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 on 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 March.
Before we dive into the news, a quick word about a great program we discovered and want to share with our students about to graduate. Medshop Australia receives no financial kickbacks from this organisation, but in full disclosure, we are building a relationship with them...
is a student's guide to postgraduate degrees, research programs, and scholarships in Australia.
For graduates who aren't sure yet what they want to do after tossing that cap, this is the perfect resource to find the right program. The available fields of study even include non-medical fields so you don't have to feel like you're on one track.
From their site:
"Our aim is to help students make informed decisions about their careers by creating market-leading tools and resources for researching postgraduate study options. By reducing decision paralysis, promoting postgraduate education domestically, and engaging international students, we aim to grow the higher education industry in Australia."
It's a resource worth two minutes of your time.
And now, back to the news...
As reported by The Pharma Letter, the Australian government has announced the PBS listing for the HIV prevention drug Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a preventative medicine for people at medium to high risk of HIV infection.
These demographics include gay and bisexual men, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, migrant communities and other groups who have seen increased HIV transmission rates over the years.
The treatment involves taking an anti-retroviral medicine on a daily basis to reduce the risk of HIV infection and will play a key role in Australia's plan reduce and eliminate HIV.
The PBS listing means that this drug will be available to 32,000 patients each year who will be able to access the drug at a maximum cost of $39.50 per script or $6.40 per concession.
Without the PBS subsidy, patients would need to pay $2,496.00 per year for this medicine.
As reported by the ABC, a collection of historical medical artifacts, also known as COMA dating back to as early as 1850 has found a new home at Jane Franklin College in Hobart.
The collection tells the story of the history of medical care in Tasmania, commencing with the convict era. The 3000 piece collection includes a wide range of assorted equipment including a surgical kit from the 1850s.
A grisly reminder of the past with many stories to accompany the artifacts, including a convicts tooth that required extraction due to serious cavity and infection. These were the days of no anaesthesia where surgery was considered the last resort.
Reflecting on how far we have come since then makes one very grateful for the wonders of modern medical technology and the advancements we have made.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, researchers at the University of NSW run Black Dog Institute have had to abandon a trial to explore the efficacy of ketamine based nasal sprays to treat depression.
The researchers were hopeful that the trial would work as a similar study in the US had shown ketamine to have rapid antidepressant effects and could be safely delivered in the form of nasal spray.
The trial participants, unfortunately, experienced temporary loss of fine motor skills and psychotic-like effects.
While most commonly known for its tranquillising effects, over the past 20 years researchers have established that ketamine intravenously administered in small doses can help people with treatment-resistant depression.
The concept behind the nasal spray formula was to provide a less invasive treatment option.
As reported by The Herald, with the advancement of genome editing technology CRISPR and the rapidly decreasing cost of utilising the technology, the future of genetically modified human beings is no longer a futuristic concept.
Scientists say it will soon be possible to genetically modify humans to protect against and prevent disease and improve traits like intelligence, beauty and strength.
The applications for gene editing technology can also be utilised towards curing diseases, improving food production and on a more sinister note, the potential for the development of bioweapons.
Naturally, concerns have been raised regarding the safety of such technology and the ethics involved. The thought of playing god to reshape humanity is an ethically challenging concept.
Professor Rodney Scott, head of medical genetics at the University of Newcastle, has expressed concerns.
“Personally, I don’t like the concept of designer babies,” said Professor Scott, who is also director of molecular medicine for NSW Health Pathology North. "“If you look at it from an evolutionary perspective, you’re going to weaken the gene pool and create a weaker species in the longer term."
There are many noble applications for this technology, but there are also challenges that we need to face to ensure the technology is used responsibly.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman has reported a 30 percent increase in the total number of complaints over the last year.
Totally an additional 1300 complaints than average over that year with issues ranging from incorrect direct debits to hospital exclusions and the ever-rising premiums.
Over the last 10 years, Australian health funds have increased premiums by 70% along with increasing the number of exclusions and increasing gap fees.
Over the December quarter, 12,000 Australian's ditched their private hospital cover, putting additional strain on the public health services.
Health insurance premiums have been increased again this year, with many Australian's questions whether health insurance premiums will continue to rise beyond the point where many can afford them.