News in brief: Online resource hub for CAR-T therapy; Medical board raises registration fees; Funding crisis impacts donors for stem cells

Thursday, 16 Sep 2021

Online resource hub for CAR-T therapy

A dedicated medical education website provides Australian haematologists, oncologists and other medical professionals with the latest information on CAR-T therapy.

CAR-T Central hosts a range of resources including CAR-T fundamentals, clinical management and expert opinion articles and links to the latest research, clinical trials and international guidelines.

Chair of CAR-T Central’s Steering Committee Associate Professor Emily Blyth from Westmead Hospital said the site will support frontline clinicians’ education on the new CAR-T cell therapy treatments on offer and being created in Australia.

“The site provides access to unbiased and well-researched information and will support healthcare professionals to make decisions on appropriate referrals for CAR-T therapy for their patients. It’s also available for quick access for clinical staff who might have contact with patients through their treatment journey,” she said.

The CAR-T Central platform is sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb and Gilead.

Medical board raises registration fees

Registration fees for doctors are to increase by 3% this year, while many other regulated healthcare professions have seen their fees frozen or reduced.

The Medical Board of Australia has set registration fees for 2021–2022 at $835, which is says represents an increase limited to indexation at 3%.

However, national boards for other health professions have frozen annual registration fees, with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia has frozen its registration fees for 2021–2022 at $180.

Registration fees have also been frozen by boards regulating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health practitioners, Chinese Medicine practitioners, chiropractors, medical radiation practitioners and podiatrists. Some boards such as those regulating psychologists and paramedics have reduced registration fees by up to 10%.

Boards regulating pharmacy and physiotherapy, occupational therapists and optometrists have increased fees by 3%.

AHPRA Chief Executive Officer Martin Fletcher said the regulator recognised the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns may have had on some practitioners’ practice.

“We have put in place a registration and renewal fee payment plan for any practitioners who are experiencing financial hardship,’ he said.

Funding crisis impacts donors for stem cells

The future of live-saving stem cell transplants is looking grim amid acute COVID-19 disruptions and a funding crunch.

The Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry’s Strength to Give donor enrolment program was paused earlier this year due to lack of government funding.

As well, a program to recruit new donors to the registry through the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has failed to deliver the necessary numbers of local donors.

Patients were almost entirely dependent on overseas donors but the pandemic had also made that process more difficult.

Professor Jeff Szer, chair of the registry’s scientific expert committee, said freighted cryopreserved cells had now replaced the imported hand-couriered fresh cells used before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ensuing risk of delayed or damaged goods meant the registry could no longer confidently meet patient needs.

“A bone marrow transplant is one of the few elective emergencies that exists,” Professor Szer said. “When we know it needs to happen, we need to plan the treatment precisely around the transplant time.”

The registry needs about 100,000 new donors in the next five years which could be attained through Strength to Give at an estimated cost of only $13 million.

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