News in brief: Pneumoconiosis risk may depend on coal chemistry; Lung cancer nurses to be funded by Labor; Covid curbs pharma sponsorship of doctor meetings

Pneumoconiosis risk may depend on coal chemistry

The toxicity of respirable coal mine dust for causing pneumoconiosis may depend on the chemical composition of the coal samples and especially the level of potassium oxide in the coal, Australian research shows.

A coal industry-funded study assessed the cytotoxic, inflammatory and pro-fibrotic responses of epithelial cells, macrophages and fibroblasts to 19 different samples of Australian coal dust obtained from different areas.

Researchers from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, University of Tasmania, found that the response varied considerably between coal samples, with a strong link between cytotoxicity and levels of K2O and inflammation [cytokine production] and levels of iron oxide ( Fe2O3).

“Taken together, our data highlight the potential for K2O to be a marker of coal mine dust potency in terms of the risk they pose for coal workers pneumoconiosis,” they said in Respirology.

Lung cancer nurses to be funded by Labor

The Labor Party win in the South Australian state election will mean a boost in funding for specialist lung cancer nurses.

In response to lobbying by the Lung Foundation of Australia, Labor leader Peter Malinauskas and Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton MP made an election commitment to invest $2.5 million over 4 years for specialist lung cancer nurses and a respiratory care nurse in South Australia.

“We are delighted that Labor has made this commitment in both jobs and health, as this will enable Lung Foundation Australia’s permanent presence in the state as part of our ongoing commitment to recruit 100 lung cancer nurses by 2025,” said Lung Foundation CEO Mark Brooke.

“Unfortunately, the Liberal Party did not make a similar commitment to lung cancer and respiratory care nurses,” he noted.

Covid curbs pharma sponsorship of doctor meetings

Pharmaceutical industry spending on hospitality for doctors attending medical education events fell by 40% during the pandemic, according to new figures released by industry lobby group Medicines Australia.

In its transparency report for the period 1 November 2020 to 30 April 2021 the total expenditure reported by companies on hospitality was $364,332, down from $594,474.

There were 721 medical education events sponsored during the six month period at a total costs of $5.96 million covered by the report, compared to spending of $5.63 million on 804 events in the same period a year previously.

The total hours of education supported by industry sponsorship declined from 6253 hours to 4934 hours.

The number of healthcare professional attendances at industry sponsored events fell from 165,455 to 148,810.

The pandemic forced most medical meetings to be transformed into virtual meetings and a recent pharmaceutical industry survey showed that most companies expected a significant level of virtual engagement with healthcare professionals to be maintained in future.

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