The Health News – 24 May 2016

Overview:
• More than 1,100 men in New South Wales have signed up to trial a new HIV drug, which doctors have said may help dramatically decrease the number of infections. The Kirby Institute’s trial, which aims to recruit 3,700 men, involves participants taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), a drug which prevents HIV infection.

• Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has tried to clarify Health Minister Sussan Ley’s claims her push to lift the Government’s freeze on Medicare rebates is being blocked by departmental red tape. The Government announced in this month’s budget the indexation freeze would be extended until at least 2020, which doctors are warning will lead to less bulk billing.

• The Kidney Health Australia’s annual State of the Nation report said New South Wales has the highest rate of adults living with signs of chronic kidney disease in Australia. Kidney Health Australia CEO Anne Wilson said Australia had 1.7 million Australian adults living with signs of kidney failure.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  24th of May 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-23/hiv-drugs-truvada-trial-nsw-australia/7437932

More than 1,100 men in New South Wales have signed up to trial a new HIV drug, which doctors have said may help dramatically decrease the number of infections.

The Kirby Institute’s trial, which aims to recruit 3,700 men, involves participants taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP), a drug which prevents HIV infection.

In 2014, 70 per cent of HIV transmissions in Australia occurred between men who had sex with other men, according to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

PREP is yet to be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but the Therapeutic Goods Administration recently licensed one brand of the drug, Truvada.

Professor Sharon Lewin of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute said she hopes the NSW trial will help the drug become more accessible to Australians.

Professor Doherty said she hoped it may reduce the number of new infections from a thousand to very low numbers

“The big hope is [for] PBS, our funding body, to subsidise these drugs and that could have a very, very significant impact on the epidemic.

“If you were to buy it as an individual it would cost $800-1000 per month, however it is also possible to get these drugs in what we call generic form meaning that they’re made by a different manufacturer and those could be much cheaper, around $2 per day.”

Professor Lewin, who has no affiliation with Truvada but has received grants from Truvada’s maker, Gilead, to research Hepatitis B, said the drug will be cheaper when it goes off patent in a year or two.

She said cheaper versions of these drugs have already been imported by people who have bought them online.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-23/sussan-ley-supports-medicare-rebate-freeze-rollback/7436538

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has tried to clarify Health Minister Sussan Ley’s claims her push to lift the Government’s freeze on Medicare rebates is being blocked by departmental red tape.

The Government announced in this month’s budget the indexation freeze would be extended until at least 2020, which doctors are warning will lead to less bulk billing.

Ms Ley said this morning she wanted to lift the freeze but the Finance and Treasury departments were not “allowing” her to make the change.

Mr Turnbull said the indexation freeze would “end at some point” in the future and, despite doctors’ warnings, bulk billing rates were still high.

Labor has promised to unwind the freeze if elected.

Mr Turnbull said the Medicare rebate freeze would remain until the economy improved.

GPs have warned they could be forced to charge a larger gap to fee-paying patients, choose to bulk bill fewer patients or ask patients to return for further appointments for follow-ups.

Despite the freeze on the rebate, bulk billing rates have continued to grow and are at a high of 84 per cent.

Ms Ley said the cost to doctors would be reasonable.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said Ms Ley had indicated to doctors the freeze on Medicare rebates would be lifted in the budget.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-23/nsw-has-highest-rate-of-chronic-kidney-disease/7436170

New South Wales has the highest rate of adults living with signs of chronic kidney disease in Australia, a new report has found.

Kidney Health Australia’s annual State of the Nation report said the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions on the NSW south coast ranked number one on the list of worst-affected areas.

The report said 45,000 people or 19.5 per cent of the adult population in that area were living with signs of the disease.

Sydney’s Inner West was second on the list, with about 16.7 per cent of the area’s adult population showing signs of the chronic disease.

Kidney Health Australia CEO Anne Wilson said Australia had 1.7 million Australian adults living with signs of kidney failure.

“We have 60 Australians dying every day from kidney-related disease — that’s one person every 25 minutes,” she said.

Ms Wilson said the report’s results could help build a greater insight into the areas that needed the most education, awareness and health services.

Treatment of kidney disease is costs the nation more than $4 billion every year, according to the report.

The release of the report coincides with Kidney Health Week that begins today until May 28.