Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cancer vaccine now on sale: "The world's first vaccine to protect against cancer goes on sale in Australia from today as federal health experts continue to assess an application from its makers to include it in the free national immunisation program for all girls. The inventor of the cervical cancer vaccine, Australian of the Year Ian Frazer, was due to attend launches today in Sydney and later Brisbane. He is expected to be honoured by the Beattie Government before injecting some of the first patients with the vaccine, called Gardasil. A third launch will be held in Melbourne later today. The vaccine will be available from pharmacies with a doctor's prescription. Pending a decision on government subsidies, patients will have to pay the full cost -- which, depending on the size of wholesale and pharmacy mark-ups, is likely to be between $150 and $155 for each of the three doses required, or $460 for the three-dose course. If the Government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee approves an application by the vaccine's makers to provide Gardasil free to schoolgirls, a nationwide immunisation program could be launched in February 2008. Professor Frazer became a national celebrity last year after trials published in The Lancet Oncology showed Gardasil attained a 100 per cent success rate in protecting young women against lesions and cervical warts caused by four strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV."

A local government jumps onto the obesity bandwagon: "Brisbane will bypass the State Government and seek federal funding to fight obesity. Lord Mayor Campbell Newman is spearheading a campaign by Australia's capital cities to combat the national epidemic. With 62 per cent of men and 45 per cent of women now overweight or obese, the capitals are seeking direct Commonwealth funding to run preventable community-based health programs, which would also target drug addiction, health research and childhood diseases. "I know the Federal Government is concerned about the costs of administering programs through the states," Cr Newman said. "A lot of money does go into administration, and we are offering the opportunity through these programs to very efficiently get money out there on the ground." In its submission to a federal health inquiry, the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors argues that capital cities are the Commonwealth's "logical partner" to provide preventative community health programs. "One of the focus areas is on addressing the main causes of preventable disease including poor nutrition and physical activity," it said".

The meningococcal peril: "Parents and health care workers must learn to quickly recognise the symptoms of meningococcal disease if more deaths are to be prevented, doctors warn. The plea comes after Sydney schoolgirl Brittany Pine almost died last month after her GP thought she had measles. In Brittany's case, her doctor advised the girl's mother Kristy to visit the Children's Hospital at Westmead, where emergency staff diagnosed rapidly advancing meningococcal septicemia. They treated the seven-year-old with intravenous antibiotics. Blacktown GP Michael Fasher said British data shows 50 per cent of children with meningococcal are misdiagnosed the first time they make contact with the health system. Dr Fasher said young doctors could confuse the initial rash for measles because the eradication of measles had been so successful, and many had never seen a case of measles. Parents also needed to know what symptoms to look out for as meningococcal disease could masquerade as influenza or gastro-like illness, he said. "The number one thing to look for is the progressive decrease in levels of consciousness." Brittany, from Maryong in Sydney, had missed a meningococcal C vaccination, provided free to children aged 1-19 until June next year."

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