A Medical Device Daily

The UK has marked another milestone in its drive to trim the National Health Service's (NHS) bureaucracy.

Health Minister Lord Warner said on Friday that as of that day, the total number of Department of Health so-called "arm's length" bodies (ALBs) in the Department of Health had been reduced by four, leaving a total of 34. The number, he said, would be reduced by another two later this year.

More tellingly, he said the department is on course to achieve a 50% reduction in ALBs by 2008.

Health Secretary John Reid announced last year that the arm's length bodies would be streamlined in number and functions in order to focus more NHS resources on frontline services.

The major changes that took effect on Friday included:

The dissolution of the Health Development Agency, with its functions absorbed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). The new National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence – which will continue to be known as NICE, apparently applying the "tighten-up" drive even to acronyms – will be the organization responsible for providing national guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

The establishment of the Health and Social Care Information Center (HSCIC) to reduce administrative burdens on frontline NHS staff and improve the quality of information. The HSCIC will aim to keep form-filling to a minimum and improve accessibility by acting as a central point for everyone who needs information, including patients, clinicians and regulators, Warner said.

The joining of the National Radiological Pro-tection Board (NRPB) to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), forming HPA's new Radiation Protection Division. For the past two years, the NRPB has worked in partnership with the HPA, an independent body dedicated to the provision of a comprehensive health protection service at local, regional, national and international levels.

The creation of the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), which will work closely with the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ahead of the merger of the two bodies to form the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos (RATE) by April 2008.

Establishment of the National Program for IT as an agency. It will put in place new technology to give patients more choice and health professionals more efficient access to information. Warner said IT is a key enabler for the NHS modernization and change program and is "an essential element of delivering the NHS Plan."

The National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) taking on the functions previously carried out by other organizations, including the National Clinical Assessment Authority, the Central Office for Research Ethics Committees and the Better Hospital Food Program.

Dissolution of the National Clinical Assessment Authority, with its functions transferred to the National Patient Safety Agency.

Reid said recently that the budgets for ALBs for 2005-06 will reduce funding by more than 150 million, with the resulting savings to contribute to the overall investment in frontline healthcare.

Other changes due to take effect later this year include the dissolution of the NHS Modernization Agency and NHSU, the corporate university for the health service, by July 31, with some of their functions to be taken on by the new NHS Institute for Learning, Skills and Innovation, which is due to be set up by that date.

In addition, the merger of the National Blood Authority and UK Transplant to become NHS Blood and Transplant is due to take place by Oct. 1, and the dissolution of NHS Estates by that same date.

Sirolimus effective vs. Karposi's

Data from a study by researchers at the Bari University (Bari, Italy) published last week show that the skin cancer Kaposi's sarcoma, which frequently is diagnosed in kidney transplant recipients, can be eliminated by using the same drug that helps to prevent their transplanted organ from being rejected.

In the study, 15 patients taking a cyclosporine regimen to prevent organ rejection were diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma. Within three months of switching those patients to the immunosuppressive drug sirolimus, or Rapamune from Wyeth (Madison, New Jersey), all were shown to be completely free of the cancer, the rese-archers said.

Transplant recipients are 500 times more likely than the general population to develop Kaposi's sarcoma. The main approach to managing it in such patients is to reduce or even discontinue immunosuppressive treatment, which may cause the skin lesions to regress but also carries the risk of organ rejection.

Professor Francesco Paolo Schena, head of the nephrology, dialysis and transplant unit of Bari University, said, "The onset of cancer has long been a major concern for transplant recipients. This new discovery means that we have an alternative immunosuppressive therapy to offer our patients which protects their transplanted kidney from rejection and inhibits the progression of this type of skin cancer."

OFT gives nod to Celesio deal

The UK competition authority, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), last week gave its approval to the acquisition of Healthcare Logistics Ltd. (Bedford, UK), by Celesio (Stuttgart, Germany).

Celesio and Healthcare Logistics signed a purchase agreement in December 2004 subject to OFT clearance.

"We are closer to our strategic objective of expanding our European presence in the field of manufacturer-oriented services as part of our new division, Celesio Solutions," said Fritz Oesterle, chairman of the management board and CEO of Celesio AG.

Healthcare Logistics offers the British pharmaceutical industry distribution services from four warehouses and several intermediary warehouses.

With revenues of EUR 19.2 billion in 2004, Celesio is the largest pharmaceutical distribution company in Europe and is represented in 15 countries. Its three divisions – Celesio Wholesale, Celesio Pharmacies and Celesio Solutions – cover the entire scope of pharmaceutical distribution. The company's 132 branches in the wholesale sector make more than 100,000 deliveries daily and about 1,900 Celesio-owned pharmacies serve more than 500,000 customers every day.

Celesio has some 32,000 employees across Europe.