Health Headlines: 5 Stories That Got Us Talking in October 2021
Welcome to our October edition of ‘Health Headlines: 5 Stories That Got Us Talking Last Month’. Each month we dissect five interesting health stories at home and around the globe that may have escaped your attention, sharing commentary and insights from across the industry to offer the Australian perspective.
Five stories that sparked our interest in October 2021:
- Australia strikes deal for new Covid pill that could be used in treatment by early 2022
- Melbourne biotech to make mRNA vaccine in Australia
- Roll out of new diabetes test
- Trials begin for first vaccine candidate to prevent triple-negative breast cancer
- Thousands of cancer cases undetected, adding pressure on health system
While vaccines have been a game-changer in reducing COVID-19 infection and preventing hospitalisation and death, antiviral treatments now arriving on the market could be the final piece of the puzzle for the pandemic.
Last month, Australia struck a supply deal with MSD for 300,000 courses of molnupiravir, an antiviral COVID drug that is in the final stages of its clinical trials.
Last month, Victorian chief health officer, Prof Brett Sutton, outlined there was “really good early evidence” that the antiviral drug “can reduce your risk of severe illness by half”, referring to the results of its phase three clinical trials.
Australia is projected to have access to the supply of molnupiravir by early 2022. If successful, it could have a hugely positive impact in preventing severe disease and keeping people out of hospital, which ultimately will become the key indicator of successful pandemic management.
Throughout the vaccine rollout, Australia has relied on supplies from abroad for mRNA vaccines, resulting in significant delays that hampered the vaccination program earlier in the year.
On-shore mRNA vaccine manufacturing capabilities will be a huge step forward for Australia, ensuring supply is less of an issue for future booster programs.
Scotland has become the first country in the world to introduce a revolutionary Type 1 diabetes test that has the ability to allow some patients to stop or reduce their insulin intake.
The simple blood test enables doctors to calculate a person’s insulin production based on C-peptide testing.
Diabetes and Endocrinology Consultant Professor Mark Strachan, pilot study lead, commented on the world-leading, life-transforming test.
“C-peptide helps diabetes specialists make a more accurate diagnosis of the cause of diabetes, and that means we can get people on the most appropriate treatment.
“In some instances, C-peptide testing allowed people to stop very long-standing insulin therapy; this can be life-transforming.”
In what is thought to be a world first, researchers in the US have begun human trials to test a vaccine that could prevent the most aggressive and rare form of breast cancer.
The vaccine will target triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), which up until now has only been preventable with a mastectomy.
If successful, next steps would include offering the vaccine to healthy people who are at high risk of breast cancer, including those with BRCA1 gene mutations, giving it potential to massively reduce TNBC, with the possibility of in time eliminating it altogether.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Victoria’s public health system has been under significant pressure and strain.
Managing the pandemic has meant other chronic diseases have been somewhat neglected.
Recent estimates from the Victorian Cancer Registry conclude that in total, almost 3,500 cancer diagnoses were missed between April 2020 and mid-August 2021. 50% of those missed being prostate cancer.
Dr Ines Rio, Melbourne GP and member of the COVID-19 Cancer Network, commented on the vast number of missed tests.
“A lot of these diagnoses are going to pop up in the next year and in some cases, there will be staged progression. In other words, their cases will be more advanced, they will need more treatment and more intervention. But that will involve a clogging up of the system when we were already having trouble with elective surgery waiting lists.”
Missed diagnoses of potentially fatal diseases, is precisely why last year London Agency joined over 35 healthcare peak bodies and organisations, in forming the Continuity of Care Collaboration. The campaign serves to stress the importance for people to continue monitoring their health status and conditions during the pandemic.
Check back in next month for our insights on the health stories that get us talking this November.