Indian docs should be involved politically: UK’s National Health Action Party

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Kolkata, July 10 (IANS) Consultant clinical oncologist and co-founder of UK’s National Health Action Party (NHAP) Clive Peedell has advised doctors in India to get involved politically, but opined that a small party on the lines of his outfit would not make a big splash in this country.

“I would advise Indian doctors to get involved politically. I think people are much more nervous in the country to do that, frightened… Whereas, in the UK I am much happier to be outspoken. But many are frightened in the UK to lose their jobs if they speak out,” Peedell told IANS here on the sidelines of a roundtable organised by Tata Medical Centre.

“Doctors are in the best position to understand where the most cost-effective treatments are and, therefore, to inform the political class ‘this is where you are going to get value for your money, more bang for your buck’,” he said.

The former NHAP leader said a “big movement” (around health policies) would be more prudent in the Indian scenario than floating a small party.

“We are not a single-issue party, we have policies across the board which were related to socio-determinants of health. I don’t think a small party like ours (it wasn’t very effective in terms of having a big influence)… I doubt it can have a big influence in India,” he said about the party started in 2012.

Peedell stood as the candidate for Witney against former British Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK General Election, 2015.

In reference to India, Peedell said: “What would be good is a big movement (a centre-left movement as we say in the UK).”

On latest treatment options and trends in lung cancer, Peedell advocated state-of-the-art targeted drugs that are aimed at specific mechanisms of cancer.

He pointed out that in India the genetics of people with lung cancer are more favourable than in the UK for these drugs.

“Only 10 per cent of the UK population would benefit from the drugs but in east India, about 30 per cent have the type of mutations in their cancer, that means they could respond to these drugs.

“We use these drugs more than chemotherapy because they are much more tolerated and more effective,” he said, also discussing the option of immunotherapy (manipulating the immune system to attack the cancer).

The price of these drugs is a cause for concern, said Peedell.

“It is expensive and the problems with these drugs is you have to continue them long-term unlike chemotherapy and these drugs continue for as long as you are responding and in the UK one of these drugs might cost $2,000 a month. So its not manageable for a population of this (India) size… to get everybody this treatment.

“But you still have to take these steps forward because eventually they will come off-patent and they will be much more cheaper.”

As for smoking rates, Peedell recommended a drop of 10 per cent to rein in lung cancer.

“If you can achieve a drop of absolutely 10 per cent (from) where you are now, in a five-year period… It dropped from 29 per cent to 19 per cent in northeast of England in a five-year period. That is one of the poorest areas of England. So it’s possible,” he added.

–IANS

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