Medicines contributing to healthier Australia: report

Medicines continue play a key role in keeping Australians healthier and living longer according to Australia’s Health 2012, published yesterday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Medicines Australia chief executive Dr Brendan Shaw said the report highlights the role medicines and vaccines play in saving lives and keeping people out of hospital.

“Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world and are living longer than ever before,” Dr Shaw said

“Continued innovation in treatments has contributed to increased cancer survival rates, lower mortality and hospitalisation due to heart disease, and higher quality of life and increased workforce participation for people living with conditions such as arthritis.”

The report indicates several key areas where medicines and vaccines are contributing significantly to improved health outcomes:

  • The chances of surviving cancer depend on many factors including the kinds of treatment available. The mortality rate for cancer has fallen 23 per cent for males and 17 per cent for females over the past two decades.
  • There was a 78 per cent fall in the death rate from heart disease from 1961 to 2009, with an estimated saving of 156,000 lives in 2009 alone. In 2008, more than 84 million prescriptions for medicines to treat heart disease were supplied to Australians.
  • Hospitalisations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for men aged 55 and over declined 20 per cent in the past decade. Medicines have played a role in improving quality of life and decreasing healthcare use in this disease area.
  • The management of musculoskeletal conditions is improving, partly due to the increased availability of disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS) that slow the progression of the disease.
  • Vaccines have had a dramatic influence on the rate of illness and death from a variety of infections.

Dr Brendan Shaw said despite the contribution of medicines to better health outcomes, Australians should not be complacent about future health challenges.

“The report noted increasing incidence of diseases and conditions such as obesity, diabetes and dementia”, Dr Shaw said. “These conditions will continue to provide a considerable challenge to the health system for years to come.”


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