Three’s a crowd

The battle over Symbion is getting nasty. After their merger was scuttled by Primary Healthcare, Symbion and Healthscope’s Plan B requires a 50% rather than 75% shareholder vote. The value of the deal is roughly 9c below the original plan. Primary, which owns 20% of Symbion, launched a court action challenging aspects of the deal, and themselves bid $4.10 per share for the remaining 80% of Symbion. While below the implied value of the Healthscope deal (worth between $4.23 and $4.43), it was a tempting cash offer, but the Symbion board rejected it. Thickening the plot, Healthscope recently bought out the company that runs the NMIG medical centres (12 in WA, which started out as Albert Ho’s group in the 1990s).

NPS agenda revealed?

Remember when the National Prescribing Service was launched, how it was all about quality prescribing and a cost-containment motive was flatly denied. However, GPs have noted that NPS talk has undeniably swung that way since, exemplified by a recent NPS note in a WA divisional newsletter; “Avoid economic irrationality – prescribe as though you were paying for the drugs!”

Prophylaxis perplexity

Post-exposure drug prophylaxis for HIV is a two-edged sword for government. If publicised too much, risk takers in the community such as illicit IV drug users might take more risks and see it as an ‘out’ if they slip up. On the other hand, if the info is hidden, health workers and others might miss out on vital treatment following needlestick injury or suchlike. Either way, antiviral drugs given within 72 hours of exposure will significantly lessen the chances of ongoing infection. The Health Dept has just issued a detailed operational directive for all health workers dealing with non-occupational HIV exposure that covers risk assessment and clinical response.

Another Gray cloud

The 3-way battle between Dr Bruce Gray, Sirtex Medical, and UWA continues. Former UWA innovator Dr Bruce Gray has fired another legal salvo against Sirtex (the company he established), claiming unreasonable restraint of trade. The action relates to contracts that block Bruce from involvement in any business that competes with Sirtex for up to three years. He left the Sirtex board last August after a falling out but remains the company’s major shareholder. The Federal Court’s Justice French has reserved his decision on the intellectual property suit with UWA following a 50-day trial earlier this year.

Stunts and fall guys

Some of the political stunts of the election campaign were both breathtaking and perplexing. One that caught Medical Forum’s attention was Human Services Minister Sen. Chris Ellison and AMA President Rosanna Capolingua (rumoured to be headed for a Liberal party seat) stopping by a Lockridge practice to demonstrate the Medicare Easyclaim system. The flurry of positive PR that followed this stunt failed to mention that Easyclaim could only service 40% of that practice’s patients because it was not compatible with their bulk-billed patient records. Let’s hope they avoided embarrassment and found a private patient for the demonstration.

Chlamydia creeping

Marie Stopes International, the sexual and reproductive healthcare provider, is constructing a state-of-the-art sexual health centre in Midland. Given that STI notifications in WA have hit an all time high, the timing is good. According to Marie Stopes CEO Jill Michelson, 2006 Chlamydia notifications in WA were 5,906 but the organisation had already reported 5,252 notifications this year (to September).


The coalescence of Perth-based biotechs continues. Last month, C3 and Visiomed announced a merger. Now, Perth-based Phylogica has announced that C3 founder Fiona Wood would oversee the trials of a topical burns drug that it is developing. Phylogica claims that its product will move to human trials next year and may hasten healing and reduce scarring. Phylogica was spun out of Fiona Stanley’s Telethon institute. Like many biotechs, the share price has been on a rollercoaster from the low 20s to high 70s and back again.