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Health News

Promising results of new Alzheimer’s drug published – early diagnosis is key

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Promising results of new Alzheimer’s drug published – early diagnosis is key

Dementia Australia

Dementia Australia has welcomed the publication of the results of a trial showing that a new drug, donanemab, has been able to slow the progression of symptoms of early Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said this drug was an exciting new development and another step forward in expanding the number of treatments for dementia.

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“These results provide much needed hope for people who are developing symptoms, have mild cognitive impairment or who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” Ms McCabe said.

“With dementia the second leading cause of death of Australians, and the leading cause of death of Australian women, we welcome any steps taken towards improving the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers.

“This research also highlights the importance of early diagnosis so people can access treatment and support as soon as possible.

“We need to raise awareness and understanding of dementia to reduce discrimination and stigma so we can ensure people with concerns about their cognition are seeking information and support as early as possible.

“We know the earlier people access support and services the better their health, care and lifestyle outcomes.

“Donanemab will need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use in Australia. It also comes with possible side effects that need to be carefully monitored by health professionals.

“If this news raises any questions or concerns for anyone about their memory or changes in cognition, please do contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.”

The drug, developed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, works by inducing antibodies designed to attach to and remove amyloid plaques from the brain.

Chair of Dementia Curtin University and Dementia Australia Professor Blossom Stephan said the results of the trial were encouraging.

“The trial found that for participants with mild cognitive impairment and mild dementia, donanemab slowed cognitive decline by up to 35 per cent which is very promising,” Professor Stephan said.

“This research also highlights the need to ensure that healthcare services are equipped to deliver the intervention as well as make sure that access to treatment is equitable and available to everyone.”

Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Bill Yeates, who was diagnosed with younger-onset-dementia in 2019, said the results were remarkable.

“This demonstrates that it is possible to significantly slow down the rate of cognitive decline through the removal of amyloid beta (plaques) from the brain,” Mr Yeates said.

“For me it’s that ‘ray of hope’ that I believed would happen one day, where people living with dementia can have a future. One where you can lead a better life, one that you value.”

The results were published today in a leading international journal and presented the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Amsterdam.

Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia, and the more than 1.5 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.
For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au

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Budget 2024-25: Rural Health Equity Remains Unaddressed

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Budget 2024-25: Rural Health Equity Remains Unaddressed

 

Statement by the National Rural Health Alliance

The recent Federal Budget has missed a crucial opportunity to tackle the persistent healthcare disparities between rural and urban Australia, asserts the National Rural Health Alliance.

Nicole O’Reilly, Chairperson of the National Rural Health Alliance, expressed disappointment at the budget’s failure to meet expectations. She emphasised the government’s lack of responsiveness to rural voices and its failure to commit to comprehensive reforms that would deliver sustainable and long-term benefits for rural communities.

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The statistics paint a stark picture: Australians living farther from urban centres have lower life expectancies and are twice as likely to succumb to preventable illnesses. Rural men and women face significantly higher risks of dying from avoidable causes compared to their urban counterparts. Alarmingly, many rural residents lack access to primary healthcare services within a reasonable distance from their homes, leading to reduced utilisation of Medicare services and exacerbating the burden of disease in remote areas.

O’Reilly highlighted the evidence indicating a significant disparity in healthcare spending, with each person in rural and remote Australia missing out on nearly $850 per year in healthcare access, totalling an annual rural health underspend of $6.5 billion.

The National Rural Health Alliance welcomed certain budget measures, such as the support for rural training opportunities through initiatives like the Charles Darwin University Menzies Medical Program and additional funding for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. However, O’Reilly stressed that these efforts alone are insufficient to address the diverse healthcare needs across rural and remote Australia.

While acknowledging positive steps, O’Reilly emphasised the urgent need for more comprehensive and sustained commitments to ensure equitable healthcare outcomes for rural and remote Australians. She urged the government to prioritise rural health reform in future budget allocations to ensure that all communities receive the care and support they deserve.

 

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Health News

New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

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New research partnership to tackle hearing loss

 

An exciting new collaboration has been established between the Ear Science Institute Australia and the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), uniting Australia’s leading hearing researchers in a concerted effort to enhance treatments for the millions affected by hearing impairments.

National Acoustics Laboratories Director, Brent Edwards, emphasised the significance of the collaboration, stating, “This partnership harnesses the collective expertise of some of Australia’s most dedicated and forward-thinking hearing researchers, all committed to profoundly improving hearing healthcare globally.”

Hearing loss is among the world’s most prevalent health issues, with projections suggesting that by 2050 nearly 2.5 billion individuals will experience some form of hearing impairment. This partnership aims to foster substantial advancements in the quality of life for those affected by hearing loss, both in Australia and worldwide.

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By pooling their vast resources and data, both institutions are poised to transform hearing health care. The Ear Science Institute Australia, recognised globally as a for-purpose center of excellence, combines scientific research, medical innovation, and clinical practice to pioneer new treatments for ear and hearing conditions, ultimately striving to discover a cure for hearing loss.

Ear Science Institute’s CEO, Sandra Bellekom, commented on the future implications of the partnership, “Looking forward, this alliance with National Acoustic Laboratories opens new pathways for sharing knowledge, which will enhance the delivery of cutting-edge, personalised hearing solutions and expand access to superior hearing care for people around the world.”

 

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Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

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Introduction of New Clinical Care Standard by ACSQHC to Address Psychotropic Medicine Use in Cognitive Disability and Impairment

 

By Jeff Gibbs

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has today announced the launch of a pivotal new national standard aimed at enhancing the care for individuals with cognitive disabilities or impairments. The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard is a critical advancement in promoting safer and more effective treatment protocols across the healthcare spectrum.

Background and Rationale for the New Standard

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Recent decades have witnessed a 60% surge in the prescription of psychotropic medications across Australia. Despite a modest reduction in antipsychotic use among the elderly—prompted by heightened awareness of associated risks—the prescribing rates remain alarmingly high, particularly among vulnerable populations. Notably, older individuals and those residing in aged care facilities are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of these medications, including cognitive decline, heightened risk of falls, strokes, and mortality. Additionally, approximately one-third of individuals with intellectual disabilities are prescribed psychotropic drugs, exposing them to potentially severe short and long-term side effects.

Scope and Impact of the Standard

The new Standard seeks to mitigate the inappropriate utilisation of psychotropic medications and emphasises patient safety. It priorities non-pharmacological interventions as the foremost approach for managing challenging behaviours such as aggression and agitation. Psychotropic medications are advised as a last-resort measure, following the ineffectiveness of alternative strategies or in situations posing significant risk to the individual or others.

The Standard advocates for tailored non-medication strategies that respect the individual’s needs and preferences, developed in consultation with their family and other authorised caregivers. This approach underscores the commitment to upholding the dignity and autonomy of individuals with cognitive impairments.

Expert Insights and Support

Key health experts have endorsed the significance of this new Standard. Conjoint Associate Professor Carolyn Hullick, Chief Medical Officer at the Commission, stresses the necessity for mindful prescribing practices given the limited benefits and substantial risks associated with psychotropic medications in this demographic. Professor Julian Trollor from the University of New South Wales and Juanita Breen from the University of Tasmania also highlight the importance of objective-driven prescribing, continuous monitoring, and the potential to reduce medication dosages in favour of non-pharmacological alternatives.

Implementation Across Settings

The Standard is applicable universally across various healthcare settings, including hospitals, aged care facilities, and community services, ensuring that individuals with cognitive disabilities receive consistent and coordinated care irrespective of the setting.

Professor Eddy Strivens emphasises the need for coordinated efforts and effective communication, particularly during care transitions, to maintain continuity and efficacy of treatment plans and to support decision-making processes that honour patient autonomy.

Collaborative Efforts for Enhanced Care

In a collective endeavour to address these issues, the Commission has collaborated with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission to issue a Joint Statement against the misuse of psychotropics in managing behaviours in disabled and elderly populations.

Conclusion

The introduction of the Psychotropic Medicines in Cognitive Disability or Impairment Clinical Care Standard marks a significant step forward in improving the quality of care and safety for Australians with cognitive disabilities or impairments. It aligns with ongoing efforts to reform health care, aged care, and disability support systems across the nation.

The complete Standard and accompanying resources are available on the Commission’s website here.

 

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