The Health News – 07 February 2014

Overview

  • Advocates and sufferers of progressive multiple sclerosis are lobbying for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to include a drug used to ease symptoms of the disease.
  • A South Australian medical training provider says a record number of registered doctors will this week start placements in the state’s regional areas.
  • In QLD, the Mount Isa Hospital has said a new lead-testing scheme in the mining city will see significant increases in the number of children tested.
  • In Italy, a month-long trial of a bionic hand has given researchers new hope in their aim to solve one of the most arduous challenges in prosthetics.

Health News on HPR.

Families ramp up campaign to have multiple sclerosis drug Fampyra listed on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – by Sarah Dingle
Advocates and sufferers of progressive multiple sclerosis are lobbying for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to include a drug used to ease symptoms of the disease. Limited mobility is common with MS, and the drug Fampyra, a potassium blocker, is designed to counteract this. There was an application made 2 years ago to include the drug on the PBS but it was rejected due to concerns of inconclusive clinical evidence and cost ineffectiveness. Fampyra is available in Australia outside of the scheme, but costs patients around $600 a month. MS Australia CEO Debra Cerasa says the organisation does not advocate individual drugs, but want patients to be able to access all available treatments. She said “Multiple sclerosis is very complex condition and diagnosis, and not one treatment fits all. Many people with the MS diagnosis have issues with mobility as their condition progresses, and this particular drug is a symptom-specific medication that works on their mobility and can enhance their mobility and the way that they can stay mobile longer.” A petition organised by Brenda Fisher, whose husband suffers from MS, will be tabled in the Victorian senate by Scott Ryan next week, ahead of the PBS Advisory Committee’s meeting next month.

Record number of registrars begin regional placements – no author listed
In South Australia, a record number of doctors will start regional placements next week.

Sturt Fleurieu GP Education and Training arranges placements for registrars in the southern areas of the state, including the Barossa, Riverland and south-east. CEO of the group Bruce Mugford says regional placements have climbed from 27, up from 18 last year. Dr Mugford says it is a good sign for regional communities. He said “Our registrars are of course doctors who are fully registered … they’ve entered the GP training program, so often patients won’t know that they’re seeing a doctor in training because they’re already quite senior. So … these are additional doctors to help provide services in the regional practices. We’ve had a regional general training practice program for over 10 years … we started off with three registrars in the Riverland back in the early 2000s, now we’re up to nine and yes we know we have got doctors staying and that’s the case throughout rural and regional South Australia.”

Mount Isa Hospital to boost kids’ lead testing – by Kate Stephens
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-07/mount-isa-hospital-to-boost-kids-lead-testing/5244790

In QLD, the Mount Isa Hospital has said a new lead-testing scheme in the mining city will see significant increases in the number of children tested. From March onwards, any child under 5 who receives a routine blood test at the hospital will also have lead levels checked.

Mt Isa Public Health Unit spokesman Dr Steven Donohue says that since 2010 only 400 children in the area have been tested, and that increasing testing is important.
He said “We’ve estimated, by looking through hospital records in previous years, by just making it a normal add-in when blood is available we would be testing another 200 or so children residents in Mount Isa. Often they are the higher-risk kids, those who are from poorer environments, Indigenous children known to have a higher risk.

We would like to change the process at the hospital so that among the standard or normal tests that are done we would routinely be offering lead testing, where appropriate, for under five if they haven’t had one. But that would obviously be something peopl  e could decline if they wanted to.”

Bionic hand breakthrough: Amputee can now feel shape, texture – no author listed

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-06/man-with-bionic-hand-can-now-feel-shape-and-texture/5242658

In Italy, a month-long trial of a bionic hand has given researchers new hope in their aim to solve one of the most arduous challenges in prosthetics. Until now, prosthetic hands have given no sensation to the user and were difficult to control. But this has changed with the trialled technology. Lead author of the study Silvestro Micera said “For the first time we were able to restore real-time sensory feeling in an amputee while he was controlling this sensorised hand.”

The study, led by Micera and Stanisa Raspopovic and colleagues at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lassaune and the BioRibotics institute in Pisa, astounded researchers with its results. By surgically attaching the bionic hand to nerves in the trial user’s upper arm, which hadn’t been used for over 9 years, the user was able to feel textures and shapes with the hand, and while blindfolded and wearing ear-plugs, was able to tell apart a baseball and a mandarin. The findings appear in American journal Science Translational Medicine.

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