Tulsa is the #allergy capital of the nation. You wouldn’t believe how many times in a day I hear that! and it makes sense…countless numbers of patients return to Tulsa and find their #allergies are now out of control. But is this really true? Does anyone even keep track of which city in America has the highest pollen counts and can thus claim to be the most miserable #pollen city in America? Continue reading
At first glance, I thought to myself, do we really need another quick acting inhaler? As I thought about inhaler technique and how we use our Ventolin MDI’s, most of use suck on the end of the inhaler which is the wrong technique to use. (all of the medication deposits on the back of the throat) Why not use the appropriate inhaler that’s meant to actuate with your breath anyway? ie, sucking on the inhaler is what you’re supposed to do!
Here’s the link to the article if interested–http://www.pharmatimes.com/Article/15-04-01/FDA_OK_for_Teva_s_acute_asthma_inhaler.aspx
This article is in press and will be published in Annals from the College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology next month. I thought the study is very interesting given the “push” for oral desensitization. I just returned from the AAAAI annual meeting and it appears that patients with food allergy can become “desensitized” or cured, however, that comes with a cost of potential anaphylaxis during treatment. Think of it like the use of allergy shots which are very effective, but you can develop anaphylaxis after an allergy shot that will need additional treatment such as epinephrine. The question I have is, “should this therapy with foods be used at home where parents and patients don’t know much about giving epi?”
Here’s the summary–>Asthma patients are at risk for more severe reactions and less likely to reach full desensitization during milk oral immunotherapy, according to a study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Researchers in Israel studied 194 subjects 6 years and older with IgE-mediated cow’s milk allergy, with and without asthma, undergoing milk oral immunotherapy. Regardless of severity, subjects with asthma had more reactions and injectable epinephrine use during induction, and more home treatments with immunotherapy. Moderate to severe asthma also was associated with a lower likelihood of reaching full desensitization
We all know the cost and hassle of taking care of asthma, especially for children. And yes, we’ve tried many different methods to get kids to use their inhalers at all, much less to get them to use their inhalers correctly.
Don’t think you have asthma….try the following:
1. Reflux can mimic symptoms of asthma with cough & wheeze
2. You might need a Aridol challenge test to be sure.
3. Don’t forget about sinus infection which can mimic coughing.
4. Make sure you’ve performed lung function! (PFTs)
5. Vocal Cord Dysfunction can sneak in as a cause of cough & wheeze.
Without a doubt, driving on ice and snow should be reserved for the experienced drivers only. We don’t need more wrecks on Hwy 169 that what we already have to endure. But when the forecast for a winter storm brings on a run for bread and milk, we may have gone a bit too far. We have our own version of Black Friday…it’s called snow storm panic! Here I was shopping at Target to get a few items I really did need. Usually, my wait at the pharmacy is very short, but last night I guess EVERYONE thought it was important to get their medications filled before the storm arrived in case medications would no longer be available. Come on, pharmacies stay open even in Minnesota. Did you happen to go down the bread aisle? Nothing left and not a snowflake on the ground. No wonder you can’t yell fire in a theatre. The most shocking behavior, however, found in Oklahoma in preparation for a winter storm is to cancel school before it even starts to snow. Will you catch us off guard and unprepared? Not a chance. No wonder our kids have never seen snow or had a chance to make those lovely snow angels. They’re never in it. All joking aside, we did have a pretty nasty snowstorm 2 years ago with almost 20 inches in one night. That amount of snow shut the city of Tulsa down for a week! Could it happen again? Sure could, but the video below is enough for me:
Now, you’re probably wondering if I always pontificate about a totally irrelevant topic such as how Tulsans prepare for snow storms. Fortunately, this can have some relevance to cold weather illness:
- Asthma can be a real problem during the cold weather. Inhaling cold air causes drying of the airway wall and more severe bronchospasm that moderate temperatures. Don’t think that coughing and shortness of breath is just cold air; it may be your asthma getting out of control. Learn how to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask, even if you’re outside for a short period of time. And most of all, use your regular inhaler (controller) during the winter months if cold air or upper respiratory infections are triggers for your asthma.
- Another problem with the winter season is trying to figure out if I have a cold, flu, sinus, or allergy problems. Let me make this much easier for you. Most ragweed is done pollinating by the end of October, so without much pollen in the air, your sneezing and coughing is probably not due to allergy (no exposure). A cold usually lasts < 1 week and any congestion or runny nose that doesn’t resolve from one Saturday to the next is probably a sinus infection. Why does this matter? Sinus infections should be treated with the “all or nothing” approach as any infection left in the sinuses will only result in more infection. Catching the flu makes you feel terrible and you’re already coughing. What could be worse? Add a fever with muscle aches and your diagnosis is most likely some type of influenza. Good motivation to get your flu shot!
- Am I Allergic to the Cold? I’m glad you asked. Cold-induced hives stays hidden for most of the year and comes out with a vengeance during cold weather. Some instances can be life-threatening and this condition is nothing to take lightly. Cold-induced urticaria of course, responds best to a vacation at Key West, but if you don’t have the luxury or flexibility to do that, antihistamines are still the backbone of treatment. Be careful when shoveling snow as shortness of breath and chest tightness may be associated with hives and a cold-induced reaction.
Although you must be careful with cold weather illness, you have to do something outside or you’ll get cabin fever. The link below is from AAAAI on how to control your asthma and still participate in winter activities. It’s a good read in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate. In the meantime, I’m heading for the slopes!
Europe and the United States differ on many things including how we look at war and how often we pick our noses…yes it’s true about rhinotillexomania (nose picking). Perhaps this is why Europeans will reach for a nose spray FIRST to treat allergies and then go for antihistamines. Yes, there’s even a Dr Oz video on the subject: http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Dr-Oz-on-Health-and-Hygiene
So what is the point of all this nonsense? Treatment of asthma also differs between the United States and Europe.
The Misuse of Asthma Drugs
Gene L Colice Expert Rev Resp Med. 2013;7(3):307-320.
There are three major problems with asthma care in the USA today and misuse of asthma drugs contributes to each.
First, multiple sources document that symptom control of most Americans with asthma in the general population does not meet standards established in the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report III (EPR3). In the CHOICE survey, 1000 patients with asthma randomly chosen across the USA were asked about their care and burden of disease. Almost half of these patients (49%) reported that they did not use asthma controller medications, although 79% had evidence of persistent disease. Of the 51% of the patients reporting the use of asthma controller medications in this survey, 85.7% had not well controlled or very poorly controlled disease. Numerous previous surveys of asthma patients in the USA and Europe, using either telephone interviews or questionnaires, have reported similarly high levels of uncontrolled disease. In the Exercise-Induced Bronchospasm Landmark Survey, 78.8% of the children with asthma and 83% of adults with asthma described respiratory symptoms with exercise. Children and adults with asthma commonly described being limited in their ability to perform sports and outdoor activities by their disease in this survey.
I know most patients would like to stop their asthma medications ASAP, but it comes at the cost of losing asthma control. I’ve previously discussed when to stop asthma medications…I’d like to know what you think? Are doctors prescribing unneccesary medications?
Second, in addition to difficulties with symptom control on a daily basis, patients with asthma in the USA frequently suffer exacerbations.
In the CHOICE survey, 5% of the patients reported being hospitalized and 14.4% described either an emergency department (ED) or urgent outpatient visit for an asthma exacerbation in the past year. Patients interviewed in this survey with more severe, persistent or uncontrolled asthma were more likely to have suffered asthma exacerbations. Previous surveys have reported similarly high rates of asthma exacerbations resulting in ED visits and hospitalizations. Data from the US CDC confirm that nationwide rates of ED visits and hospitalizations for asthma exacerbations remain unacceptably high.
So what are parents to do? The choice between giving your child steroids and having to rush to the emergency room for an asthma flare can be a “no win” proposition.
Third, asthma is an expensive disease.
The CDC has recently estimated that asthma costs the US economy approximately US$56 billion annually. On average, an asthma patient has been calculated to generate approximately US$2000–$4000 more in healthcare costs per year than a nonasthma control patient. Indirect costs due to work loss, school absenteeism, reduced productivity and so on, further contribute to the economic impact of asthma. Healthcare costs of asthma increase in patients with more severe disease. In patients with moderate and severe persistent asthma, exacerbations will further substantially increase healthcare costs.
I know the most common reason that patients stop their medication is simple: medications are too expensive. Here are some tips to reduce the cost of your prescribed medications for asthma:
- Make sure the medications you are picking up at your pharmacy are needed year round. Some patients need asthma inhalers only during the cold winter months.
- Educate yourself…know your triggers for asthma attacks to keep you out of the ER and better yet to use inhalers as prevention! (I have links to the American College of Allergy and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
- Monitor your symptoms with a peak flow meter and pay attention to how much exercise you can do, and how well you sleep. Both of these indicators will tell you several days in advance if your asthma is flaring.
- Use coupons for your inhalers. In years past, pharmacy reps would leave samples for us to hand out to get patients started on asthma prevention. This is no longer the case because of health care reform. But….coupons are available for a similar value. Just don’t forget to take the coupon in to your pharmacist when you pick up your inhaler.
In summary, having reviewed the data, the EPR3 predisposes to under treatment of asthma. The tendency is for healthcare providers to underestimate asthma severity and to correspondingly undertreat the disease. In most asthma patients, the result will be persistent asthma symptoms. In important subsets of asthma patients, particularly smokers, the efficacy of ICS seems impaired. For a given categorization of asthma severity (even if accurately calculated by the healthcare provider), the corresponding recommended treatment with ICS in the EPR3 might be insufficient in smoking and obese asthma patients. Again, the consequence will be persistent asthma symptoms. Asthma tragedies occur all the time…let’s make sure it doesn’t happen to someone you know!
Asthma sufferers may benefit more from inhaling vitamin D than the steroids usually prescribed for the condition. And besides, aren’t we all concerned with side effects from steroids? A new study from the U.K. identifies a mechanism through which the vitamin can significantly reduce asthma symptoms and suggests it may offer a new method of treatment. Continue reading
Oh, if I only knew of a more interesting subject for MY next cocktail party. When kids’ drama, and the latest neighborhood gossip just won’t do, try your luck at the newest asthma mediation!
A special thanks to Reuters for their excellent reporting…my comments will be in RED.
Medscape Medical News from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2013 International Conference
Regeneron, Sanofi Asthma Drug Seen as Potential Game Changer
By Ransdell Pierson
(Reuters) – A new type of asthma drug meant to attack the underlying causes of the respiratory disease slashed episodes by 87% in a mid-stage trial, making it a potential game changer for patients with moderate to severe disease, researchers said on Tuesday.
Slashing episodes by 50% is pretty dramatic, much less results of 87%. Too good to be true always lurks in the background with medical studies. Am I cynical? Unfortunately, I’ve been burned by too many drugs, gadgets, and the next best nutritional supplement to accept this news without a grain of salt.
“Overall, these are the most exciting data we’ve seen in asthma in 20 years,” said Dr. Sally Wenzel, lead investigator for the 104-patient study of dupilumab, an injectable treatment being developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and French drugmaker Sanofi.
The drug also met all its secondary goals, such as improving symptoms and lung function and reducing the need for standard drugs called beta agonists.
Although far larger trials will be needed to confirm findings from the “proof of concept” study, researchers expressed optimism. They noted that dupilumab has also shown the ability to tame atopic dermatitis or severe eczema.
The medicine, if approved, could hold promise for patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma that is not well controlled by standard drugs.
“We have been treating asthma with sort of Band-Aid therapies that didn’t get at the underlying causes,” Dr. Wenzel said in an interview, adding that dupilumab could be an important step in going to the root of the problem.
The drug works by simultaneously blocking proteins that have been linked to inflammation, interleukin-4 (IL-4) and interleukin-13 (IL-13).
Dr. Wenzel, director of the Asthma Institute at the University of Pittsburgh, said other drugmakers have tested medicines that block one or both of the proteins, but without success.
The trial recruited patients with high levels of eosinophils. Such patients were deemed likely to benefit from treatment.
This new form of medication, called monoclonal antibodies, targets single molecules to avoid the side effects of steroids. Our prototype for asthma is Omalizumab or Xolair which just celebrated its 10th year out in the market. Other than Xolair, I’m limited to using steroids for severe asthma. 😦
All patients initially stayed on their standard asthma treatments, meaning medium-to-high doses of inhaled glucocorticoids, as well as long-acting beta agonists. But patients gradually tapered off on those drugs and were no longer taking either of them after nine weeks.
Throughout the Phase IIa trial, half the patients also received weekly injections of dupilumab, while half received placebo injections.
After the ninth week, about 25% of those on placebos had experienced exacerbations, i.e., the need to take a beta agonist, a decrease in lung function, the need for an oral or inhaled corticosteroid, or admission to the hospital or emergency room for worsening asthma.
“By end of the trial, after 12 weeks, 44% of those in the placebo group had exacerbations, compared with 5% of those on dupilumab,” Dr. Wenzel said.
That represented an overall 87% reduction in exacerbations, which Dr. Wenzel said was highly statistically significant.
She said dupilumab was well tolerated, with side effects similar to placebo. But she cautioned that longer trials are needed to fully assess the drug.
Regeneron and Sanofi said standard drugs are unable to control asthma well in 10% to 20% of patients. They estimate that inflammation caused by Th2 cells – the type of inflammation among patients they tested – plays a role in half of those moderate to severe cases and affects as many as 2.5 million people in the United States and up to 30 million worldwide.
Dupilumab has also shown strong hints of safety and effectiveness in two early-stage trials that involved 67 patients with atopic dermatitis. Larger studies are slated to begin later this year.
Atopic dermatitis is inherited and involves patches of highly itchy skin on any part of the body. Patients, many of whom also have asthma and hay fever, have compared the sensation to having unending poison ivy.
“This asthma data and the data we already have in atopic dermatitis really raises the possibility the scientific community has finally hit upon the key pathway across all these allergic diseases,” George Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s research chief, said in an interview.
And there you have it….next time don’t be stuck with boring conversation about the weather, talk about Dupilumab!