Health round-up: Binge drinking, doctors fees and dust

Richard Laycock 9 November 2017

Group of young people in a club

A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

New drug to curb the effects of adolescent binge drinking

A new drug could have an effect on treatment for alcohol addiction in adults for those who binge drank in their teenage years, according to researchers from the University of Adelaide.

"Adolescence is a vulnerable time during the brain's development – and that's something most teenagers won't be thinking about when they start their schoolies celebrations this month," said PhD student in the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Pharmacology and lead author Jon Jacobsen in a statement.

Binge drinking as a teenager has been linked to dependence issues in later life but researchers from the University of Adelaide are hoping that results from a study on how alcohol affects mice could lead to improving treatment options for those with alcohol problems in adulthood.

"Even a small amount of alcohol during adolescence can alter the way mice respond to alcohol later on in life, suggesting any amount of alcohol is potentially detrimental to normal brain development," Jacobsen said.

However, (+)-Naltrexone (PLUS-NAL-TREX-OWN) a new drug being trialled at the University of Adelaide has the ability to block the immune receptor which would normally compel us to drink.

"The mice given this drug still sought out alcohol, but their level of drinking was greatly reduced," senior author Professor Mark Hutchinson said in a statement.

The research is one of the first-of-its-kind to show a link between the brain's immune system and how binge drinking in adolescence can influence an adult's attitude towards alcohol.

Doctors fees set to rise

The Australian Medical Association's (AMA) recommended consultation fee rose on 1 November 2017 from $78 to $79.

The increase reflects the growing costs faced by practitioners.

“Practice costs – such as wages for staff, rent, electricity, computers, continual professional development, accreditation, and indemnity insurance – have all increased, and must be met from the fees charged by the medical practitioner.

“Medical practices can’t absorb these increasing costs for five years in a row. They have to increase their fees – and without an increase in the Medicare rebate, patients will have to pay more out of their own pockets,” AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said in a statement.

These increases come after private health insurance premiums have continued to rise over the last decade.

Test for dangerous household dust

A new test will allow households around the world to find out if their homes are playing host to dangerous chemicals.

The programs, launched by environmental scientists at Macquarie University, allows people to use a vacuum to take a sample of the dust in their home.

The participants in the program need to register with the 360 Dust Analysis website and complete a two-minute survey. Once they have done so, they'll collect a dust sample and send it into the researchers at Macquarie University.

The first-of-its-kind program will hopefully help find traces of lead, chromium, copper, arsenic and zinc in indoor areas, which is especially important as we're spending more and more time inside.

“Due to widespread urbanisation, people now spend more of their time indoors, with some estimates indicating that individuals can spend up to 90% of their time in buildings these days, meaning they are mostly exposed to indoor air particulates as opposed to outdoor ones,” Professor Mark Taylor from Macquarie University said in a statement.


What else is happening?

Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) released its Operations of Private Health Insurers Annual Report 2016-17.

Spokesperson for industry peak body Private Healthcare Australia (PHA) Dr Rachel David said that the report shows that health funds are providing value for their customers.

“The APRA Report demonstrates that health funds are operating successfully and efficiently and the industry is in good shape," Dr David said.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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