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Health Bulletin 28 April 2021

Health Insights turns 200!

This 200th edition of Health Insights marks our Health Team’s commitment to our clients and contacts in the Health Sector over a number of years.

We have provided news and commentary on a vast array of significant developments, landmark court decisions and changes in government policy – from the Bacchus Marsh inquiry to COVID-19, the significant Gorton IVF Legislation Review to the Royal Commissions in aged care, mental health and disability.

Our Team have covered issues in government law, commercial law, and workplace relations and employment law. We have covered health policy, developments in research, legal challenges for health services and the occasional gossip!

We know from the feedback we have received that it is a valued source of information and advice.

Thank you for your continued support, as we continue to serve our Health Sector for another 200 editions!

Michael Gorton AM
Lead Principal, Health Law

In this edition: RACGP calls for quality assurance on imported vaping products, Changes to mental health laws in NSW, Victorian coroner recommends public drug testing services, $500,000 grant for research into ADHD and cardiometabolic disease treatment and Health warning issued for poisonous mushrooms. 

The latest insights from our Health Law team:

RACGP calls for quality assurance on imported vaping products

Changes to mental health laws in NSW

Victorian coroner recommends public drug testing services

$500,000 grant for research into ADHD and cardiometabolic disease treatment

Health warning issued for poisonous mushrooms

Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

If you'd like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's insights, please sign up here.


RACGP calls for quality assurance on imported vaping products

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called for consistent high standards and quality for liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes stating the ‘aim should be to support evidence-based use of these products and seek to ensure the products available in Australia meet standards for quality and safety.’

In its submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) the RACGP noted that the TGA not requiring nicotine vaporiser products imported into Australia to meet good manufacturing practice standards and provide a certificate of analysis was unacceptable.

Under Australia’s e-cigarette regulations, a prescription is required for nicotine-containing vaping products however there will be options for doctors to prescribe nicotine-containing e-cigarettes for people to fill through personal importation. Professor Zwar, Chair of RACGP’s Expert Advisory Group for the current smoking cessation guidelines, noted that there would be insufficient information for prescribers to determine product quality without the required assurances, running the risk of doctors shying away from prescribing them.

To read Rosanne Barrett’s article “Nicotine vaping products with no quality assurance ‘unacceptable’” on the RACG website, click here.

Changes to mental health laws in NSW

On 27 March 2021, the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 (Act) came into force in New South Wales. The Act has overhauled the forensic mental health laws in New South Wales to help boost community safety.

The Act advances several notable reforms including:
  1. Replacing the special verdict of not guilty by reason of mental illness with a special verdict of act proven but not criminally responsible;
  2. Providing a statutory test for whether a person is fit to be tried; and
  3. Providing for the treatment, care and detention of forensic patients and prisoners who have a mental illness or other condition that may be treated in a mental health facility.
In a statement, Attorney General Mark Speakman and Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor observed that the reforms are designed to provide better support for victims and drive down reoffending.

These reforms also support the NSW Government’s $8.5 million investment in the Specialist Victims Support Service which delivers crisis support, counselling, case management and advocacy to victims throughout the justice process.

Click here to read the NSW Government’s media release in respect of these reforms.


Victorian coroner recommends public drug testing services

Following the sad occurrence of five drug-related deaths of young men between 17-32 years old over a 7 month period, a Victorian coroner has called for the government to implement public drug testing services.

In each case, the young men believed they were ingesting MDMA and/or magic mushrooms, but instead received a combination of two ‘novel psychoactive substances’ (NPS). All of the men exhibited erratic and distressed behaviour, including hallucinations and paranoia. In her finding, the coroner has attributed this discrepancy in part to the unregulated market from which they are purchased. Because such substances are unregulated and ‘transient within the drug market’, it is difficult to understand the potency and effect of a drug, and its interaction with other drugs.

Dr Monica Barratt, Senior Research Fellow at RMIT University with expertise in drug harm reduction and NPS, recommends the following to reduce similar drug-related harm. First, a rapid-analysis public drug testing service, and second an early warning network to alert the public where there are dangerous drugs, including NPS, in the community.

The Coroners’ Court has provided a summary of the recommendation and its circumstances here. This page also contains links to the findings in relation to each of the five deaths.

$500,000 grant for research into ADHD and cardiometabolic disease treatment 

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has granted $500,000 to Scientia Associate Professor Helga Zoega of UNSW’s Centre for Big Data Research in Health. The grant will be used to fund research into the management of patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) and co-occuring cardiometabolic disease. The study hopes to improve quality of life, as well as clinical outcomes for adults with both ADHD and cardiometabolic disease.

Trends over the past decade have shown that there is a growing number of patients in Australia being treated with government-subsidised ADHD medication, including both adults and children. These trends have raised the concern that persons with co-occurring comorbidities, such as ADHD and cardiometabolic disease, may be being treated inappropriately.

The grant will form part of TIMESPAN – a collaboration between research teams and stakeholders in 11 European countries, the United States, Hong Kong and Australia. TIMESPAN seeks to achieve improvements in the clinical management of adult patients with ADHD and cardiometabolic disease, via large-scale studies conducted across the globe, involving differing health care systems and with input from various sectors including academia, industry and patient advocacy.
Scientia Associate Professor Zoega said “Our aim is to generate new knowledge of how medicines for these common conditions are used in practice, and the resultant benefits, harms and costs. Thereby, improving treatment and clinical outcomes for Australian patients dealing with ADHD and co-occurring cardiometabolic conditions.”

To read more about the grant and the research being undertaken, click here. To read more about TIMESPAN, click here.


Health warning issued for poisonous mushrooms

The Victorian Department of Health has issued a recent health advisory due to the increased number of poisonous mushrooms growing across the State. Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer advised that recent widespread rain and ideal growing conditions has resulted in significant amounts of poisonous mushrooms sprouting in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

The health advisory relates to two toxic mushrooms, the Death Cap fungus, Amanita phalloides and the Yellow Staining mushroom, Agaricus xanthodermus. Both types of mushrooms are toxic and require immediate medical attention, however the Death Cap is the most dangerous and can cause death within 48 hours following serious liver damage. 

The health advice for 2021 follows a dramatic increase in calls about potential mushroom poisoning in 2020. Last year, there were 426 calls to the Poisons Information Centre compared to 194 calls in 2019 and 200 calls in 2018. The increased number of calls is likely to be a result of the combination of weather conditions and the impact of coronavirus meaning more people were spending time outdoors foraging for mushrooms. 

To find out more, read the media release here and the health advisory here


Learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Health sector here.

If you'd like to stay up to date with Russell Kennedy's Insights, please sign up here.

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