This and That: Ear Tubes and Addiction Medicine

Interesting articles from recent NEJM:

A Hoberman et al. NEJM 2021; 384: 1789-99. Tympanostomy Tubes or Medical Management for Recurrent Acute Otitis Media

A quick read of this article suggested very bad news for our ENT colleagues. In this prospective, randomized trial (n=250), the authors did not find a significant advantage of tympanostomy tubes over medical management of acute otitis media (OM) among 6-35 month olds with recurrent OM in an intention-to-treat analysis, the rate (±SE) of episodes of acute otitis media per child-year during a 2-year period was 1.48±0.08 in the tympanostomy-tube group and 1.56±0.08 in the medical-management group (P=0.66).

In an associated editorial (pg 1859-60), (Ellen Wald notes that only 55% of children in the medical management group were actually treated medically throughout the trial making the sample size too small. Her advice: “In a child older than 2 years of age, we can forecast that infections will be fewer in the coming year and that medical treatment should be continued. In the younger child, there is a nearly 50% likelihood that the frequency of infections will continue; the child is likely to have fewer and less severe episodes of acute otitis media with less exposure to antibiotics if tympanostomy-tube placement is undertaken.”

Time to first recurrent episode of acute otitis media (Figure 2). Cumulative percentage of children with recurrent OM with one minus Kaplan-Meier survival estimates according to trial group.

E Poorman. NEJM 2021; 384: 1783-1784. The Number Needed to Prescribe — What Would It Take to Expand Access to Buprenorphine?

This article describes how many physicians are reluctant to treat opioid use disorder. The author notes that “prescribing buprenorphine is one of the most effective ways to save a life. In one study, buprenorphine treatment was associated with a 37% reduction in all-cause mortality during the year after a nonfatal overdose. This reduction is larger than the reduction in mortality associated with any blood-pressure medication, diabetic agent, or statin….But much…will depend on physicians believing that people with a substance use disorder aren’t just “addicts” but are people with a chronic medical disease that we can and should treat.”