Win for Grumble Guts

A UWA research project that uses acoustic sensing technology to detect gut disorders, and could replace the usual invasive colonoscopy method, has taken out a top honour in the state Innovator of the Year Awards. Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects 11% of the world’s population and the current method to diagnose it through a colonoscopy is time-consuming, invasive and costly. Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall and his team have developed an acoustic belt that listens, records and analyses gut noises linked to gut disorders for faster and more effective diagnosis. The award will allow the team to learn how to commercialise the invention as well as offer mentoring and advice on business development and finance.

Targeting youth mental health

The WA Government this month also announced a 12-bed specialist inpatient care for youths aged 16-24 based at the Bentley Hospital site. The new unit will treat vulnerable young people experiencing acute mental health problems and is open 24/7 all week offering assessment and treatment. The new East Metropolitan Youth Unit (EMyU) will include three beds for secure care. “Seventy-five per cent of mental health problems start before the age of 25 so if we can get in early and help young people by providing appropriate care, we have an opportunity to dramatically improve their mental health outcomes,” the minister said.

Headwest merges

It’s the sign of the times. Headwest, which was started by four families each with a child with an acquired brain injury back in 1980, is merging with the national NFP organisation, Synapse, as demand stretched the local group’s resources to breaking. Headwest chair Nick Lonie told Medical Forum that the merger would ensure WA families would continue to be served with some expansion of services. For West Australians impacted by brain injury. Synapse Acting CEO Adam Schickerling said the organisation had staff and services in place to provide locals immediate support.

Air pollution and autism

One Monash Uni study has linked exposure to air pollutants and increased autism among infant Chinese children. They found that Shanghai children, from birth to three years, had up to a 78% increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions and other sources of outdoor pollution. The study watched 124 ASD children along with 1240 unaffected children over nine years. Previous studies had made the prenatal-air-pollution and ASD connection in children; the authors surmised this was one environmental factor linked to genetic and other factors. In Australia, where there is no safe level of exposure, air pollution is calculated to cause about 3000 premature deaths a year.

Docs slammed for opioid stats

The Australian Accident Helpline said that despite a ban on over-the-counter sales of codeine in Australia (after February 2018), the abuse of opiate-derived drugs was not slowing down, with most fatalities coming from easily obtained pharmaceutical products. The helpline media release said there had been an upsurge in enquiries from callers critical of physicians turning a blind eye to the plight of relatives, who had either died or become dysfunctional due to the dependency and abuse of pharmaceutical products. How they initially became addicted is not mentioned. “These physicians are little better than drug pushers operating under the cloak of professional respectability to make a fast buck out of vulnerable people. It’s only a case of when, not if, a doctor in Australia gets hit with a huge personal injury claim,” it said. There were 2177 drug-related deaths in Australia in 2016, with those at highest risk males aged 35-39, then females 45-49 years.

Big business of research

The Association of Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI has 50 members with 19,000 employees) was involved with three consecutive media releases recently. The first on 8.5.18, soon after the federal budget, announced that the $2 billion set aside for the Medical Research Future Fund “secures Australia’s future as medical research leader.” It went on to outline the social, health, and economic benefits of researchers having access to these funds so they could innovate, become world leaders, and turn “new discoveries into the next generation of advanced patient treatments”. “Australian researchers are delivering excellent results,” said Prof Cunningham President of AAMRI said and “ we need to be capitalising on our research and commercialisation successes.” The second media release came nearly two weeks later, announcing that “Medical research held back by inefficient funding system”, and saying research grants only cover part of the full cost of doing research as “for every $1 spent on research, a further 54 cents of funds are needed for these indirect costs” (government currently provides 23 cents). The short-fall of 31 cents for every dollar spent on research was needed for things like IT services, data analysis and storage, running business development units, building services and utilities. The third release, on October 16, showed how “medical research has significantly boosted our country’s welfare, economy and future potential.” It said that for every dollar invested in medical research, we gain a $3.90 return to the economy.

Don’t PLAN on it

According to a press release from another CPD provider, “Planning, Learning And Need (PLAN) is no longer compulsory for GPs. RACGP found PLAN to be highly unpopular among GPs!” It went on to say how people could keep their PLAN CPD points and replace with Category 1 programs.

The Eyes Have It

The Australian Government will list $80m in eye medications through the PBS. These include (since November 1) steroids for retinal vein occlusion (3300 patients per year), eyeball injections of Lucentis® for choroidal neovascularization beyond wet AMD (1200 patients a year). The Government subsides close to $10 billion worth of new medicines – one new PBS listing every day after recommendation by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).


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