Blood cancers

Blood cancer rates | Generic prescribing | ASCO 2021 meeting

Rise in blood cancers is cause for concern: Leukaemia Foundation

Blood cancers combined are now the second most diagnosed cancers in Australia, and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, according to the Leukaemia Foundation. Newly appointed CEO Chris Tanti says there has been a 30% increase in incidence rates of blood cancer over the past decade, and the number of people living with blood cancers will put additional strain on clinical and support services over the next decade. “Last year alone, 17,321 people were diagnosed with a blood cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma, and we know that come 2035, more than twice as many Australians will be diagnosed with one annually,” said Mr Tanti, who takes up the role after being CEO of organisations such as National Disability Services and Headspace.

Generic prescribing now the rule

New PBS rules requires medicines to be prescribed by active ingredient name rather than by brand name, except for a few exemptions. From 1 February, the Active Ingredient Prescribing policy requires the inclusion of active ingredients on all PBS and RPBS prescriptions, except for handwritten prescriptions; paper based medication charts in the residential aged care sector; products containing four or more active ingredients; and certain items where brand names should be specified for safety or practicality reasons – such as EpiPens. The exempt items are listed on the List of Medicines for Brand Consideration. The Department of Health says prescribers can still prescribe medicines by brand if clinically necessary, and the brand name will appear after the active ingredient. A prescriber may also still choose to disallow brand substitution. The changes will be incorporated into prescribing software but this cannot be set to automatically include brand names for every prescription.

ASCO meeting cancelled for second year running

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has announced that its 2021 ASCO Annual Meeting will be an online-only experience because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting, which in the past has attracted thousands of oncologists and haematologists to its US venues will run in a virtual format from June 4-8, 2021. “We had hoped for a return to an in-person meeting as we all miss the opportunity to see and engage with our colleagues. While that will not be possible, due to continuing COVID-19 concerns, ASCO remains committed to delivering the latest groundbreaking science in oncology and timely information on clinical application and treatment,” it said.

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