More power for Medicare watchdog
THE federal government is considering widening the powers of the Professional Services Review (PSR) to investigate possible rorts by corporate medical chains, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. It said the move follows evidence to a Senate committee that legislation prevented the watchdog from investigating the owners of medical chains who were suspected of directing their employee doctors to practise inappropriately. Earlier this year, the former director of the PSR, Dr Tony Webber, described Medicare as “dysfunctional” and called for widespread change in an article published in the MJA.

Current treatment for depression
STIMULATING the brain with a weak electrical current has been deemed a safe, effective treatment for depression that could have other knock-on advantages, according to research from the Black Dog Institute reported by The Conversation. Researchers said they now planned to trial the treatment — transcranial direct current stimulation — on people with bipolar disorder, as early results from overseas suggest it is just as effective in this group. The research was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Warning of drug shortages needed
MEDICAL experts warn that Australia faces increasing shortages of essential drugs, according to a report by the ABC’s Lateline program. An international supplier recently warned that the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin was in short supply. Three medical bodies, including the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia, have written to the Therapeutic Goods Administration asking for a new centralised approach to future drug shortages, including an early warning system, national notification of relevant health care practitioners and legislation to ensure the supply and equitable distribution of essential medicines. The TGA said provisions already existed to ensure continuity of supply and to warn of stock shortages.

Severe Alzheimer’s treatment
PEOPLE with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease who are treated with donepezil have cognitive benefits and functional benefits over 12 months, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine. Previous research had shown benefits for patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, but it was not known if the effects continue with progression to moderate to severe disease. The new research was reported by BBC News.

Heart drug quells racism
BETA-BLOCKER propranolol may make patients less racist according to a small study published in Psychopharmacology. Researchers found that 18 healthy white people given propranolol scored significantly lower on a test to determine subconscious racial attitudes compared with 18 people given placebo. The researchers said that, relative to placebo, propranolol significantly lowered heart rate and abolished implicit racial bias, without affecting the measure of explicit racial prejudice, suggesting that noradrenaline-related emotional mechanisms may mediate negative racial bias. It did not affect subjective mood. The research was reported by

Posted 12 March 2012

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