News in brief: PBS cuts red tape for Authority script approvals; Australian oncologist is world’s top melanoma expert; Prisons fail to provide cancer treatment

PBS cuts red tape for Authority script approvals

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 oncologist 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.

Prisons fail to provide timely cancer treatment

Prisons have been advised to provide prisoners access to urgent cancer treatment after a coroner heard that a Victorian man with thyroid cancer spent months in agony because several appointments for surgery were cancelled by managers at the private prison in which he was incarcerated.

The Victorian coroner was told that a 57-year old man committed suicide at the GEO-run Fulham Correctional Centre after complaining to a prison nurse of being in pain and unable to swallow due to a swelling in his neck from a recurrence of thyroid cancer. Three appointments were made for him at the Thyroid Surgery Clinic at St Vincent’s Hospital but these were cancelled by GEO because the company could not organise transport for the patient over a six month period.

The inquest heard that the man became agitated and in tears when told his appointments for cancer surgery were cancelled, and he threatened to kill himself, but staff did not classify him as being at high risk of self harm.

The coroner recommended that Corrections Victoria update its procedures to give clinicians some input into medical transfer decisions for urgent priority cases. The coroner also suggested that prisons develop a warning flag system for prisoner records to highlight those with urgent medical needs.

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