Nurse Medicare rebates begin
A LANDMARK change in the health system starts this week, with Medicare paying benefits to eligible nurse practitioners and midwives for the first time, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The introduction of these rebates is one of the biggest reforms to be implemented by the Rudd-Gillard governments. Medicare benefits will range from $7.85 for a routine service to $47.90 for a longer consultation. Nurses and midwives will also be able to prescribe specific medicines that will attract Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidies in the same way as if prescribed by a doctor.

HRT research “scared” women
A LEADING Australian obstetrician/gynaecologist has warned that menopausal women frightened by links between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer are turning to unproven, expensive and possibly fatal alternatives, according to a report in Adelaide’s The Advertiser. Professor Alastair MacLennan, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Adelaide, said a study in JAMA had rehashed old statistics, was only applicable to a minority of women and ultimately was unnecessarily scaring women into using imported Chinese medicines that were five to six times more expensive and associated directly with four deaths.

Costly obesity schemes failed

MANY schemes to prevent childhood obesity have failed to make a significant dent in the girths of young Australians, a report by Productivity Commission researchers has found, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The report assessed 27 programs and said that while they may have had success encouraging healthier diets and exercise, ‘‘some of the interventions are very expensive, making it unlikely that their limited benefits outweigh the costs’’.

Skin cancer time bomb ticking
CANCER Council Australia has warned that the country’s health system will suffer if the prevalence of skin cancer does not decrease, according to ABC News. New research by the Council found more than 3 million Australians rarely use sun protection while outdoors during summer, and about 1700 Australians die each year from melanoma. More than a million GP visits a year related to the treatment and management of skin cancer.

Lungs’ bitter taste aids asthma
RESEARCHERS in the United States have found that the lungs carry receptors for bitter tastes, a discovery they say could transform asthma treatment, according to ABC News. The receptors are the same as those that cluster as taste-buds on the tongue, the researchers reported in Nature Medicine. They found stimulating these receptors in the lungs with bitter substances decreased airway obstruction.

Drug company settles complaints
THE drug company GlaxoSmithKline has agreed to pay $US750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company knowingly sold contaminated ointment and drugs, according to a report in the New York Times. GlaxoSmithKline sold 20 drugs with questionable safety made at a plant in Puerto Rico that for years was rife with contamination until its closure in 2009. Drugs affected  included Paxil, an antidepressant; Bactroban, an ointment; Avandia, a diabetes drug; Coreg, a heart drug; and Tagamet, an acid reflux drug.

Hormonal pets
VETERINARIANS in the United States have been reporting a strange phenomenon of spayed dogs and cats, even some puppies and kittens, suddenly becoming hormonal, according to a report in the New York Times. Female pets showed symptoms that resembled being on heat and male animals had swollen breast tissue and hair loss. The pets were all owned by women who used hormone creams on their hands, arms and legs to counter symptoms of menopause. Animals that licked or were cuddled by their owners, or rubbed against their legs, were being inadvertently exposed to doses of hormone drugs.

GP to repay $473,000
A GP has been ordered to repay $473 000 after an investigation showed he had cost Medicare nearly $600 000 in a single year for treating 2141 patients, The Australian reports. The case was reported in the annual report of the Professional Services Review. It said the doctor, identified only as Dr R, was found to have provided more services and generated more Medicare rebates than 99% of his GP colleagues, requested nearly 6000 pathology tests for 771 of his patients and was one of the highest users of care plans in Australia.

Teenagers send suicide alerts
SOME teenagers who suicide choose mobile phones and social networking sites to alert friends and family to their plans, presenting mental health experts with new challenges, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Last year 17 teenagers killed themselves, with five using a mobile to inform a friend of their intention to suicide, according to the NSW Child Death Review Team 2009 report. The team recommended that people be educated to “identify and respond to warning signs, tipping points and imminent risk factors” in light of the communication mediums used by children to inform peers of their intention to kill themselves.

Thalidomide victims to sue

FIVE Victorians who were born with deformities after their mother took thalidomide are suing the German drug company responsible for the drug, sold in Australia more than 50 years ago, ABC News reports. A writ to be served on Grunenthal claims it should have known the drug was not adequately tested and it should not have been marketed as “completely safe” for treating morning sickness when it went on sale in Australia between 1957 and 1961. All five complainants suffered birth deformities and have a reduced life expectancy after being exposed to the drug while in the womb.

Posted 1 November 2010

One thought on “Health headlines: our top ten

  1. Dr. Iain Esslemont says:

    HRT is usually a combination of an oestrogen and a synthetic progestogen. Oestrogens can stimulate cancer, and the least carcinogenic appears to be oestriol. Progesterone modifies the effects of oestrogen, however, synthetic progestogens also lower the natural progesterone levels in the system, and, in many ways, counteract the effects of progesterone. Perhaps some research should go into the combination of oestriol and natural progesterone.

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