Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Some Perspective, Please?

By way of a brief update, on Thursday I said I was unsure of David Davies MP's stance after his parliamentary question winkling out the fact that the WHO's FCTC shouldn't even be discussing e-cigs, let alone tabling bans on their use in public. I now think his motives are more clear.

For anyone not familiar with written questions, an MP is allowed to ask as many as he/she likes and they are slated well in advance in order for civil servants to compile a response for the minister concerned so have to be well-worded to avoid an uninformative reply. However, they are also limited to a certain number per day so - although an MP may want to ask dozens of questions on a single subject - the responses themselves are often released on a staggered basis. A good example is Steve Baker questioning each government department on their policies toward granting taxpayer funds to charities, as reported here in 2012.

Well, since Davies's first published response last week, others have been trickling through, and I suspect he is subtlely supportive of e-cigs.

Today's releases asked Jane Ellison if she could estimate savings to the NHS of e-cig use, and whether she has bothered to confirm or deny that passive vaping is a thing. She couldn't do either, of course, because the Department of Health outsources all its research to the tobacco control industry's domestic (ASH, Bath, Stirling, UKCTAS) and supra-national (EU, WHO), unelected ban-hunters. The way these things work, there may perhaps be more questions she hasn't a scooby about in the pipeline too, so keep 'em peeled.

There was, however, one of Davies's questions that she could answer:
David Davies (Monmouth, Conservative) 
To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many serious health events have been recorded per thousand (a) e-cigarette users, (b) users of nicotine replacement therapies and (c) users of the Champix form of varenicline in the last year.
Apparently, this is covered by the MHRA who, as we know, have studied e-cigs so closely that they're certain that all models currently on the market must be banned in 2016.

They're not so great at comparing the harms of e-cigs per capita with other nicotine products, though, so Ellison could only provide absolute figures.
Jane Ellison (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health; Battersea, Conservative) 
The following table shows the total number of serious UK spontaneous ‘suspected’ ADR reports received by the MHRA between 23 July 2013 and 22 July 2014 broken down for E-Cigarettes, Nicotine Replacement Therapies (excluding E-Cigarettes) and Varenicline: 
Total Serious Reports
Varenicline 297
Nicotine Replacement therapy 75
E-Cigarettes 5
Five. That's it. Just five.

All that bluster about "we don't know what's in them" and "they must undergo medical regulation to ensure there is no harm". For just five - count 'em; one, two, three, four, five - recorded cases. So few they'd all fit in a London black cab.

Whereas the medically licensed - and therefore perfectly safe and ubiquitously-prescribed - NRT and Champix have contributed 75 times that many incidents in the same space of time.

Now, the latest estimate is that there are 2.1 million e-cig users in the UK, and I'll bet that there are nowhere near that many using patches or gum, and a vanishingly small number using Champix by comparison. So the increased relative risk from using pharma products over e-cigs is almost certainly well in excess of the 7,500% we can ascertain from absolute numbers.

Why, then, the huge furore over e-cigs? Where is the outrage from furrow-browed public health officials about the dangers of Champix and the irresponsible "wild west" attitude of those profiteers at Pfizer et al? Where are the demands for an immediate ban pending further intensive research?

Hello? Anyone?


Neal said...

Ghostly silence

Entropy said...

Couldnt resist...

ChrisPrice4 said...

Ecigs are around 10,000 times safer than Chantix and cost the taxpayer nothing.

There are (in the UK) 5 adverse event reports to the MHRA for ecigs vs 275 for Champix, with maybe 4 times the userbase for ecigs compared to Champix; (in the USA) 47 reports to the FDA for ecigs vs >10,000 for Chantix, with about double the userbase for ecigs now (the ecig userbase was about 25% bigger until around early 2013). The reports for ecigs are usually: "I swallowed e-liquid thinking it was my medicine, I vomited and was in pain for an hour, then recovered"; vs "My son-in-law killed his entire family then committed suicide", for Chantix. Even 10,000 times safer is an underestimate, anyone sane would probably say about 1 million times safer.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Well played Sir!

John Gray said...

Interestingly enough, Dick, and given the substantial role of the WHO behind the drive against e-cigs, I went on their site today and could not help but notice that all the adverts for Pfizer and Glaxo had disappeared. I'm not sure when this happened, but that site used to have Pfizer/Glaxo ads aplenty.

When one considers the funding support that Pfizer/Glaxo have provided to the WHO, then, obviously, it is important for the WHO to support its paymasters, but, more than that, if patches and gum go down the toilet, as they deserve to do, how much less money would the WHO then receive from these "august" pharmaceuticals?

I therefore wonder, given the flack the WHO have received over its big pharma relationships, if the ads removal has not been a cynical and disingenuous move?

Also, my quick search on the web to try and discover nice clear links between the WHO and Pfizer/Glaxo was fruitless. Do you know of any sites where this relationship is still openly celebrated?

truckerlyn said...

Money, money, money - I believe is the answer! NRT is cheap for the pharmas to produce and they sell it to the NHS (which we pay for) for a huge profit. Therefore, pharma have been on the case to WHO who then pull the strings with as many governments as they can to tow the line so that pharma are secure, therefore so is WHO. E-cigs just can't be allowed to be seen as anything good, otherwise both pharma and WHO lose a whole chunk of their gravy train!

Hengist said...

Just how many times do freedom fighters need telling
Are they deaf,blind or daft,are they resident in some cocoon of ill informed
paralyisis, do they frequent the same pavements as those who suffer the consequence of inaction
Get stuck in or give us all a break from empty rhetoric

Norbert Zillatron said...

Here in Germany we have to fully pay ourselves for NRTs, even on prescription. They sell them a bit more expensive than the cost of cigarettes.

Lollylulubes said...

Apparently, the FDA were rather sneaky regarding the reporting of adverse events and some ecig forum members used it to report improvements in their health because they knew the FDA would read them. So, the actual number is less than 47, probably a lot less. See the posts on this page http://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/media-general-news/321820-fda-tobacco-program-office-issues-misleading-report-adverse-events.html

Within these posts, August 2012, there's information on Varenicline/Chantix/Champix adverse events. As of November 2013, over a five year period, there were 544 suicides, 1869 suicides, 10,000 serious adverse events reported just to the FDA and 2700 lawsuits have been settled by Pfizer. They carry a black box warning, are for over 18s only and exclude people with existing or previous mental health issues. A few weeks ago, I posted on Twitter and FB that Pfizer are now running international clinical trials on 12-19 year olds. Think of the children - indeed! Why aren't PH screaming about this drug and why is it still being prescribed? Because they don't give a damn about human beings - profit is paramount.

A few cases in point demonstrating how we should not take comfort from the 'safety' of med regs and the power of pharma. http://www.drugwatch.com/manufacturer/

This could be a source of useful info from the USA, we could do with the same here. The Sunshine Act. A website for public transparency of industry-physician financial relationships http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/National-Physician-Payment-Transparency-Program/index.html

Norbert Zillatron said...

Funding: http://keionline.org/node/1430
Main Sponsor: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Policy/Tobacco-Control
Their "partners": http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Policy/Tobacco-Control/Partners

Lollylulubes said...

I forgot to include the link to Pfizer's worldwide clinical trials of Varenicline on 300 adolescents aged 12 years and above. http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01312909

DP said...

Dear Mr Pudddlecote

That nice Miss/Mrs Ellison now has the figures which tell her e-gigarettes are a lot safer than the pharma products.

She should pull the pharma licences now and encourage people to use e-cigarettes.

If she doesn't, the next suicide from Champix use will put blood on her hands.

The time for guilty knowledge passed when she read out those figures in parliament. If there is another death and she has done nothing, she should resign both as junior minister and as MP.


Jurie Botha said...

Unfortunately, she and her ilk don't give a rat's ass if their ignorance and arrogance kills 10 million or more - as long as the money keeps rolling in - they'll keep harming public health, consoling themselves that they're not the ones manufacturing and pushing drugs like Champix.

And Big Pharma, well - they couldn't care less how many people they kill, as long as their expenditure on lawsuits is lower than their profit margin.

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