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Monday, 23 June 2014
Page: 152


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (13:24): I thank the member for Shortland for her delay tactics! I would also like to thank the member for Shortland both for the motion and for her graciousness in the chamber today.

Lipoedema is a condition that is little known about and there is limited information available on the cause and prevalence in Australia. Lipoedema is a chronic condition where an abnormal buildup of fat cells occurs in the legs, thighs and buttocks. It is not limited to a person's weight and it affects people from all ranges and all ages, most commonly in females. The cause of lipoedema is not known but evidence suggests that it occurs almost exclusively in women and may be linked to a family history of the condition. Given that the symptoms usually start in puberty or with pregnancy, it is thought that hormones have a large influence on the condition. Lipoedema does not discriminate across weight ranges. While the accumulation of fat tends to be worse in people who are obese, it also affects people who are in the normal weight range. While diet might help to control the secondary symptoms, such as pain and disability, it does not make any difference to the progression of the disease.

As I said, lipoedema is a condition not widely known about. There is limited information available about the prevalence in Australia. It does not appear to be broadly recognised as a chronic condition. For example, it is not included in any of the Australian medical textbooks or training. Therefore it is not always possible to substantiate the prevalence in 5-15 per cent of the population. I know that Ms Hall has tried to provide those but it is difficult for the department to estimate if this is an underdiagnosed disorder, as always when you do not have the accurate prevalence figures. On that basis currently lipoedema is not a research priority area for the government. National funding to manage chronic disease conditions such as lipoedema is provided through programs such as Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which support access to care and medicines. Support is available through Medicare for general practice and specialist medical services that may be used to treat lipoedema. In addition there is support for people with a chronic condition and complex care needs that are being managed by their GP under GP management plan and team care arrangements.

For the secondary conditions such as the pain that results from lipoedema, treatment is available from a range of pharmaceuticals subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. In 2012-13 the federal government spent more than $340 million under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on analgesic medicines to alleviate pain. The government also made significant investments into pain and pain management research, with more than $97.4 million allocated through the NHMRC since 2003.

The Abbott government appreciates the challenges in daily living faced by many of the individuals and families affected by chronic conditions and chronic pain. The government addresses chronic conditions and chronic pain through a broad range of programs and initiatives through Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the National Palliative Care Program, the National Prescribing Service and the National Health and Medical Research Council. A review was published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2009 which indicated that lipoedema may not be a rare condition in the United Kingdom but without early diagnosis and appropriate management the condition can be associated with considerable morbidity. Management strategies, including patient education, weight control and surgical procedures such as debulking procedures or liposuction, can be used.

Prior to any consideration of public awareness campaigns or the provision of additional services, a similar review of the condition in Australia would be appropriate to determine how it should be recognised. There is a real need to change the status quo, and that is why from January 2015 the largest medical research will be provided which will benefit all Australians by harnessing the capacity of our researchers and bolster Australia's reputation as a world leader in development of new medicines and technology. The government has made a huge commitment to medical research and medical research will be a key knowledge-based industry for the 21st century and hopefully it will find a cure to this condition.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Griggs ): The time allotted to this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Sitting suspended from 13:29 to 16 : 03