In brief

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 30 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f606

NHS brand is open for business: Healthcare UK, the government backed organisation that is selling NHS services abroad, officially launched at the Arab health trade fair in Dubai on 29 January. There are plans for NHS services to help set up military health systems in Libya and Saudi Arabia, its managing director, Howard Lyons, told the Times.1 Other possible contracts include establishing GP services in India, training doctors in Brazil, and setting up specialist hospitals in the United Arab Emirates. (See Head to Head: Will expansion of the NHS abroad benefit UK patients? (BMJ 2013;346:e8496, doi:10.1136/bmj.e8496; 2013;346:e8493, doi:10.1136/bmj.e8493).)

European drug agency to review contraceptive pills: After a request from France, the European Medicines Agency is to review the evidence on third and fourth generation combined oral contraceptives to determine whether they need to be restricted to women who can’t take other combined oral contraceptives. The call came amid a scare in France over the case of Marion Larat, a 25 year old woman who sued the French drug regulatory board and Bayer, the maker of the third generation pill Meliane (gestodene with ethinylestradiol), which she believes caused a stroke that left her partially paralysed.2

Cancer death risk is higher in men: Men are over 35% more likely to die from cancer than women in the United Kingdom, a report has found.3 In 2010 202 men per 100 000 died from cancer, compared with 147 per 100 000 women. The analysis also showed that men were almost twice as likely as women to die from liver cancer and almost three times as likely to die from oesophageal cancer. The differences may be because men are getting cancers that are harder to treat, such as cancers of the bladder, liver, and oesophagus.

Beijing sets target to reduce pollution: Beijing’s municipal government has set a target to reduce by 2% the level of particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres in the city this year, state media report. However, even this modest target will be a challenge: each year sees Beijing’s population increase by 500 000 a year and an extra 250 000 new cars on the city’s roads.

Lawyers join campaign to end discrimination against people with leprosy: The International Bar Association has joined forces with the Nippon Foundation, which campaigns for social innovation, to launch a global appeal to abolish all laws that discriminate against people with leprosy. This year 46 law associations from 41 countries have endorsed the appeal. But countries such as India, Singapore, Nepal, Malta, and Thailand continue to have outdated discriminatory laws. The United States, China, and other countries cite leprosy as a reason for declining entry to immigrants.

Swine flu infected a fifth of all people: More than one in five people, including half of schoolchildren, were infected with influenza A (H1N1) during the first year of the pandemic in 2009, a study from 19 countries has found.4 Researchers looked at more than 90 000 blood samples before and during the pandemic in countries such as India, Australia, and the United Kingdom. They found that around 24% (95% confidence interval 20% to 27%) of people overall had been infected. The virus is thought to have killed 200 000 people around the world, fewer than two in every 10 000 people infected.

Royal colleges back tax on sugary drinks: More than 60 organisations, including a number of medical royal colleges, are backing a call from Sustain, an alliance for better food and farming, for this year’s Budget to implement a duty on sugary drinks. In its report Sustain proposes that the money raised from the tax be ringfenced for a “children’s future fund” to spend on programmes to improve children’s health and wellbeing.5 A duty of 20p (€0.23; $0.31) per litre would raise about £1bn a year, it said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f606