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Issue Date:- 21 April 2008


MOVES by the EU to protect Southport residents from counterfeit medicines have been welcomed by a local Euro-MP.

The risks of buying medicines on the internet are well known, but now fake drugs are also finding their way into chemist shops and hospitals.

According to the European Commission, criminals are targeting life-saving and highly profitable medicines used to treat cancer, heart disease, psychiatric disorders and infections. Latest data shows counterfeit medicines penetrating the legal supply chain in 2007.

It is feared that the £10 billion trade could be responsible for half a million deaths worldwide each year. More than 2.7 million counterfeit medicines were seized at EU customs borders in 2006, up almost 400% on 2005.

The fakes are virtually indistinguishable from the genuine tablets and criminal gangs are so sophisticated that they buy the same packaging equipment as drug companies.

Some counterfeit medicines have no active ingredients at all and others have much higher doses than is safe. Counterfeit medicines tested by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have been found to contain traces of brick dust and rat poison.

Britain is a prime target for the counterfeiters as medicine prices are high compared with other EU countries. But most people in the UK are unaware of the scale of the problem.

A study last year found that only 19% of Britons felt there was a growing risk from counterfeit medicines compared to three quarters of Europeans as a whole.

The complexity and fractured nature of the distribution system in the EU and regulatory loopholes offer the opportunist means to access Europe's legitimate supply chain.

But now the European Commission has launched an enquiry to look at ways to combat the problem. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says that criminal sanctions should be applied, with EU member states adopting minimum sentences including fines, confiscation of assets and closure of premises.

North West Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies sits on the public health committee in the European Parliament and has welcomed the news of a proposed crackdown on the counterfeiters.

He said:- "Counterfeiters selling these drugs are putting people's lives in danger out of sheer greed. The fact they can gain access to legitimate chemists and hospitals is frightening."

Internet security experts believe that nearly 25% of all emails, 15 billion messages a day, are spam advertising drugs. According to the World Health Organisation more than half of all medicines offered by websites are fakes.

£1.8 million investment for Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum

THE Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) was pleased to announce, on 15 April 2008, an investment of £1.8 million in the International Slavery Museum, which will enable National Museums Liverpool to take forward its ambitious plans for the development of the attraction.

The funding will help the International Slavery Museum to extend into the historic Grade I listed Dock Traffic Office adjacent to its current location within the Merseyside Maritime Museum. The building will be home to an extended exhibition space as well as a new research space for the museum, a public archive, learning suite, and a community zone.

The Dock Traffic Office will become the ‘front door’ of the International Slavery Museum, linking to the existing galleries via a glass bridge at high level.

James Berresford, Director of Tourism at the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), said:- “The International Slavery Museum is a unique tourism asset for the region. Through this investment the NWDA is recognising the potential that the attraction has to further enhance the visitor experience of Liverpool and the Albert Dock; this development will mean that the Museum is better positioned to attract an even bigger and more diverse audience and it will raise the profile of the city as a distinctive and culturally exciting place to visit.”

Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum, said:- “The success of the International Slavery Museum so far can be measured by over 200,000 people that have visited since we opened in August 2007. The support from the Northwest Regional Development Agency will help take the museum to a new level, developing new facilities to continue its work as thought-provoking, stimulating and challenging.”

Web Download Review:- "Testing 4oD" (Channel 4 on Demand)

I always thought the BBC's online catch up service was good, but a pain to install, but this week we took a look at Channel 4's new 4oD. If you want to view a C4 program online, then you must install this program. Installing it is a fun task but do not think it will work straight away. Even with a dual core processor, lots of RAM and a very good ADSL connection, you will be waiting some time for it to work, if it works at all...

The program is very chunky and far too flaky compared to the BBC's system. The 4oD Software does not take into account what operating system you are running, and as you have to down load it to view C4 programs, unlike the BBC's system, older computers might not run it at all!

The search for information for the programs is not easy to follow either. I typed in a simple thing, "Time Team Liverpool" to see what would happen. Sadly, the system did not find the program, also the results is did display were not even in date order, in fact not in any logical order that I could see at all.  The other annoying thing is it adds itself all over the place, something Realplayer was once criticised for!

I have to comment that whereas I said, in my recent revue that the BBC's system is the way forward for TV, I do hope this is not the only progression for terrestrial based independent stations. 4 on Demand is a very big let down!

Considering Channel Four, up to recently, has been seen as one of the more innovate of all the UK Terrestrial channels, it shocks me how far back and how dated their system is and how hard it is to use! I would love to know what our reader's think.  

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Read our review about the BBC's new iPlayer by clicking here.

£8.7 million training award from NWDA to Vauxhall Car Plant gets European seal of approval

THE NWDA, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) and the Vauxhall Motors Executive have worked very closely with the EC following their announcement of an in-depth investigation into the proposal that commenced in July 2007, to ensure that there was no breach of EC Treaty state aid rules.

The Commission is now completely satisfied that the grant will be used for additional training and will not simply subsidise that which Vauxhall would have already provided without any aid. It will ensure training goes beyond the basics training necessary for Vauxhall's operations but will position the plant staff at the very forefront of world-class capability.

Significantly, the award also supports the future of the plant following the successful bid to secure the next generation Astra just last year.

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the NWDA, said:- “The approval from the EU confirms that the Agency will help to provide funding for training that really will make a difference.

The staff and management have worked hard to secure the next generation Astra and we will help them to ensure the workforce is trained to the highest standards going forward, The plant at Ellesmere Port has an established history of producing utomotive quality and now it has a future at the forefront of new production.

The Agency and its partners have invested considerable efforts in achieving this result and will continue to work very closely with Vauxhall as it enters this exciting time."

A spokesman from General Motors UK Ltd. commented:- “We argued consistently throughout this inquiry that, without NWDA funding, this training would not happen. With the EU’s approval, we are now in a position to implement a comprehensive programme that will benefit not just the workers at the plant, but the North West region as a whole.”

The automotive sector is of paramount importance to the economy in the Northwest fostering 450 local automotive companies and employing 43,000 people. It generates an annual business turnover of £9 billion while the automotive supply base exports 60% of its products - twice the UK national average.

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented:- “Our investigation has shown that the aid will add real value to Vauxhall's ambitious training programme.

I am pleased to approve aid which will make a genuine contribution to the skills and competitiveness of European car workers."

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