Annie – Stable Birdshot

Ann – A family with Birdshot

Liam – A family with Birdshot

Helen – Birdshot in Israel

Sandra – Birdshot Effects

Colin – Birdshot Effects

Nick B – In Remission from Birdshot

Nick Collins – Living with low vision

Happy viewing everyone.

 

Help Us Make Birdshot a Priority For Research!

We are re-posting this, as the survey ends on 31 July, and we need as many responses as we can get, in order to make sure that Birdshot becomes a priority for research.  If you have not already done so, please complete this survey.  It is quick and simple to do.  We have posted some ideas about what kind of research is needed into Birdshot at the end of this post, to help stimulate debate, and give you some ideas.  Remember that the more people who respond mentioning Birdshot, the more likely we are to get Birdshot as a priority!

The Sight Loss and Vision Survey is a joint initiative between Fight for Sight, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, The College of Optometrists, the National Institute of Health Research, RNIB and The James Lind Alliance.  It has been set up to find those areas of research that have not yet been identified.  For us with Birdshot, this is really important, as we have a rare disease, and very little research has been carried out to date.  This is our opportunity to get Birdshot (and other rare, auto-immune forms of posterior uveitis) on the national agenda.  Because the survey will be completed by patients, it will have great credibility and it is hoped that funds can then be identified for some of the research needs.

The James Lind Alliance is a non-profit making organisation, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, which will oversee this initiative ensuring the exercise produces an unbiased result, with equal weighting being given to each of the participating groups – so your opinion really will count.

The Sight Loss and Vision Survey will allow you to identify your most pressing questions about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Birdshot.

The more Birdshotters that complete the survey the more likely we are to be able to influence the research agenda and receive valuable funding from the government for research into Birdshot – we really do need you to take part.

To complete the survey and learn more about this initiative please visit www.sightlosspsp.org.uk where you will find both the online survey and can request alternative formats – post/fax or telephone.

The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete so please take this opportunity to represent Birdshot and help change the future of eye research.

Thank you!

1.  What causes Birdshot?

2.  Which part of the immune system becomes disregulated?

3.  How do you re-regulate the immune system without damaging the body?

4.  How can we find less toxic medication that does not adversely affect mental health and quality of life, but preserves vision?

5.  How can we ensure early detection of Birdshot to prevent sight loss?

6.  What are the genetic links and why are several generations of some families affected, and why does it seem to affect mainly Caucasians?

7.  Why is there a ‘spectrum’ of Birdshot?

8.  Why do different people respond differently to different medication regimes?

9.  Why is Birdshot treated systemically with toxic medications which adversely affect mental health and quality of life, when it seems to be confined to the eyes?

10.What does the link to HLA A29 mean in relation to treatment?

11.  What is the risk/benefit analysis of toxic treatment to prevent blindness versus blindness?

12.  What are the long term costs to health and social care of blindness which could have been prevented through the use of off license or off label medications?

13.  Is Birdshot best treated by ophthalmologists or should a clinical specialism of immunology be developed?

14.  Can holistic therapies such as acupuncture, meditation, hypnotherapy help in preventing or treating Birdshot?

15.  Can supplements, such as vitamin D or other therapies treat Birdshot less toxically than current medications?

 

Birdshot Day on You Tube

A short video of the Birdshot Day of 3 March 2012 has been posted on You Tube.  It gives an overview of the Day, and is only 4 minutes long, so makes easy viewing!  It is in HD, so really nice quality.  Take a look everybody, and if you like it, please like it!  And see if you can spot yourself, if you were there on the Day.

It can be found on Youtube by following the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoLMSewDNmo

We are busy finalising the long DVD which will show the whole day, and this should be available in a couple of weeks.  We will let you know when it is ready.

Have fun viewing.

 

Government Rare Disease Plan – Consultation

Birdshot is a rare disease.  Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to get the right diagnosis and treatment.

The Government will be implementing a Rare Disease Plan by 2013.  This plan SHOULD help all of us, with rare diseases get better services.  But will it?  The plan is now being consulted on, and the closing date for comments is 25th May.

This is our opportunity to give our opinions, and make sure the rare disease plan meets our needs.

You will remember that BUS has worked with Rare Disease UK  (the national alliance for people with rare diseases and all who support them) to help advise the government on what people with rare diseases need.  Some of our recommendations have been incorporated, but we are worried that this plan will not fully meet the needs of those of us with Birdshot and other rare diseases.

Individual patients can respond to the consultation, as can patient organisations and healthcare professionals.  If you are an individual patient, or a healthcare professional, please take the time to have a look at the rare disease plan, and see if you think it will work for you.  The plan can be found at:

http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_132880

If you want to understand why the proposed rare disease plan might not meet needs, Rare Disease UK have produced a very good presentation that you can listen to at:

http://www.anymeeting.com/RDWebinarEngland/EA56D880804C

If you have any concerns at all, following listening to the above presentation, please do submit your comments to the Department of Health.  If you need help in designing your comments, Rare Disease UK has provided help – just click on the link below.

advice document

Alternatively, you can submit your comments to Rea at info@birdshot.org.uk and she will collate and present them

Many thanks everybody – if we work together, we might be able to get an NHS system that meets our needs!