Cancer capital

While government tries to reign in PBS spending via GPs, oncology is one huge spend area we hear little about. This field of medicine is a pressure cooker of consumer demands, myriad clinical trials, pharma company lobbying, and doctors in the middle. Information is the key and reliable and current information about cancer clinical trials is going to be made available to all through www.australiancancertrials.gov.au, a national site by Cancer Australia.

HBF scorecard

HBF returned $876.6m in benefits to members (up 13%) while making a $124.3m profit during the 2010 financial year. Big factors were operating surpluses for its health, insurance and HealthGuard businesses and a recovery in investment performance from loss to profit. Investments total $765m at present. Medical Forum has noticed an influx from eastern states competitors; especially as a more mobile workforce bring other insurance providers into WA. HBF market share stands at 62%, when figures of 85% were not so far back. In 2009-10, HBF benefits were paid mainly for hospital treatment (up 12.6% to $653.5m) and ancillary services (up 7.2% to $223.1m). Premiums rose an average 4.95%. Interestingly, the hail storm on March 22 generated 16,700 claims worth $68m.

Vitamins stave off depression

Keep granddad or grannie on those multivitamins. A UWA study has found that people who have a stroke and who regularly take vitamins are less likely to develop depression. Prof Almeida at The Western Australian Centre for Health and Ageing said this was the first time researchers had armed clinicians with a way to reduce the risk. For those taking daily folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12, depression after stroke was halved. That’s not bad considering that one in three stroke survivors gets depression. However, one rider was that the protective effect of these vitamins was only apparent in those who had been taking them about 6 years or more.

Weigh up Eating Disorders

As childhood obesity and dieting come more under the spotlight, Mental Health Minister Graham Jacobs recently opened a new facility to house WA’s dedicated eating disorders program for children and adolescents at PMH. It will allow educational and therapeutic resources to come together within the 600m2 space comprising 12 therapy rooms and a large facility room for the outpatient day treatment program. This is aimed at reducing admissions. Physiotherapy, nutrition, psychology, nursing, education and occupational therapy services will use the space, while classroom facilities ensure that studies continue while kids receive treatment.

NPS-Consumer-(GP)

A Nov 10 general media release from the National Prescribing Service (NPS) says it is educating health professionals on acute back pain, that “in the absence of indicators of more serious problems, diagnostic imaging is usually not necessary”. That’s most cases of acute low back pain, it says. People have wrongly expected a scan or x-ray to diagnose the problem; 1 in 10 GP consults results in imaging (2008-09 figures); and 5% of these were for back pain. This could be needless imaging, exposing someone to unnecessary radiation. How do we know this? NPS clinical adviser, Dr Danielle Stowasser says so. NPS feels so strongly about this it will tell consumers how to manage their back pain at www.nps.org.au/managing_pain as part of a consumer campaign about over-the-counter analgesics in February 2011. Who is Dr Stowasser? – she’s a PhD pharmacist from Queensland who, according to NPS (May 2010), is also CEO of Charm Health, an IT company servicing hospitals, pharmacies and others with software tracking drug use. NPS is right now lobbying to extend its e-health auditing of drug use in hospitals and aged care facilities. The press release was taken up by various health websites the day it was released, such as www.medicalnewstoday.com. GP Dr Shiong Tan has just left the NPS board after six years there. NPS is now fully consumer focused with a name change to NPS: Better choices, Better health and ramped up consumer activities. GPs may question how NPS activities portray them to consumers.

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