Health round-up: Medicinal cannabis, gene therapy and Health Star Ratings

Richard Laycock 22 June 2017 NEWS

Female student standing in a hemp grow

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

ANU puts on medicinal cannabis workshop for doctors

In an Australian first, the Australian National University (ANU) will be conducting a workshop for Australian doctors about the use of medicinal cannabis on 22 June 2017, as no medical school in Australia currently offers training in this area.

Dr Caldicott from the ANU Medical School is coordinating the workshop not only to provide doctors with clarity about the use of medicinal cannabis, but to allay fears among doctors who believe that medicinal cannabis is the same as recreational marijuana.

It’s like saying heroin is the same as morphine. The aim of this workshop is to reduce the political argy bargy surrounding medicinal cannabis," said Dr Caldicott.

While some patients in Australia do take the drug legally, it is yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Genders split on gene therapy benefits

Almost twice as many Australian men see the benefits of gene therapy than their female counterparts, according to research from HCF.

The HCF Barometer Study, which looked at what Australians thought about altering specific DNA through gene therapy (among other things), found that of the 34% of Australians who thought that the benefits of gene therapy outweighed the possible risks, men (41%) were almost twice as likely to come down in the affirmative than women (26%).

Men were also more likely to see gene therapy as a viable means of correcting genetic defects in their children (47% vs 36%).

‘‘While it is exciting to see developments in medicine accelerating – including personalised medicine – it’s important that we also understand how Australians feel about these developments and how far we are willing to go to manage our health," said HCF chief strategy officer Sheena Jack.

Health Star Ratings could be coming to a fast food chain near you

Extending Health Star Ratings (HSR) could help Australian consumers make healthier food choices, according to Dr Elizabeth Dunford from The George Institute for Global Health.

Researchers from The George Institute and the Cancer Council NSW reviewed more than 1,500 products from 13 leading chains including Gloria Jean’s, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut to assess whether the Australian Government's food labelling could be deployed in this space.

The report found that fast foods scored an average HSR of 2.5. The top performing fast food chains, Oporto and Subway, scored an average rating of 3.4 across their menus.

Somewhat surprisingly, the worst performing chain was Gloria Jean's, which scored an average HSR of 2.0, followed by McCafé and Muffin Break, which scored an average 2.1 stars and 2.2 stars respectively.

Of the study, Dr Dunford said:

Exactly as for packaged foods, what we found is that even in the worst performing chains, there are healthier alternatives, and the HSR would make them identifiable at a glance if it was required on the menu board.”

What else is happening?

Public hospitals trying to attract private patients with gifts are undermining the sustainability of the health system, according to a report from Catholic Health Australia (CHA). The report found proof of inducements offered to patients that included gifts and holidays.

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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