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Keeping up with COVID-19 It’s not easy for a refereed weekly print periodical to keep up with an epidemic that evolves on a daily basis, but the NEJM is doing its best and all articles are free on-line. Most interesting beyond the description of the initial cluster in Wuhan are: (1) the first US case was quite severe and the patient received the antiviral remdesivir (was in development by Gilead for Ebola, but showing activity against coronaviruses) – it is now in testing in China; (2) the rigorous documentation of disease transmission by an asymptomatic individual to another in Germany… Read More

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The loneliness of the patent-less drug Colchicine is a very old drug commonly used in gout with an anti-inflammatory mechanism of action that is not well defined. It is a generic (although in the US, the story is somewhat peculiar) and therefore incentives are lacking for further development in new indications by private companies. Given a well-established (but not well-understood) connection between inflammation and cardiovascular events, some researchers have hypothesized and explored potential utility in patients with high cardiovascular risk – but this would have to be validated by a robust, large, expensive, randomized-controlled trial. Thanks to the Canadian… Read More

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A triumph for cystic fibrosis patients (and for Vertex) Phase 3 confirmation that the benefits seen in early trials from triple-combination therapy of elexacaftor, tezacaftor, and ivacaftor, are sustained and applicable to 90% of the cystic fibrosis patients.  Every metric is unambiguously better: sweat chloride concentration, forced expiration volume (FEV1), respiratory symptom questionnaire, pulmonary exacerbations (down 60%), hospitalizations (down 70%). If anything, with 400 subjects, the study was probably overpowered by at least a factor of 4 to show effect.  It is great news for CF patients most of whom are likely to live a quasi-normal life if they… Read More

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Genomic applications and scalability Two very different papers about applications of genomics, one for a very common clinical scenario, the other for an ultra-rare disease. It is well known that while clopidogrel (now available as a generic but branded as Plavix) is an excellent antiplatelet agent for a majority of patients, it works poorly in some due to individual genetic idiosyncrasies of cytochrome driven drug metabolism. Since then, other agents (tigracrelor AKA Brilinta, prasugrel AKA Effient) with a similar mechanism of action but more consistent metabolism have come on market, but they are very expensive. Given that we can now… Read More

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Best care vs. good care In wealthy countries, the recommended standard of care can often lead to complex medication regimens requiring frequent follow-ups: this can be very challenging for people who though they live in wealthy countries but are poor themselves. In developing countries, efforts have been made to prioritize simplicity and population level impact through one-size fits all polypill interventions, but that has not been tested in the US. Here the authors report on a randomized study including 303 individuals living in poverty and at risk for cardiovascular disease. The active arm was provided with a daily polypill combining… Read More

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Is the lack of new (non-viral) antibiotics a market failure? A lament about the lack of success in getting the biopharma industry to invest sustainably in the development of new antibiotics against highly-resistant organisms, and a recommendation “it is time to seriously consider the establishment of nonprofit organizations for developing these lifesavings drugs”.  Let’s be clear; the reason economic viability of this therapeutic area is problematic is due to three confluent factors: (1) treatment is curative – i.e. does not provide recurrent revenues (2) the targeted population is small (3) unmet need is unpredictable. On its face, the risk-reward… Read More

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Huntington’s disease: light at the end of the tunnel? The awful thing about Huntington’s is that in most cases, people know they are going progressively lose their mind at an early age, but there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.  Recently there has been tremendous excitement around suppressing toxic huntingtin production in the brain by using antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) administered intrathecally (i.e. in the cerebrospinal fluid through the spine). Two ASOs are in full blown clinical testing: HTTRx (Ionis and Roche) which does not discriminate between mutant and normal huntingtin, and WVE-120101/2 (Wave Therapeutics and Takeda) which… Read More

Posted by on in Population Health, Providers

A clinical vignette: the cases of Jane and Joe Imagine if you will two individuals both at age 50. Jane is a project manager whose recent health care has focused on managing menopausal symptoms, a knee injury sustained while skiing, and moderate episodic depression, with a medication list of one chronic medication, and one medication as needed.  Joe is a bus driver whose recent health care has focused on managing Type II diabetes, hypertension, and low back pain, with a regimen of 4 chronic medications, and 2 medications as needed.  Jane is highly informed and engaged in her care. Read More

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TAVR for all? TAVR has become the standard of care for patients who need an aortic value replacement but are at high/medium surgical risk.  But what about those at low-risk? Two studies answer that question, one with the Edwards device and the other with Medtronics. Both show that TAVR is superior along a number of end-points (stroke, hospitalization duration, atrial fibrillation) both at 30 days and at 1-2 year. Long-term outcomes remain a question though. Low-risk patients are younger (mean age 73-74) and will live with their valves longer, which means that in contrast with the mechanical valves that can… Read More

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He’s dead, Jim As previously widely advertised, the BACE-1 inhibitor verubecestat (Merck) (and in journal correspondence atabecestat, Janssen) has now failed in a population with very early signs of cognitive impairment (this after a failure of those agents in mild-moderate Alzheimer’s). Target engagement clearly occurred with a decline of the amyloid detected through PET imaging in the treatment arms and an increase in the placebo arm. However, if anything, cognition declined more in the treatment arm than in the placebo arm after 2 years on study. A silver lining is that the study does show the feasibility to execute… Read More