The Dark Cloud Inside the Silver Lining -What’s Really Going on with Hepatitis C Infection

Despite the flood of articles touting the success and costs of the new hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments, direct-acting antivirals (DAA), currently hepatitis C remains more dangerous than HIV and it is likely to continue to exert a huge mortality and morbidity for at least three more decades in the United States.

One study and an associated editorial look into this subject further:

  • J Chhatwal et al. Hepatitis C Disease Burden in the United States in the Era of Oral Direct-Acting Antivirals.  Hepatology 2016; 64: 1442-1450.
  • JM Pawlotsky. The End of the Hepatitis C Burden: Really?

In the study, the authors used a validated HCV burden simulation model (HEP-SIM) and noted the following:

“Even in the oral DAA era, 320,000 patients will die, 157,000 will develop hepatocellular carcinoma, and 203,000 will develop decompensated cirrhosis in the next 35 years.”

Part of the problems will be a large number of individuals who remain unaware of their diagnosis (560,000 by year 2020) but other barriers include medication costs.

From the editorial -some pushback on the cost-savings argument:

  • “Although current drug regimens were reported to be cost-effective, nothing justifies the current prices, except financial considerations on the drug makers’ side. On the one hand, one could consider that the money saved on liver disease-related expenses is not truly saved. Being cured from HCV and not dying from its complications will not prevent the same individual from dying from another cause at a very high cost.”

My take: To bend the HCV curve faster, there will need to be increased HCV screening, increased treatment capacity, and reasonable costs.

Related blog posts:

Acadia Natl Park

Acadia Natl Park

Zip Code vs. Genetic Code

Several posts have highlighted the importance of poverty contributing to high mortality, including the following:

The following infographic shows again how your zip code is likely more important than your genetic code.

Lower Teen Birthrate

Lower Teen Birthrate


21 Year Data for Cancer Survivors

Most pediatric gastroenterologists see many children with pediatric cancers, so it is gratifying to see data showing improving long-term outcomes (GT Armstrong et al. NEJM 2016; 374: 833-42).  In addition, pediatric oncology serves as a model for improving therapy by enrolling virtually all of its patients in research protocols.

The authors evaluated late mortality among 34,033 patients in the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.  All of these patients had survived at least 5 years after childhood cancer. During the study which had a median followup of 21 years, there were 3958 deaths and 1618 (41%) of these were attributable to health-related causes, including subsequent neoplasms (n=746), cardiac (n=241), and pulmonary (n=137).

The improvement in treatment regimens have included reductions in radiotherapy and anthracycline exposure.  The graph below shows survival rates 20 years after being cancer-free (15 years after being cancer-free for 5 years).

My take: This study confirms that these improved regimens have long-lasting effects on mortality.  Through cooperative research, we can do better in oncology and in all of pediatrics.

Incidence of death from any cause from patients treated between 1970-1999.

Incidence of death from any cause from patients treated between 1970-1999.

How Common are Clostridium difficile infections?

In 2011, Clostridium difficile was estimated, by a recent report from the CDC (NEJM 2015; 372: 825-34) to result in 453,000 infections in the U.S. based on surveillance data from 10 geographic regions.

Other key findings:

  • Approximately 29,000 deaths were attributed to Clostridium difficile infections
  • 65.8% of cases were health care associated.
  • 24.2% had onset in the hospital
  • Increased risk was particularly notable among the elderly, with an rate ratio of 8.65 in those 65 years of age or older
  • The aggressive NAP1 strain was evident in 30.7% of health-care associated infections compared with 18.8% of community-associated infections

Related posts:

Note to blog followers: Yesterday’s blog was retitled to “Radiologic Image for St. Patrick’s Day” rather than “Endoscopic Image for St. Patrick’s Day”

Lost Decade from Smoking

A recent study (NEJM 2015; 372; 631-40) showed that smoking is more deadly than previously estimated.  Key points:

  • Deaths per year due to smoking: a new analysis suggests the true figure may be closer to 575,000.  That equates to 1 death in every 5 in the United States.
  • Smoking is thought to shorten life expectancy by more than one decade!
  • The 21 causes of death that have been officially blamed on smoking accounted for only 83% of the actual deaths among smokers

Here’s a link to a summary of the article:  Cigarette Smoking is Even More Deadly Than You Thought (from LA Times)

Related blog post:

From NPR: Enormous Ice Formations at Niagara Falls:

From NPR

From NPR

Current Mortality from Being Born Premature

A recent study (Patel RM et al. NEJM 2015; 372: 331-40) provides prospectively collected data on 6075 deaths among 22,248 live births with gestational ages 22-29 weeks from the U.S NICHD Neonatal Research Network. between 2000 thru 2011:

Key findings:

  • Improved death rate in most recent period of study:  number of deaths per 1000 live births was 275  (2000-2003), 285 (2004-2007), 258 (2008-2011)
  • While there were fewer pulmonary deaths with time, the deaths attributed to necrotizing enterocolitis increased: number of deaths per 1000 live births was 23 (2000-2003), 29 (2004-2007), 30 (2008-2011).  Necrotizing enterocolitis was the leading cause of death between 15-60 days of life (Figure 1).
  • Overall, 40.4% of deaths occurred within 12 hours after birth.  Only 17.3% occurred after 28 days of life.
  • For the entire study period, the rate of death (per thousand) was associated with gestational age: 949 (22 weeks), 730 (23 weeks), 427 (24 weeks), 258 (25 weeks), 157 (26 weeks), 115 (27 weeks), 78 (28 weeks)
  • The authors speculate that the overall reduction in death rate is likely related to more aggressive respiratory care (for bronchopulmonary dysplasia); one marker of this was increased usage of high-frequency ventilation.

Bottomline: While there has been improvement, being born premature is associated with high mortality.