Welcome to Medshop Australia’s monthly series, News Brief, where we talk about what you may have missed. These are mostly articles we’ve posted in our social media news feeds. We consider them the most newsworthy events in Australian health and medicine from the last month. You will find links to the original articles. Let’s look back and review the top stories from August.
In honour of the Olympic Games this month we kick off the news brief blog with an article about how the placebo effect could have an effect on Olympic athletes performance. As reported by NPR, given the stakes of the Olympics are so high and victories often come down to split-second differences, the question of whether placebo effect can give any edge or advantage is one worth considering.
The placebo effect is well documented and demonstrates that belief in a placebo treatments efficacy can sometimes improve a patients condition based on their belief that it will work. Given the strict substance regulations Olympians must comply with, the article explores the role of permitted alternative therapies that have limited evidence to support their efficacy. It also discusses a case study of placebo use for sports performance enhancement within a controlled testing environment.
As reported by ABC News, The ACT announced a new medicinal cannabis scheme earlier this month where the government will endeavour to clearly define issues around the prescription, distribution, and production of the drug. This is a step towards increased understanding of the health benefits that medicinal cannabis has to offer and a victory for advocates and patients alike.
The article cites the viewpoint of a woman who has suffered from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for over a decade. Her testimony explains the confusion surrounding her condition and the failure of conventional medicine to alleviate her suffering. With the use of medicinal cannabis, she has found a new lease on life.
The president of the Australian Medical Association's ACT branch noted that while there is evidence supporting the use of medicinal cannabis, there are still many unknowns. The new medicinal cannabis scheme will enable more progress regarding the issue.
As reported by Business Insider Australia, researchers have found links between the use of paracetamol in pregnancy and behavioural issues in children. Data was analysed from studies of paracetamol use in over 8000 mothers within the range of 18-32 weeks of pregnancy. They found links between paracetamol use during this period and an increased risk of hyperactivity and emotional difficulties in children.
Health experts however, have cautioned the use of this study, because the data analysed was collected in the 1990s - a time when paracetamol dosages were larger than they are today. Another criticism is that the study didn't investigate the amount of paracetamol taken or the duration of use. Previous studies have shown that long-term use from one to four weeks at a time during pregnancy does pose a risk.
The takeaway from this study is that more detailed evidence is required before clinical practising standards will be altered. Paracetamol is still the front line treatment for fever and pain in pregnant women and is considered safe when used within current clinical guidelines.
As reported by the Gold Coast Bulletin, researchers from Griffith Universities Institute of Glycomics have developed a revolutionary new vaccine for the Streptococcus A infection. Streptococcus A is a bacteria that causes strep throat and can lead to rheumatic heart disease. More than half a million people a year die from the bacterial infection.
This breakthrough achievement has the potential to top 1 billion dollars in sales per year, following a landmark deal they have secured with a Chinese company. This accomplishment is a testament to the dedicated researchers at Griffith University, and evidence that medical innovation is alive and well here in Australia.
As reported by The Conversation, another exciting medical discovery to come out this month may be a solution to antibiotic resistance. Researchers have discovered a bacterium in the human nose that produces an antibacterial product called lugdunin. The discovery of lugdunin opens up the prospect for the development of new antibiotic substances.
Since Alexander Flemming's discovery of penicillin on mouldy bread in 1928, antibiotics have been sourced from elements existing outside of the human body. The discovery of an antibiotic substance that exists within the human body is groundbreaking and may enable us to conquer increasing presentations of antibiotic resistance.
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