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In Depth Articles

Look Before You Prick

March 08, 2017

Government health authorities have recently gone in to overdrive warning GPs of the contraindications for giving the new shingles vaccine, Zostavax.
The flurry of alerts follow the death of a patient here in Australia who was given the vaccine despite being immunocompromised.
This contraindication is not new however the authorities are obviously …

How fake drugs end up in our public health system (and how to spot them)

February 28, 2017

Prescribing and using pharmaceuticals is a matter of trust. Health service providers and patients need to know medicines are genuine. “Counterfeit” medicines that do not contain enough, or any, of the pharmacologically active ingredients are potentially harmful.
For example, you would not want to use medicines adulterated with brick dust, …

Delays and confusion cloud roll-out of new cervical cancer screening program

Australia’s new national cervical cancer screening program has had a bad week.
The government announced it would delay the May 1 roll-out of its new program until Dec 1, 2017. And a petition opposing the new program swept social media.
But it’s not all bad news. The delay gives the Standing Committee …

New study shows more time walking means less time in hospital

February 22, 2017

In my practice as a GP, I have been impressed by a few energetic and active 80 year olds who remain in good health while many their age have succumbed to various chronic diseases. So in 2005, when the University of Newcastle established a large community based health study of …

Imaging study confirms differences in ADHD brains

The prestigious journal The Lancet has published a large study identifying differences in the brains of people diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It found ADHD is associated with the delayed development of five brain regions, and should be considered a brain disorder. This is vindication for people experiencing ADHD whose …

We’ve all heard about postnatal depression, but what about antenatal depression?

February 15, 2017

We all know and hear a lot about postnatal depression, but what about depression and anxiety during pregnancy?
Over the past two decades, most research on mothers’ mental health has focused on the time after childbirth. Only recently has attention turned to the issue of maternal mental health during pregnancy.
Our study …

Can machines really tell us if we’re sick?

February 08, 2017

This week US scientists announced they have developed an algorithm, or a computerised tool, to identify skin cancers through analysis of photographs.
Rather than relying on human eyes, the new method scans a photo of a patch of skin to look for common and dangerous forms of skin cancer. The authors …

Ouch! The drugs don’t work for back pain, but here’s what does

How’s your back? About a quarter of Australia’s population experience a back pain episode at any point in time, and nearly all of us (around 85%) will have at least one lifetime experience with back pain.
But treating it seems very difficult. Backing up a 2015 study showing paracetamol is ineffective …

Destroying research embryos within 14 days limits chance of medical breakthroughs

February 01, 2017

Californian scientists recently grew the first human-pig embryos, and Japanese scientists say they’ve grown a replacement pancreas for a mouse inside a rat.
Scientists envision these grown organs herald a new era for drug testing and can help understand early human development. The developments pave the way for a future where …

The future of stem cells: tackling hype versus hope

For many people suffering from disabling conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal injury and paralysis, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, heart disease, renal failure and even cancer, announcements in the press around breakthroughs in stem cell research undoubtedly bring hope.
The challenge remains how to accurately communicate what is genuinely possible in …

Youngest in class twice as likely to take ADHD medication

January 25, 2017

New research has found the youngest children in West Australian primary school classes are twice as likely as their oldest classmates to receive medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the research analysed data for 311,384 WA schoolchildren, of whom 5,937 received at least …

Ten reasons some of us should cut back on alcohol

At this time of year, alcohol promotions, sales and consumption are prominent. Many of us enjoy celebrating a year ended, work and family gatherings, a holiday and a time to kick back and relax. But it can also be a time when we experience adverse consequences of our own or …