Small Doses: The Weekly News You Need to Know


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This week of March 6, we take a look at studies and news from around the healthcare world, from penicillin safety to the transmission of HIV.

In case you missed last week: Small Doses: The news you need to be the best

Up next: Conflicts of interest in patient organizations


Study Finds Conflict of Interest in 80% of Patient Organizations

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that more than 80% of patient advocacy groups accept money from companies that manufacture drugs or medical devices. For some groups, the donations make up more than half of their annual income.

The study looked at 104 nonprofit patient advocacy groups, the type of organizations that represent people with a given disease or condition and which have a role in helping direct public debate about health care in the United States. Medical researchers are often required to disclose any conflicts of interest caused by financial ties to drug and device makers when they publish their research. The study also found that transparency about industry donations varied widely among organizations, with some going into detail about how much they received from industry sources in their financial records.

McCoy MS, et al: Conflicts of interest for patient-advocacy organizations. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:880-885. March 2, 2017 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsr1610625.


Two Approaches Allow Safe Increase in Use of Penicillin and Cephalosporins

More hospitalized patients can be treated safely with penicillin and cephalosporins if a skin test and a computerized decision support tool are used. Many patients may have an allergy to penicillin or other antibiotics in their medical records but are not actually allergic. Finding out which patients can safely be given these highly-effective antibiotics can increase their use and cut down on the use of less-effective drugs. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology evaluated both the skin test and a computerized treatment guideline that is based on the type of symptoms a patient said they experienced with past penicillin use. Both strategies safely increased the use of penicillin or cephalosporins in these patients.

Blumenthal KG et al: Tackling inpatient penicillin allergies: Tools for antimicrobial stewardship. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017 Feb 27. pii: S0091-6749(17)30325-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.02.005.



HIV Treatment Suppresses Virus Transmission

The AIDS United Public Policy Committee has issued a statement saying that people with HIV who are on antiretroviral treatment and have virus levels that are successfully suppressed cannot pass the virus to others. The committee recommended that health-care providers pass this message on to the public. Suppression of the virus can occur within 12 to 24 weeks of the start of treatment, and lasts as long as patients stick to their medication regimen. There are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, according to the CDC, but less than one-third consistently receive the medical care they need to suppress the virus, according to AIDS United. However, according to a Reuters news story, some experts will not go so far as to say that the risk of transmission is zero.

AIDS United. AIDS united affirms evidence that proves people living with HIV with a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV to sexual partners. Accessed on March 9, 2017.



Imatinib (Gleevec) Found to Be Effective After Over 11 Years

Imatinib (brand name, Gleevec) has been found to retain its effectiveness against chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) after more than 11 years of treatment. A study published in the March 9 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine found that 83% of more than 500 CML patients who were treated with imatinib were still alive 10 years later. The study also found that there were no new long-term health risks to taking the drug in that time. Early studies of imatinib had raised concerns that long-term use could raise the risk of heart disease. Common side effects with the drug include nausea, muscle pain, fatigue, and pruritic rashes. The study was funded by Novartis, the maker of Gleevec.

Hochhaus A, et al.: Long-term outcomes of imatinib treatment for chronic myeloid leukemia. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:917-927March 9, 2017. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1609324.

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