The Health Consequences of Climate Change

A recent review article, “The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health,” (A Haines, K Ebi. NEJM 2019; 380: 263-73, and commentary 209-11) explains why many brilliant minds are so concerned about our climate.

What is happening to our climate:

  • “Climate change is already adversely affecting human health…if no additional actions are taken, then over the coming decades, substantial increases in morbidity and mortality are expected.”
  • “August 2018 was the 406th straight month during which global mean temperatures were above the long-term mean.”
  • “Carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) have risen from approximately 280 ppm in preindustrial times to approximately 410 ppm today. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries, with about 20% persisting for more than 1000 years.”
  • “The global mean temperature is currently increasing at a rate of 0.2 degrees C per decade owing to past and continuing emissions.”

Health Consequenes:

  • Major climate events including heat waves, floods, rising sea levels, droughts and storms with their immediate and long-term effects of health: heat-related illnesses, fatalities, injuries, and mental health effects
  • Worsened air quality: asthma and COPD exaccerbations, worsened cardiovascular outcomes
  • Water-borne illnesses due to effects on water quality: cholera, campylobacter infection, algae blooms, cryptosporidium, leptospirosis are some examples
  • Disruption of food supply and safety –heat can interfere with soil moisture and crop yield: malnutrition
  • Proliferation of vector-related illnesses: zika virus, dengue, lyme disease, malaria to name a few
  • Social: flooding and heat are likely to lead to social upheaval, mass migration, and violent conflicts

Even if all of the goals of the Paris Agreement were honored by all of the signatories, “it would not be sufficient to limit warming to 2 degree C above preindustrial levels…[it] would be expected to result in a temperature increase of approximately 3.2 degree C by the year 2100, relative to the preindustrial period.”

The authors cite estimates that mitigating adverse climate effects could prevent more than 175,000 premature deaths and 22,000 fewer deaths annually by 2030.

The associated commentary link the recent destructive California wildfires to climate change.  They note that “tackling this challenge may feel overwhelming.” Working on this can include both individual lifestyle actions and institutional efforts.

Individual actions:

  • Walking/cycling more
  • Eating less meat
  • Reducing food waste
  • Conserving energy

Institutional actions:

  • Health care system accounts for 1/10th of greenhouse gas emissions and health systems need to work on cutting their emissions
  • Health care institutions can invest/divest in industries who are helping and harming efforts to limit fossil fuel consumption

Resources:

From review article by Haines and Ebi:  “Health professionals have leading roles to play in addressing climate change. They can support health systems in developing effective adaptation to reduce the health risks of climate change, promote healthy behaviors and policies with low environmental impact.”

My take: Interestingly, the issue of delay in addressing problems is discussed in an unrelated commentary (NEJM 2019; 380: 118-9) related to denial.  For the author, she was attempting to deny the possibility that her father had ALS.  At the end, she quotes Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: “Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial.  It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.”  Clearly, much of the world remains in denial of the necessitiy to address climate change.

Related blog post:

Badwater Basin, Death Valley -salt-covered dried up basin

FDA Approves Adalimumab Biosimilar -But Will Enter U.S. Market in 2023!

October 31, 2018: FDA Approves Sandoz’s Biosimilar Adalimumab, Hyrimoz

An excerpt:

The FDA has approved Sandoz’s biosimilar adalimumab, Hyrimoz (adalimumab-adaz). 

The drug has been approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, adult Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, and plaque psoriasis…

Despite today’s approval, US patients will have to continue to wait for access to Hyrimoz, as the biosimilar will not enter the US market until 2023. Earlier this month, Sandoz announced a global settlement of patent disputes with AbbVie over the drug. While the settlement allowed Sandoz to launch Hyrimoz in the European Union on October 16, 2018, it forestalled US market entry until September 30, 2023. 

My take: Why will this biosimilar be allowed in Europe but not U.$?

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Zabriskie Point at Sunrise, Death Valley

Probiotics and Recurrent Abdominal Pain

Numerous articles have questioned the effectiveness of probiotics for many of the conditions for which they have been promoted.  A recent systematic review (T Newlover-Delgado, et al. JAMA PediatrPublished online December 28, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4575) concludes that probiotics “may be effective in the shorter term in improving pain in children with” recurrent abdominal pain (RAP). Thanks to Ben Gold for this reference.

This study extended findings from a 2009 Cochrane review (Huertas-Ceballos AA, et al Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009; (1):CD003019).  In total, the authors identified 19 eligible studies; of these 15 were not included in the previous review. The most common probiotic studied was Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG in 5 trials.

Key findings:

  • At 0 to 3 months postintervention, ‘based on moderate-quality evidence (odds ratio [OR], 1.63, 95% CI 1.07-2.47; 7 studies, 772 children). The number needed to treat for an additional beneficial outcome was 8.” 
  • There were only 2 studies with results extending 3 to 6 months.  These studies also found reduction in pain in the probiotic-treated children, OR 1.94 (CI 1.10-3.43). 
  • Interestingly, the authors note that fiber-based treatments were not considered more effective than placebo, despite a similar OR of 1.83.  Due to the small number of children in these studies with fiber (n=136), the CI were wide: 0.92-3.65.

The authors discuss some of the limitations such as variations in definitions, choice of probiotic and dosage, and short-term duration.  There is not a discussion of selection bias.  It is quite possible that some negative studies were completed which were not published which could further lower or eliminate the potential benefit.

My take: Probiotics may be helpful for children with recurrent abdominal pain; it is certainly not a panacea.

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Moon over Zabriskie Point, Death Valley -just before sunrise

Almost sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Death Valley

 

What to Do with Adolescents with Common Bile Duct Stones

Many times throughout the year we will receive a request to accept a 15-17 year old weighing more than 200 pounds with gallstones who needs to be transferred so that he/she can be cared for in a pediatric facility. The really crazy part is that some of these ‘kids’ need to transferred back to an adult facility to have an ERCP to remove the gallstones if they are lodged in the common bile duct (CBD). Very few pediatric gastroenterologists are adequately trained in ERCP.

A recent retrospective study (PC Bonasso et al JPGN 2019; 68: 64-7) shows some of the consequences of this problem –longer hospitalizations and delays in treatment. The authors compared 79 (48%) pediatric patients who required transfer compared to 85 (52%) who were managed at the tertiary care pediatric hospital.  The median age was 15 years with 42% obese and 23% overweight.

Key findings:

  • Transfer group patients had longer length of stay, median 7 days vs 5 days for non-transfer group (P< 0.0001) and more days between ERCP and surgery.
  • Transfer patients were more likely to have an MRCP (34% vs 8% for non-transfer).
  • Transfer patients were more likely to have a stent placement, 9% vs 5% (which would require a subsequent anesthetic to remove).
  • Transfer patients were more likely to have a non-therapeutic ERCP;  stone/sludge removal was 70% in transfer group vs 86% in non-transfer group. This could be related to the delay (eg. more time for stone to pass) or due to the evaluation by team not responsible for ERCP.

The authors note that there are fewer than 20 pediatric gastroenterologists trained in ERCP; this is not likely to change much in the near term due to the large number of ERCPs needed to become proficient and few options for pediatric training. Their study notes that 46% had adult gastroenterologist management for non-transfer group.

My take: This is clearly an area in need of collaboration.  More pediatric hospitals need to have adult gastroenterologists available and adult hospitals need to consider keeping some of these young adults to improve both the care and costs for these individuals.

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This article was referenced previously on this blog

 

How Safe is Marijuana?

A recent link to Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker: Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think? One of my sons informed me of this article.

Excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s analysis:

A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.

For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.

Then come Chapters 5 through 13, the heart of the report, which concern marijuana’s potential risks. The haze of uncertainty continues. Does the use of cannabis increase the likelihood of fatal car accidents? Yes. By how much? Unclear. Does it affect motivation and cognition? Hard to say, but probably. Does it affect employment prospects? Probably. Will it impair academic achievement? Limited evidence. This goes on for pages…

Several points discussed in article:

  • Marijuana may increase the risk of psychiatric illnesses. “Many people with serious psychiatric illness smoke lots of pot. The marijuana lobby typically responds to this fact by saying that pot-smoking is a response to mental illness, not the cause of it—that people with psychiatric issues use marijuana to self-medicate. That is only partly true. In some cases, heavy cannabis use does seem to cause mental illness”…
  • Marijuana may increase aggression,  In the state of Washington was the first U.S. jurisdiction to legalize recreational marijuana. “Between 2013 and 2017, the state’s murder and aggravated-assault rates rose forty per cent—twice the national homicide increase and four times the national aggravated-assault increase”
  • Does cannabis serve as a gateway drug?  Like e-cigarettes, cannabis is being formulated into products attractive to youth: gummy bears, bites, and brownies.

My take (borrowed in part from author): “Permitting pot is one thing; promoting its use is another.” We really don’t know that much about marijuana.

CDC Link: Marijuana and Public Health

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Relooking at Medications for Constipation-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome

A recent study (CJ Black et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1753-63) examined the effectiveness of secretagogues for constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C).  The authors conducted a systematic review and network meta-analysis with 15 eligible randomized controlled trials (8462 patients).

Key findings:

  • Linaclotide (290 mcg per day) was ranked first in efficacy using the end point recommended by the FDA for IBS-C trials
  • Tenapanor (50 mg twice a day) was ranked first for bloating
  • Plecanatide (6 mg per day) ranked first for safety
  • Diarrhea was significantly more common with all of the secretagogues except for lubiprostone; nausea was significantly more common with lubiprostone

The authors acknowledge the limitations in comparing medicines without direct head-to-head trials (which may never occur).  They state that linaclotide being superior to other treatments had a probability of 88%.

My take: This study indicates that linaclotide may be more likely to be effective than other IBS-C medications; all of these secretagogues have been shown to be superior to placebo.

In this same issue, pgs 1666-9 (J Ruddy), a patient describes her long journey with abdominal pain/GI symptoms.  She describes her initial experiences with physicians who were dismissive and not attentive. Ultimately, a physician listened to her and  helped her improve after explaining that she had a postinfectious IBS and provided treatment.

Related study: S Ishague et al. BMC Gastroenterol 2018; 18:71.  This randomized controlled trial which compared a multistrain probiotic (Bio-Kult, n=181) to placebo (n=179).  The probiotic group had a 69% decrease in abdominal pain compared to a 47% decrease in placebo group.

Sunrise, Death Valley

Five Ways to Lower the Risk of Colon Cancer

A recent study (PR Carr, et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1805-15) used an ongoing population-based case-control DACHS study (in Germany since 2003) to determine the effects of lifestyle factors on the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Among 4092 patients with CRC and 3032 control patients without CRC, the investigators examined five factors:

  • Smoking – For smoking, one point was given for being a nonsmoker or a former smoker with <30 pack years.
  • Alcohol consumption –  For alcohol, a point was garnered if consumption was moderate according to AICR recommendations.
  • Diet –  Diet quality was assessed based on WCRF/AICR recommendations (supplement table 1 [https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2018.08.044]). 1 point was given with highest diet scores.
  • Physical activity – A point was given with favorable physical activity which was based on moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
  • Body fatness – Those with a BMI between 18.5 and 25 which was considered a healthy weight were awarded a point.

 Key findings:

Compared to patients with 0 or 1 healthy lifestyle factor:

  • Participants with 2 points had odds ratio of 0.85
  • Participants with 3 points had odds ratio of 0.62
  • Participants with 4 points had odds ratio of 0.53
  • Participants with 5 points had odds ratio of 0.33

My take (borrowed from authors): Overall, 45% of CRC cases could be attributed to these lifestyle factors.  This occurred despite the patient’s genetic profile

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