MEDICAL ADVANCES PUSH UP CRITICAL ILLNESS CLAIMS - It has emerged this morning that there has been a 73% increase in the number of critical illness claims in the last four years. The amount paid out to customers has increased from €5m to €12m over the last four years - an increase of 140%.

Gareth McQuillan, head of marketing at Bank of Ireland Life, said such cover pays out a lump sum to people who suffer a serious illness such as cancer. It enables people to cope with the lifestyle changes - such as giving up work or adapting their home - associated with some serious illnesses.

He said it differed from health insurance, which just paid the hospital bills and medical expenses. It is also different from income protection which provides an income for people out of work but does not deal with the life-changing nature of some diseases.
 
Mr McQuillan said there were two main reasons for the big increase. Firstly, more people were taking out critical illness insurance. Secondly, modern medicine means there is better and earlier diagnosis of serious illnesses.

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NEWS IN BRIEF AND MARKETS - Overnight the price of oil it rose back again to $55 a barrel. Since the beginning of the year prices have risen by 28%, mainly because of concerns about rising demand from Asian economies. There is speculation the price of a litre of unleaded is heading to €1.

Overnight in the US the drop in the Elan share price continued. The stock fell 53% by last night. That comes after a patient who had taken its multiple sclerosis drug died. The story featured in detail on CNBC in the US. It pointed out that the Irish company's stock had taken a harder hammering than its US partner Biogen.

Oil and gas company Tullow Oil has completed the acquisition of Shell and Esso's production interests in the North Sea for £200m.

The euro is trading at $1.29 and 68.6p sterling.