Research Australia opposes cuts to R&D Tax Incentive

In the May 2018 Budget the Government  proposed a series of changes to the R&D Tax Incentive which would further reduce the support it provides to private sector R&D activity. While advocacy by Research Australia and others has succeeded in having clinical trial expenditure by small companies exempted form the cuts, several of the other changes remain a concern. Research Australia’s submission to the Senate Inquiry on the new legislation has put the case for why the cuts should be rejected by the Senate.

Research Australia’s submission

No place for exaggeration in advertising medicines

The advertising of medicines in Australia is subject to strict controls. The new Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code, due to commence on 1 January 2019, emphasises the importance of truthfulness and accuracy in all claims made in advertising for medicines, and the need for advertising to support consumers’ informed decision making.

The TGA has developed draft guidance to assist with the interpretation of the new Code, and discusses ‘puffery’, a claim so exaggerated that no reasonable person could take it seriously. The Guidance suggests that puffery may be permissible in the advertising of medicines. Research Australia’s position is that this should not be the case. It is both inconsistent with the Code and the low levels and wide variability of health literacy in Australia.  Some vulnerable consumers can be misled and unduly influenced by exaggerated claims that would be dismissed by most consumers as unbelievable and just ‘marketing’. It is our position that puffery should not be permitted in the advertising of medicines.

Research Australia’s submission

Update: The TGA issued a final version of the Guidance on the Advertising Code (and an amended Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code) on 31 October. The new Guidance states ‘Puffery by its nature is not truthful. It is exaggerated, inaccurate and unsubstantiated and should not be used in advertisements for therapeutic goods.’ 

The Code and the Guidance are available from the TGA website.

Research to improve the safety and quality of Aged Care

Australians have been shocked by the recent revelations of abuse in our Aged Care System, and have welcomed the announcement of a Royal Commission.

Research Australia believes research can play a critical role in delivering safe, high quality aged care and has urged the Government to consider the role for research in developing the Terms of Reference.

Our submission to the Government, responding to the two specific questions posed in the electronic form, is available here.

Improving the My Health Records System

As a strong supporter of the My Health Records (MHR) System, Research Australia is keen to see it succeed. We believe it has benefits for individuals, improving the quality, timeliness and completeness of information about a patient that is available to treating health professionals. It also has benefits for the broader community, through improving the safety, quality and effectiveness of our health system and as an important resource for research.

Research Australia’s submission to the Inquiry into the MHR System has emphasised the need to ensure that the public retains confidence in the MHR, and has called for a sustained public information campaign. This campaign needs to acknowledge that individuals are being asked to provide the MHR system with their personal information, and give them balanced information about this risk; acknowledging that while steps are being taken to mitigate the risks there is no guarantee. The benefits of the MHR should also be presented both for the individual and for the broader community.

Research Australia’s submission

Improving My Health Records Privacy

The commencement of the Opt Out period for the My Health Records (MHR) in July led to heightened concerns about privacy, and in particular the ability of law enforcement agencies and other third parties to obtain access to an individual’s MHR without  a court order. The Government has introduced a Bill to amend the legislation and address this issue. Research Australia has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry considering the Bill. Research Australia supports the Bill and the need to ensure public confidence in the MHR.

Read Research Australia’s submission.  The Senate Committee’s Report was released on 12 October.

Research Australia proposes new MRFF Priorities

Research Australia has a made a comprehensive submission to the consultation on the new MRFF Priorities 2018-2020.

Working with our broad membership, Research Australia’s approach was to start with the Strategic Platforms and examine every Priority and all the existing and proposed funding programs.  We looked at how well they were aligned, where the gaps were, and what wasn’t working. Research Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution made by our members through discussions and the exchange of ideas and proposals.

Research Australia proposes that four Priorities be retained in their current form and that a further seven be retained but amended. We also propose five existing Priorities be discontinued and six new Priorities created. Research Australia’s response to the consultation is available here.

With the consultation period now completed, the next stage rests with the MRFF Advisory Board which is responsible for developing and issuing the next Priorities. We wish the Board well with this important task and look forward to seeing the new MRFF Priorities towards the end of 2018.

 

Improving Research Funding

Research Australia’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Research Funding has proposed a review across all funding agencies and government departments to eliminate unnecessary inconsistencies in application guidelines, processes and acquittal procedures. We also called for the development of a common approach to the calculation and payment of funding to cover the indirect costs of research.

Research Australia’s submission

Research for a Sustainable WA Health System

Research Australia has urged the Expert Panel responsible for undertaking WA’s Sustainable Health Review to give greater emphasis to the role health and medical research can play in creating a more sustainable health system for Western Australians.

While welcoming the identification by the Review Panel of the need to ‘Harness and support health and medical research, collaboration and innovation’ as one of the Interim Report’s 12 Directions, our response further elaborates the role for health and medical research in achieving the other 11 Directions identified by the Review Panel. We have used examples and case studies provided by our WA members to highlight the many ways that research is already helping reform WA’s health system, and the many opportunities to further leverage and expand this partnership for the benefit of the whole community.

Research Australia’s submission to the WA Sustainable Health Review

Prestigious Japan Prize won by Australian medical researcher

Australian Laureate Professor Jacques Miller has been jointly awarded the prestigious Japan Prize for research undertaken in the 1960s that established the basic concepts underlying modern immunology and led to the development of immunotherapies which have saved countless lives around the world.

Professor Miller undertook this research while working at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne, in collaboration with American researcher Professor Max D Cooper. The Japan Prize Foundation said the work of the two winners laid “the conceptual groundwork for our understanding of nearly all fields touched by immunology.”

‘Research Australia congratulates Professors Miller and Cooper on this very significant award, recognising the extraordinary contribution they have made to science and human health’ said Research Australia CEO Nadia Levin. ‘This award is further evidence of the long history of world class health and medical research undertaken in Australia, and the contribution it makes to better human health around the world.  It is also a reminder of the need for patience. New discoveries in basic research can take decades to make an impact in the community, but when they do the benefits can be immense’.

Professor Miller is also widely regarded as the last person to discover the function of a human organ, the Thymus, and is a previous recipient of the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London and the Prime Minister’s Science Prize (2003). Although he formally retired from WEHI in 1996 he continues to be actively involved in immunology research at the Institute.

Professor Miller becomes just the second Australian researcher to win the prize since it was first awarded in 1985, joining Professor Frank Fenner who won the award in 1988 for overseeing the eradication of smallpox.

The Japan Prize is awarded annually to scientists and engineers from around the world who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology, thereby furthering the cause of peace and prosperity of mankind. More information is available at http://www.japanprize.jp/en/index.html

 

My Health Records for research

With the My Health Record gaining wider acceptance, the Australian Government has commenced a consultation on how this data should be used in future for research and public health purposes. The challenge is to establish a Framework that adequately protects individuals’ identities without unnecessarily restricting who can access the data for research purposes, how they can use it, and the time it takes to get access.  This is the balance that Research Australia’s submission emphasises- datasets should be as available as possible to researchers, subject to adequately protecting individuals.

The consultation paper on the Framework ruled out the use of My Health Record data for commercial purposes, which is contrary to Government policy as outlined on the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement.  Another complication is that the Framework is being developed in advance of the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission Report on Data Availability, which has proposed a range of significant changes including creating a new National Data Custodian and allowing ‘trusted researchers’ to access identified data. Research Australia’s submission has emphasised the need for the Framework to be forward looking, so as to accommodate future developments is what is a fast moving policy area.

Research Australia’s submission