The Health News – 7 May 2014

Overview

  • A childhood cancer expert says a 10-year-old girl would have had about a 60 percent chance of survival if she had undergone chemotherapy.
  • Drug companies in Australia are mounting a campaign to head off any changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in response to the Commission of Audit’s proposal to cap government spending on the scheme.
  • Many parents are not following safe sleep procedures for infants, according to research conducted at Yale University. The study, presented at the recent Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, surveyed data on nearly 400,000 infants.
  • A new study has found that the diet of mothers at the time that they conceive their babies has a lasting influence on the child’s DNA. In the study, conducted on 84 women in rural Gambia.

Tamar Stitt inquest: Cancer victim would have had 60pc chance of survival with chemo, doctor says
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-06/tamar-stitt-27would-have-had-60-per-cent-chance27-of-survival/5434398

A childhood cancer expert says a 10-year-old girl would have had about a 60 per cent chance of survival if she had undergone chemotherapy. Professor Stewart Kellie gave evidence at an inquest into the death of Tamar Stitt who died in 2009 after being diagnosed with liver cancer. She was flown out of Australia on the day the Supreme Court had been due to hear an application by doctors seeking an order she undergo medical treatment. Her parents rejected doctors’ advice for her to have surgery and chemotherapy, and instead took her to El Salvador where she underwent alternative therapies for two-and-a-half months receiving chemotherapy only two weeks before her death. While examining what caused Tamar’s death and whether it could have been prevented, Professor Kellie testified the treatment recommended by Tamar’s doctors in Perth had the best track record for treating childhood cancers. He said while he was not opposed to complementary therapies for cancer patients, he did not believe the wraps would have had any impact, either positive or negative, on Tamar’s condition further adding that alternative therapies should be used with conventional medical treatment and that Tamar’s chances of survival would have been better if she had received chemotherapy treatment in Australia. Constable Sharon Powell said Mr Stitt told her during a search of his house that he and his wife had cured Tamar of asthma at an early age, and they did not believe in the process of chemotherapy. Constable Powell said Mr Stitt also said he had been able to finally persuade his wife to let Tamar undergo chemotherapy in El Salvador, but it was too late. The hearing continues.

New Zealand experts back cap on Australian medicines spending
http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2014/s3998750.html

Simon Frazer reported this story

Drug companies in Australia are mounting a campaign to head off any changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in response to the Commission of Audit’s proposal to cap government spending on the scheme. The multibillion dollar government funded PBS subsidises the cost of scores of common prescription medicines. But while drug companies are issuing dire warnings about a cap, experts in New Zealand say the capped system there has been a success.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme costs Australian taxpayers around $9 billion a year, which is just under $400 per person. By comparison, the New Zealand government spends less than half that amount for each citizen. Jackie Cumming, a former government advisor who’s now a professor of health economics at the Victorian University of Wellington, is a supporter of the New Zealand PHARMAC system and says that  It’s a very successful policy being in effect since 1993, so it’s weathered the storm under a large number of different governments, both left and right governments. Last week’s Commission of Audit has recommended Australia adopt a similar system to cap medicine costs. Pfizer Australia’s managing director David Gallagher has issued a warning on the commission’s findings saying that “ A number of the changes are quite dramatic, and many may have very many unexpected consequences. So it’s important that they are considered very carefully prior to any being implemented or considering being implemented, and that maybe the Government should move slowly. Although PBS costs nearly $2 billion a year more than it did in 2009, Mr Gallagher says there’s no need for change.

Many Parents Not Following Safe Sleep Practices For Infants
http://www.rttnews.com/2314817/many-parents-not-following-safe-sleep-practices-for-infants.aspx?
by RTT Staff Writer

Many parents are not following safe sleep procedures for infants, according to research conducted at Yale University. The study, presented at the recent Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, surveyed data on nearly 400,000 infants, finding that as many as half aren’t put to sleep on their backs although it is a method proven to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Furthermore, 19 percent of mothers report sharing a bed with their baby – SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants between 1 month and 1 year of age, according to the CDC.

Diet Of Mother At Time Of Baby’s Conception Influences Baby’s DNA
http://www.rttnews.com/2311576/diet-of-mother-at-time-of-baby-s-conception-influences-baby-s-dna.aspx?
RTT Staff Writer

A new study has found that the diet of mothers at the time that they conceive their babies has a lasting influence on the child’s DNA. In the study, conducted on 84 women in rural Gambia, scientists compared the dietary differences of women who became pregnant during the dry and rainy seasons and examined the DNA of both the mothers and the babies. They found that mothers who ate more leafy greans (containing folate) and other important nutrients when they were in season and at the time of conception had an effect on the way the babies’ genes were expressed.  Senior study author Branwen Hennig, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, explained: “Our results represent the first demonstration in humans that a mother’s nutritional well-being at the time of conception can change how her child’s genes will be interpreted, with a lifelong impact.” The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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