Prevalence Of Cardiovascular Disease Likely To Increase Despite Gains In Treatment Reply

It is the best of times and the worst of times in the battle against cardiovascular disease. On the one hand, mortality rates from cardiovascular disease in the US have dropped by more than half in the last 30 years, likely due in large part to improvements in treatment for elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels and big declines in smoking. On the other hand, it is uncertain whether these gains will continue, and many experts think that cardiovascular disease may well be on the rise once again, largely due to the aging of the population and to increases in obesity and diabetes.

In an article in Health Affairs, Ankur Pandya and colleagues (including cardiologist Thomas Gaziano of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital) forecast cardiovascular disease trends through the year 2030 using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They project that although the age-adjusted risk for cardiovascular disease is likely to continue to decline through 2030, because of an aging population and the increase in obesity the overall incidence of cardiovascular disease will increase.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.




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Automatic Wireless Monitoring Shows Benefits in Chronic Heart Failure Reply

Following in the wake of studies that failed to find benefits associated with remote wireless monitoring of heart failure (HF) patients, the In-Time trial, presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting in Amsterdam, is the first trial to show that home monitoring of HF patients may be beneficial.

Gerhard Hindricks, the coordinating investigator of the trial, said that In-Time was designed to test whether automatic remote home monitoring can detect events that precede clinical events and thereby spark interventions to help reduce hospitalizations for HF. In the trial, 664 chronic HF patients with an indication for an ICD were randomized to home monitoring plus standard care or standard care alone.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.




A Guide To The Raging Debate Over The NIH’s TACT Chelation Trial 7

(Updated) The publication in JAMA of the NIH’s Trial To Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT) trial has provoked a fascinating debate in the blogosphere. The vast majority of responsible physicians and healthcare professionals have little interest in chelation therapy per se, but the TACT trial has raised many important questions about the nature of medical evidence. Here’s a brief guide with links to some of the more interesting discussions (let me know if you are aware of other worthwhile discussions):

In the first of two accompanying editorials, the JAMA editors discuss some of the complex issues relating to TACT and explain why they decided to publish the TACT paper.

In a second accompanying editorial, Steve Nissen, while agreeing in principle with the idea that randomized controlled trials should be published, argues that the TACT investigators “fell short of the minimum level of quality necessary to adequately answer the question they sought to investigate.”

TACT investigator Daniel Mark provided CardioBrief with a  detailed response to Nissen’s criticism. (Nissen declined to respond to Mark.)

Harlan Krumholz, in a blog post on Forbes, asked “what to do with inconvenient evidence”? He agrees with just about everyone else that TACT does not provide a reason to administer chelation therapy, but he argues forcefully that the results of the trial should not be simply dismissed.

Responding to Krumholz, Peter Lipson, also on Forbes, takes a position similar to Nissen’s that the trial was poorly performed and the results are highly questionable. The important things here are the responses to Lipson from Krumholz himself, Forbes pharma reporter Matt Herper, and Sanjay Kaul.

The most sustained assault on TACT, and on Krumholz’s position, comes from the highly-regarded skeptic blog Respectful Insolence written by Orac (the pseudonym of David Gorski, a surgical oncologist). In his take-no-prisoners assault on TACT, JAMA, and Krumholz, Orac writes “that JAMA is every bit as guilty as The Lancet was in 1998 when it published Andrew Wakefield’s antivaccine nonsense…. If published at all, TACT should have been published in some crappy, bottom-feeding journal, because that’s all that it deserves.” The comments section includes worthwhile exchanges between Orac and Sanjay Kaul and Matt Herper.

Finally (for now), Sanjay Kaul today summarized his defense of TACT (though he does not, of course, endorse chelation) in a blog post on CardioExchange. “Bottom line,” he writes, “in my opinion, the arguments that the TACT results are dubious or not valid are overstated. While the debate surrounding TACT is clearly warranted and welcome, I hope it generates more light than heat.”


Responding to the attacks on TACT from Orac and other members of the skeptical community, TACT investigator Dan Mark sent me the following comment on email, which he has agreed to share with my readers. The comment moves the debate in an entirely new and philosophical direction:

Although skepticism has an important role to play in critical debates, it is easy to overplay that hand. The people you mention seem to have a very naïve view of science, very far removed from the messy realities of daily work of people doing science. It is also important to remember that even the most hard core scientists can have some pretty eccentric views when they venture outside their narrow field of expertise. What does that imply about science and the people who wish to guard its borders?

There has been a project in philosophy to identify firm demarcation criteria that will allow for a distinction between science and pseudoscience. While some useful work has resulted, the overall attempt failed. Gets into some deep waters, but the harder the philosophers tried to find that electrified fence that marked off “real science” from the rest of human thought, the more they undermined the borders of science itself. Interestingly, “real scientists” rarely worry about whether they are doing science. They consider the question uninteresting, leaving it for the philosophers, sociologists and (now) the bloggers!

A Time For Change: A Letter To Readers 1

CardioBrief is four years old this month. It’s time for change.

Starting now, the news and commentary that in the past appeared here on CardioBrief.Org will appear on my section of the Forbes website. I will continue to cover the major cardiology-related news for an audience of healthcare professionals. There will be no major changes in what I write, though I will try to keep in mind that the business-oriented readers of Forbes might appreciate some additional background and explanation.

Change SignThis site, CardioBrief.Org, will not go away. It will become something of a micro-blog, containing more but  shorter items than in the past. Most of these posts will consist of a very brief summary or quote from source materials, with an accompanying link or links. This will include links to my own stories on Forbes. I’m not sure yet how, precisely, this will work out. Over the next few weeks and months I will experiment with different styles and formats for these CardioBrief posts.

I will also link to new content that appears on CardioExchange, where I have worked for the past three years as a consulting editor and news writer. CardioExchange is published by the New England Journal of Medicine and edited by the estimable, ubiquitous, and provocative Harlan Krumholz. I encourage all my readers who are healthcare professionals to join the site and take part in the thoughtful discussions that occur there. I am extremely grateful that CardioExchange will continue to allow me to reuse the news I write for them on Forbes.

Please don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts about these changes, either in the comments section or via email.