By Ben Potter – August 19, 2016
A pioneering maker of 3D printed skull and bone implants held up as a beacon of innovation by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the government’s actions don’t match its rhetoric and are blocking his company’s growth.
Melbourne neurosurgeon Paul d’Urso founded Anatomics 20 years ago to make customised 3D print cranial implants. With the advent of new, stronger materials such as powdered titanium Anatomics he has expanded the range to load bearing spinal, heel and ribcage implants, hips and shoulders.
The company now exports to 30 countries. It made a custom sternum and ribcage for a cancer patient in Salamanca, Spain, last year and created a heel implant to save the leg of a cancer patient. Its implants are distributed in Germany by B Braun.
But when it comes to getting a rebate from Australian private health funds, there’s a problem. Custom 3D printed implants are not regulated or listed on the federal government’s Prostheses list, which sets health fund reimbursement prices.
That means health funds aren’t obliged to reimburse patients who get custom implants, and surgeons like Mr D’Urso have to negotiate rebates case-by-case, a time-consuming process that can take eight weeks and a lot of paperwork as well as wear thin on patients. That tilts the playing field in favour off off-the-shelf imported implants made by US medical device giants, which are on the Prostheses List and qualify for automatic rebates.