In 'Scandal of life-saving drugs held up by poll', Lucy Johnston wrote:
Cancer patients are being denied life-saving treatment because drug watchdogs are banned from approving new medicines during the election campaign.
The edict from the Cabinet Office to The National Institute for Clinical Excellence has outraged specialists.
Not so replied NICE Chief Executive Sir Andrew Dillon. He said that only one drug appraisal - for treatment of Crohn's disease - had had its publication delayed by two weeks. And:
Our only other publications in April would have been draft guidance, which would not have had an impact on access, by patients, to treatments.
So Johnston and the Sunday Express got it wrong. Nothing new in that. But the most damning element of Dillon's letter is that Johnston knew it was wrong but went ahead with the story anyway:
We confirmed to Lucy, both verbally, and by email (attached) that no NICE guidance on cancer drugs was being delayed by the election...
Despite having received this written confirmation from us, Lucy wrote a highly misleading article, including quotes from several people who were clearly asked to react to information that was not true.
Furthermore, Lucy did not ask us anything about the drug Nexavar, which she used in the article as an example of a drug supposedly delayed. Had she bothered to ask us, we could have confirmed that final guidance on this drug had not been due to be published in April, and was therefore not being delayed by the election.
In light of the fact that you have printed an incorrect and misleading article, I am asking that you print a correction on page four of next week’s paper.
I am also requesting that Lucy Johnston contacts the people quoted in her article to let them know that, in fact, no final NICE guidance on cancer drugs, which would have been published in April, has been delayed as a result of the election campaign.
Will the newspaper admit their error that easily? Given the original hasn't been removed, that seems unlikely...