News in brief: Snail mail phased out for Written Authority PBS listings; Australian clinician is world’s top melanoma expert; Vitamin D does not prevent keratinocyte cancer

Tuesday, 12 Jul 2022

Snail mail phased out for Written Authority PBS listings

The PBS approval system is being simplified to allow prescribers to obtain immediate approval for Authority Required (Written) prescriptions online without having to submit paperwork by post to Services Australia for assessment.

Starting from 1 July, prescribers will be to apply digitally for authority approval to prescribe certain PBS listed medicines using Services Australia’s Online PBS Authorities (OPA) System.

Authority requests will be assessed via questions within the OPA system via HPOS in real time, allowing prescribers to obtain immediate authority approval (following confirmation of eligibility), without having to submit physical copies of forms, prescriptions and test results.

“This same channel is already in use for medicines that have Authority Required (telephone) PBS listings and these changes are intended to reduce the administrative burden for prescribers and allow patients to have faster access to their medicines,” the Department of Health said.

However it cautioned that the changes would be phased in gradually as not all PBS medicine listings could be updated at the same time. A list of cancer medicines for which PBS changes has been published by Services Australia.

Prescribers will still be able to submit applications for authority to prescribe via Australia Post or upload documents in HPOS if they choose to do so.

Australian clinician is world’s top melanoma expert

Melanoma Institute Australia co-medical director Professor Georgina Long has been named the world’s top expert in melanoma based on the volume and quality of her research over the past decade.

The recognition by global medical directory Expertscape comes after the researcher was listed as an author on 367 melanoma-related journal articles between 2012 and 2022.

The institute’s other co-medical director Professor Richard Scolyer and its former executive director Professor John Thompson are also in the world’s top 10, according to Expertscape’s latest update.

Other Australians to rank near the top include Associate Professor Alex Menzies, Associate Professor Matteo Carlino, Professor Grant McArthur, and Professor Richard Kefford.

Professor Scolyer welcomed the listing.

“Professor Long has for the last decade been at the forefront of global clinical trials of new treatments for melanoma, including immunotherapies, which have transformed the melanoma treatment landscape and saved lives, and which are now extending to also benefit other cancers,” he said.

“Her dedication, her expertise, her ground-breaking research, and her clinical care are second to none, and many patients are alive today because of her brilliance.”

Exactly how Expertspace develops its rankings is unclear, although it says the formula is “100% objective” and only includes papers listed in the PubMed database, with each article scored on recency, type, journal prestige. Author order is also ranked.

Vitamin D does not prevent keratinocyte cancer

Vitamin D supplementation does not reduce the incidence of keratinocyte cancer  among older Australians, a study has found.

Data from a randomised controlled trial of vitamin D supplementation (60,000 IU monthly for five years) involving more than 20,000 Australians aged over 60 years of age found no evidence of a protective effect against histologically confirmed keratinocyte cancers.

Researchers from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, found that vitamin D supplementation did not reduce the incidence of keratinocyte cancers lesions treated by excision, the incidence of actinic lesions treated using cryotherapy or serial curettage, or time to first histologically confirmed keratinocyte cancers excision.

The study also found that in adults aged over 70 years of age vitamin D supplementation  was associated with a 13% increased relative risk of keratinocyte cancers excisions.

The findings are published in the British Journal of Dermatology

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