In This Issue

Med J Aust 2006; 184 (1): 2. || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2006.tb00083.x
Published online: 2 January 2006

Skin savvy

A national survey has revealed that overall rates of non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia have risen since 1985. There’s hope though, say Staples et al (→ Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia: the 2002 national survey and trends since 1985): these rates have stabilised for people under 60 years of age, who have been exposed to skin cancer prevention programs.

Speaking of prevention, did you know that shade structures often don’t offer much sun protection? Let’s opt for function over form, argue Turnbull and Parisi (→ Effective shade structures), concerned that guidelines for shade design and creation pay more attention to aesthetics and cost than to effectiveness.

On the topic of treatment, many “skin cancer clinics” have sprung up in Australia, staffed by non-specialist doctors from various backgrounds. Wilkinson et al (→ Skin cancer medicine in primary care: towards an agenda for quality health outcomes) point out that little is known about many such clinics, while training opportunities and quality assurance mechanisms for their medical staff are limited or completely absent. They discuss moves to train and advocate for doctors interested in this field, as well as the need for government, businesses and researchers to work together.

I’m a believer

Just over half the South Australian population used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in 2004. MacLennan et al (→ The continuing use of complementary and alternative medicine in South Australia: costs and beliefs in 2004) quizzed CAM users about therapies they sought, their reasons for doing so, and their sometimes mistaken beliefs on the testing of CAMs.

Rising Star

Announcing the dawning of a new era: a health services evidence collection to guide Australian health policy! In “A new EPOC in Australian health research”, Gruen et al explain how a satellite of the Cochrane Collaboration’s Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Group has joined forces with the National Institute of Clinical Studies to develop this important resource.

Generically speaking

In the event of a pandemic of avian influenza, our limited antiviral stockpile will be allocated according to a priority list. This Who’s Who of antiviral recipients isn’t publicly available — will it include the Health Minister, for instance? (It’s even been put to him that his rations could be decided daily based on his performance during a pandemic . . .) Antiviral supplies are limited as the patent owners currently hold an exclusive licence for manufacture. Lokuge et al (→ Pandemics, antiviral stockpiles and biosecurity in Australia: what about the generic option?) argue that our government should issue compulsory licences so that Australian generic manufacturers can produce antivirals locally or import them from generic producers.

Our inventors

What makes an invention a commercial success? Mattes and colleagues asked Australian inventors listed on medical patents about the final commercial outcomes of their inventions in the US, and the process of commercialisation. In “Predicting commercial success for Australian medical inventions patented in the United States: a cross sectional survey of Australian inventors”, they report predictors linked to new or improved products and production processes.

It’s showtime

As usual, we showcase the wit and insight of our readers in Matters Arising (→ Chronic kidney disease and automatic reporting of estimated glomerular filtration rate) and Letters to the Editor (→ Pethidine in emergency departments: promoting evidence-based prescribing), as they respond to previous articles on automatic reporting of estimated glomerular filtration (eGFR) rate, anorexia nervosa, pethidine in EDs, and treating early breast cancer.

Life beyond the wave

This time last year the world watched in disbelief as the death toll from the Indian Ocean tsunami climbed steadily to numbers that most of us could barely comprehend. Since then, Australia’s involvement with the stricken region has evolved from relief provision to rebuilding and ongoing partnership and support. The involvement of multiple agencies highlights the need for coordination. One Australian coordination body just getting off the ground is the Australian Health Alliance to Assist with Post-tsunami Reconstruction.

On (→ Challenges of post-tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka: health care aid and the Health Alliance), Komesaroff and Sundram describe how the Health Alliance was formed, its aims, recommendations and actions so far, particularly in Sri Lanka. White also spent time in a region that was indirectly but profoundly affected by the tsunami. His perspective on this (→ Post-tsunami relief in a small village in rural India) further illustrates the complexity of getting the rebuilding process “right”.

Artesunate for all

A recent international trial showed that artesunate was superior to quinine in treating severe malaria. Great news for South-East and southern Asia, where over 120 million people contract malaria yearly, say Anstey et al (→ Improving the availability of artesunate for treatment of severe malaria). But despite the drug’s attractive cost-benefit profile, there’s a hitch when it comes to using artesunate in Australia.

Another time ... another place

It has been estimated that consumers waste $500 million a year on medical quackery and another $500 million dollars annually on some “health foods” which have no beneficial effect . . . Unnecessary deaths, injuries, and financial loss . . . can be expected to continue until the law requires adequate testing for safety and efficacy of products and devices before they are made available to consumers.

John F Kennedy
Message to Congress on Problems of the Aged
21 February 1963



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