No, Drinking Coffee Won’t Save Your Life Or Prevent Heart Attacks Reply

Once again the media has swallowed the bait hook, line, and sinker. Following the publication of a  a new study in the journal Heart last night, hundreds of news reports have now appeared extolling the miraculous benefits of coffee. Here’s just one typical headline from the Los Angeles Times: “Another reason to drink coffee: It’s good for your heart, study says.”

But a careful look at the study and previous research on coffee makes clear that this type of reporting is completely unwarranted….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

 

New York City Ebola Doctor Slams Media And Governors Christie And Cuomo Reply

The response in the US to the Ebola crisis last year brought out the worst in the media and our politicians. By comparison, our response to the recent measles crisis– by no means a model for public health communication– had the sophistication and intelligence of a debate at the Oxford Union.

One of the chief victims of the hysteria was Craig Spencer, a New York City emergency room physician who caught Ebola while volunteering in Africa. When he first developed Ebola symptoms after his return to New York City he went straight to the hospital, where he eventually recovered after a harrowing illness. No one– neither his fiancee nor any of the people he interacted with in the days and hours before developing symptoms– caught Ebola from him. Every public health expert said that his behavior was exemplary.

But, as we all know, he did not receive praise in the media, or by the governors of New York and New Jersey. Instead, along with other healthcare workers who heroically went to Africa to help fight the epidemic, he was denigrated and condemned.

Now, months later, Spencer has presented his perspective on these events in an article in the New England Journal of MedicineWe should pay attention to his words. Here are a few excerpts, but by all means click over to NEJM and read the whole thing.

I understand the fear that gripped the country after I fell ill, because I felt it on a personal level. People fear the unknown, and fear in measured doses can be therapeutic and inform rational responses, but in excess, it fosters poor decision making that can be harmful. After my diagnosis, the media and politicians could have educated the public about Ebola. Instead, they spent hours retracing my steps through New York and debating whether Ebola can be transmitted through a bowling ball. Little attention was devoted to the fact that the science of disease transmission and the experience in previous Ebola outbreaks suggested that it was nearly impossible for me to have transmitted the virus before I had a fever. The media… fabricated stories about my personal life and the threat I posed to public health, abdicating their responsibility for informing public opinion and influencing public policy.

Meanwhile, politicians, caught up in the election season, took advantage of the panic to try to appear presidential instead of supporting a sound, science-based public health response. The governors of New York and New Jersey, followed by others, enacted strict home quarantine rules without sufficiently considering the unintended side effects…. At times of threat to our public health, we need one pragmatic response, not 50 viewpoints that shift with the proximity of the next election….

Instead of being welcomed as respected humanitarians, my US colleges who have returned home from battling Ebola have been treated as pariahs….

When we look back on this epidemic, I hope we’ll recognize that fear caused our initial hesitance to respond– and caused us to respond poorly when we finally did. I know how real the fear of Ebola is, but we need to overcome it. We all lose when we allow irrational fear, fueled in part by prime-time ratings and political expediency, to supersede pragmatic public health preparedness.

 

 

Medtronic And Boston Scientific Plan To Resume Blood Pressure Trials This Year Reply

Medtronic and Boston Scientific have announced plans to start phase 2 clinical trials this year for their updated renal denervation catheters. The once promising new technology is intended to treat hypertension unresponsive to drug therapy. The failure last year of Medtronic’s Symplicity HTN-3, the first large pivotal trial to rigorously test renal denervation, sent manufacturers back to their drawing boards to redesign the devices.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

No, The New Cholesterol Drugs From Sanofi And Amgen Aren’t Going To Cost $150 Billion A Year Reply

In an article on the Health Affairs blog 4 CVS executives speculate that the new cholesterol lowering PCSK9 inhibitors from Amgen and Sanofi might achieve yearly sales of $150 billion or even higher. I think these numbers are a bit silly. But first let’s take a look at their extremely bullish case….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Amgen Door Hanger

More Guideline Controversy: The Tricky Business Of Calculating Cardiovascular Risk Reply

Calculating cardiovascular risk has become a central and highly controversial component of cardiovascular guidelines. Now a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that most of the commonly employed tools seriously overestimate the risk of people today.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Very Simple High-Fiber Diet Stands Up To American Heart Association Diet Reply

Diets notoriously fail to help people lose a lot of weight. One problem is that most diets include a broad range of restrictions and guidelines that many people find difficult to follow. Another problem is that negative recommendations may have unintended consequences, such as low-fat recommendations leading to increased consumption of refined carbohydrates. Now a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that a radically simple diet containing only one positive rule — eat more fiber — might be nearly as effective and much easier to swallow than a more traditional complex diet.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

New US Guidelines Will Lift Limits On Dietary Cholesterol Reply

The influential  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that limitations on dietary cholesterol be removed from the upcoming 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations to reduce dietary cholesterol have been a mainstay of the USDA and other guidelines for many years, starting with guidelines from the American Heart Association in the 1960s.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

No, Too Much Jogging Probably Won’t Kill You 1

One again lazy health journalists have fallen down on the job and performed a disservice to the public. The new outrage: a multitude of media reports about a small study on the effect of jogging on mortality. Here are just a few headlines, published minutes after the study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology:

But a careful reading of the paper shows that this small study provides nowhere near enough evidence to support these headlines.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

jacc_ci_021015_schnohr

FDA Approves New Heart Pump From Abiomed Reply

Abiomed has announced that it received FDA approval for its Impella RP System, the first percutaneous single access heart pump that provides support to the right side of the heart. The approval, under a Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE), is based on results of the single arm Recover Right study, in which 30 patients were enrolled. The overall survival rate was 73% at 30 days.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Califf To Leave Duke To Become FDA Deputy Commissioner Reply

The FDA announced today that Duke University cardiologist Robert Califf will be the next FDA Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco. The agency said that Califf will be responsible for the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, the Center for Devices and Radiological Health and the Center for Tobacco Products.”

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Salt, Science, And The American Heart Association’s Double Standard Reply

Once again the American Heart Association is sticking by its recommendation that pretty much everyone should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. This is dramatically lower than the 3,500 mg/d the average American now consumes. In a blog post reprinted on MedPage Today the president of the American Heart Association,  Elliott Antman, assails a study published earlier this week which found no benefits– and even a hint of harm–  for elderly people with low sodium consumption.

But Antman only tells one side of the story.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Why Doctors, Like Airline Pilots, Should Not Be Completely Trusted.  Reply

I would never get on an airplane if I didn’t feel highly confident that the pilot was fully competent. In order to fly a commercial airplane a pilot has to  undergo rigorous and continuous training and testing. I’d walk before flying with a pilot whose only credential was his assurance that he’d been diligently “keeping up with his field” and that he was extremely confident in his abilities. I’m glad to know that the FAA and the airlines have extremely demanding programs to ensure the competency of pilots.

I would trust 99% of pilots to remain competent on their own. But when it comes to flying 99%” isn’t good enough. We need to know, within the bounds of what is reasonable, that all pilots are competent. Unfortunately, because of the few bad ones, the remaining 99% have to undergo all the rigorous training and tests.

Doctors are like pilots: what they do is far too important to let them individually decide for themselves whether they are competent, or how they should demonstrate their competency. Just because the vast majority of pilots and doctors are competent doesn’t mean that we should loosen our standards.

This topic is important now because of a current red-hot debate over what physicians have to do during their career to maintain their certification– called maintenance of certification, or MOC…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Intense Exercise Doesn’t Eliminate the Hazard of Intense Sitting Reply

James Brown had it right. There may be no better medical advice these days than to “Get Up Offa That Thing.

A large new analysis published in Annals of Internal Medicine supports earlier observations that the health hazards of sedentary behavior aren’t completely neutralized by exercise.

Researchers in Toronto scoured the literature to find studies that assessed the health effects of sedentary behavior adjusted for physical activity. They found 47 studies, including 13 that assessed all-cause mortality, 14 that assessed cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and 14 that assessed cancer. Sedentary behavior was defined as “waking behaviors characterized by little physical movement and low-energy expenditure,” including sitting and television watching.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

James Brown screenshot

 

How Much Salt Should Old People Consume? Reply

A new study offers fresh evidence that current salt recommendations should be taken with, well, a grain of salt. Current guidelines now recommend that everyone should have sodium intake levels below 2300 mg per day. For many people at higher risk, including everyone over 50 years of age, sodium intake should be below 1500 mg/d. (The American Heart Association promotes the more rigorous goal of 1500 mg/d for everyone.) But a 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine, along with findings from the PURE study published last year, have raised concerns that the lower target level in particular is neither practical nor beneficial.

The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looks at the growing and important elderly patient population…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Buried Clinical Trial Data: The Dam Is About to Burst Reply

Two important new developments may mean that many more researchers will soon be able to access and analyze data from many more clinical trials.

… a preliminary report from the prestigious Institute of Medicine lends strong support to the open data movement. The IOM report states that investigators should be required to establish a data-sharing plan at the same time the trial is registered. The report includes detailed recommendations for when and how the data should be made available. Among the major recommendations: data underlying a trial analysis should be made available within 6 months after journal publication, and all data should be made available no later than 18 months after the last patient visit in the trial.

… the Yale University Open Data Access (YODA) Project announced that Johnson & Johnson is expanding its plans to share data.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Success For 40-Year Effort In One Rural County To Curb Cardiovascular Disease Reply

A 40-year program in one poor rural county to combat cardiovascular disease appears to have been successful, resulting in reduced rates of hospitalization and death compared with other counties in the same state over the same time period. The new findings from the study are described in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

More Turmoil For Troubled Medical Laboratory Company Reply

Problems continue to accumulate for the deeply troubled medical laboratory company Health Diagnostic Laboratory. Following several years of spectacular growth, in which the company grew to $400 million in annual revenue, the company last year began an equally spectacular implosion when it became known that the federal government was investigating the company for giving kickbacks to physicians to use the company’s tests. Additional allegations suggested a broader pattern of serious misconduct based on questionable sales, marketing, and billing practices regarding unnecessary testing.

In the latest development HDL terminated its contract with BlueWave Healthcare Consultants, the sales company that played a crucial role in HDL’s explosive growth. In response BlueWave filed a lawsuit against HDL for $205 million…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Three Reasons Why You Don’t Need To Feel Sorry For Doctors Reply

I’m not a doctor and I don’t have strong opinions about how doctors should be certified or, more to the point right now, what they should have to do to maintain their certification over the course of their careers. But recently this last topic– called maintenance of certification, or MOC– has become the subject of a raging debate within the medical community, as thousands of doctors have expressed their displeasure, to put it mildly, with a new recertification scheme established last year by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the official “certifying” body of a large proportion of doctors in the US. From what I’ve read it appears that the critics of the new system have some very legitimate points and that some big changes will likely be necessary. But in the course of the debate I have been disturbed by some of the arguments that have been used to criticize the new MOC. (Unfortunately I haven’t seen a lot of attempts to actually defend the new scheme so I can’t give equal time to the other viewpoint.)

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

FDA Approves New Oral Anticoagulant From Daiichi Sankyo 1

And then there were four.

Late Thursday the FDA announced that it had approved edoxaban, the new oral anticoagulant manufactured by Daiichi Sankyo. The drug will be marketed under the brand name of Savaysa and joins three other new drugs in the large and important new oral anticoagulant marketplace…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes, including a comment from Sanjay Kaul.

 

An Emerging Consensus About Novartis’s New Potential Blockbuster Reply

Last year it became clear that Novartis had a potential blockbuster with its new heart failure drug, LCZ696, which is an angiotensin receptor- neprilysin inhibitor (ARNi) consisting of the company’s own well-known angiotensin receptor blocker valsartan (Diovan) and a novel compound, the neprilysin inhibitor sacubitiril. The results of the PARADIGM trial, which was stopped early because of a large and highly significant reduction in cardiovascular mortality, electrified the cardiovascular community. But the trial also sparked a lot of controversy when skeptics raised questions suggesting that the results were not nearly as impressive as the investigators reported.

Following the initial excitement and discussion we are now starting to get a more measured and realistic view of the drug and the trial. In recent days two important secondary PARADIGM papers have been published. A paper in Circulation looks at the experience of trial participants who didn’t die. A paper in European Heart Journal performs some sophisticated statistical wizardry to estimate how LCZ696 would have performed against placebo instead of an active comparator. It will probably come as no surprise that both papers are highly positive. The Circulation paper shows that LCZ696 was effective in preventing progression of heart failure. The EHJ paper concludes that if it had been compared to placebo in a contemporary, otherwise well-treated population LCZ696 would have produced “striking reductions in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality, as well as heart failure hospitalization.”

Far more important than these papers, in my view, are the accompanying editorials. The Circulation editorialist, Henry Krum, is an influential Australian cardiologist and the EHJ editorialist, Duke University cardiologist Rob Califf, is one of the most influential and respected cardiologists in the world…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

FDA Approves New Medtronic Drug-Coated Balloon To Open Blocked Leg Arteries Reply

Medtronic said today that it had received approval from the FDA to market its In.Pact Admiral drug-coated balloon (DCB) to treat peripheral artery disease (PAD) in the upper leg. The device is the second DCB to gain FDA approval. Last October the FDA approved CR Bard’s Lutonix DCB for a similar indication.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

MDT DCB

2014 Dubious Innovations In Cardiology Reply

 

  • Dubious Innovative Device: Renal Denervation
  • Dubious Innovative Business Strategy: Health Diagnostics Laboratory
  • Dubious Innovations In Leadership (Tie): The European Society of Cardiology and The Institute of Medicine
  • Dubious Innovative Breakthrough Therapy That Never Actually Breaks Through Anything (repeat winner): Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy

 

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Embattled Stem Cell Researchers Sue Harvard And Brigham And Women’s Hospital Reply

Two embattled and highly controversial stem cell researchers are suing the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School for an ongoing investigation into their research. The investigation has already resulted in the retraction of one paper in Circulation and an expression of concern about another paper in the Lancet.

The suit was filed by Piero Anversa, the highly prominent stem cell researcher who is a Harvard professor and the head of a large lab at the Brigham, and his longtime colleague, Annarosa Leri, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard who has coauthored many papers with Anversa. The suit places the blame for any scientific misconduct relating to the two papers on a third colleague and coauthor, Jan Kajstura, their longtime collaborator.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.