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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

New MBS listing for neurological condition welcomed by clinicians and industry

Health Industry Hub | March 18, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The inclusion of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) treatment on the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) for Australians grappling with medication-refractory essential tremor has been welcomed by clinicians and industry alike.

Essential tremor, a chronic neurological condition impacting ~800,000 Australian adults, significantly impacts everyday life, affecting a person’s ability to eat, perform household activities and function in the workplace. The recommendation for funding Insightec’s MRgFUS technology by the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) two years ago was finally cemented in the 2023/24 Budget.

The announcement by Federal Health Minister Mark Butler MP will expand access to a non-invasive treatment option for up to 800,000 Australian adults with essential tremor.

Dr Benjamin Jonker, consultant neurosurgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, expressed his optimism, emphasising, “The MBS listing of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound treatment means specialists can now offer a non-invasive treatment option that minimises the impact on patients, with evidence suggesting it can be life-changing.”

He added “Direct opening of the skull [for deep brain stimulation (DBS)] was the only previous surgical option, and not all patients are eligible or willing to undergo that.”

MRgFUS, which combines magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound pulses, targets and heats specific areas of brain tissue responsible for tremors, offering a less invasive alternative to traditional surgical methods.

Christian Burden, Acting Director of The Hospital Research Foundation Group, Parkinson’s and Stroke, highlighted the broader ramifications of essential tremor, stating, “It affects personal relationships, professional aspirations, and overall quality of life.”

He added “The inclusion of this procedure on the MBS marks a crucial step towards ensuring equitable access to innovative healthcare solutions.”

Both procedures appear to be effective at significantly reducing tremor, tremor-related disability and improving quality of life, at least in short- to medium term (up to six years of follow-up for DBS and 5 years for MRgFUS) and the evidence suggests that the clinical effectiveness of MRgFUS is similar to DBS. Also, relative to DBS, MRgFUS has a different yet non-inferior safety profile.

Maurice Ferré, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Insightec, lauded the collaborative efforts with government and industry that led to this milestone.

“Insightec has been working closely with Getz Healthcare to help make its focused ultrasound technology available in Australia,” he stated.

Kimberly Hill, Managing Director of Getz Healthcare, Insightec’s local partner, echoed this sentiment, expressing delight at the decision’s potential to positively impact lives.

“As Insightec’s local partner, after years of collaboration with clinicians, government bodies, and patient advocacy groups, Getz Healthcare is thrilled with the favourable decision that will enhance accessibility to this technology,” she commented.

The technology is currently operational at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and Precision Brain, Spine & Pain in Melbourne, with expansion underway as a results of the new MBS listing.

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