Australian Medical News Brief November 2017
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 November
A heart-saving medical device the size of a grain of rice was just backed by a $60 million investment led by two Australian VC firms
As reported by Business Insider, Australian investors have been swarming over a new medical technology device the size of a grain of rice, with $60 million in capital having been raised lead by two Australian investment firms. The device developed by Californian medical technology startup EBR systems is designed as a modern form of cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT). Conventional treatment involves the use of a device with wires to transmit pulses to the heart, it cannot get inside the left ventricle due to the risk of clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. EBR systems' WiSE-CRT is the size of a large grain of rice with no external wiring, enabling the device to send signals to the left ventricle without wires. Australia is set to provide 100 patients for the clinical trial of this device, to be conducted in 10 hospitals around the country.
As reported by The Conversation, many Australians are confronted by the extreme variance in the price of medications available to them. We hear stories about the financial stress and burden of those patients who require expensive medications to treat their ailments, and breathe a sigh of relief when a medication becomes approved for a government subsidy. The article discussed the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) and how this works to enable some medications to be subsidised. The cost of the medications on the PBS ranges from less than a dollar a day to more than $800 a day. Without the PBS subsidy, few could afford to sustain the use of high-cost medication. The medications that do end up being listed on the PBS are chosen for their safety, efficacy and proven ability to provide a health benefit compared with the existing treatments of the same condition at a reasonable price. With new medications to market, there is often a patent that restricts competitors from manufacturing cheaper or generic options. If you are interested in learning more, the article continues to delve into the ins and outs of the PBS and supply of medications in Australia.
As reported by The Australian, Doctors aged 70 and over will have to prove they are fit to keep treating patients while medical students and junior medical staff will be monitored for possible integrity issues under reforms proposed by the Medical Board of Australia. The reforms have been 5 years in the making and will likely require several more years to implement. The reforms in the Professional Performance Framework were released yesterday for a further consultation. The new framework proposes registered doctors take part in at least 50 hours of professional development each year, to review performance, measure outcomes and keep their education up to date. Peer reviews and physical health checks will also be involved. Board chairwoman Joanna Flynn, explained they had legal advice that it was not age-discrimination if the checks focused on the doctors’ fitness to practice, for example, cognitive function, eyesight and hearing.
As reported by Huffington Post, There are 400,000 Australians currently living with dementia and almost 26,000 with younger onset dementia. Over the last two years, scientists at the University of Queensland within the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have been developing ultrasound technology that holds new hope for dementia patients. Using non-invasive ultrasound technology, the team at QBI discovered they could break apart amyloid plaque and tau proteins that develop within the brain of those with dementia, causing memory loss and cognitive decline. "It would in principle mean that dementia could be cured," Professor Jurgen Gotz, Director of Queensland Brain Institutes Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, explains.
As reported by the ABC, following 100s of hours of debating across both houses of Parliament and two demanding all-night sittings, Victoria has become the first state in Australia to legalise euthanasia for the terminally ill. MPs have voted to give patients the right to request a lethal drug to end their lives, effective from mid-2019. The bill has now been sent to the governor for royal assent. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who came to support euthanasia after losing his father to terminal illness last year paid tribute to colleagues, including Health Minister Jill Hennessy, for their work on the bill. He praised,"I'm proud today that we have put compassion right at the centre of our parliamentary and our political process."