Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Use for Existing Drugs?

New research from Johns Hopkins suggests that brain-injured patients on cholesterol-lowering medications known as "statins" appear to be much more likely to survive a traumatic head injury. (Statins are sold under names like Lipitor and Crestor). This is exciting news because there has never been a medication given specifically to head trauma patients and the research here looks very promising.

Older patients who happened to have been taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs when admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries were 76 percent more likely to survive than those not taking the drugs, according to results of this study. Those taking statins also had a 13 percent greater likelihood of achieving good, functional recovery after one year.

The findings hold out the promise of a specific drug treatment for traumatic brain injury, for which there is none, the researchers say, and could increase use of what is already an incredibly popular class of drugs prescribed to more than four in 10 senior citizens in the United States alone.

“These data are intriguing,” says Eric B. Schneider, Ph.D., study leader and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. “We don’t think it’s the lowering of cholesterol that’s helping the brain recover in those who have been taking statins. We think there are other, less well-known properties of statins that are causing the benefits we seem to be seeing here.”

The results are reported in the October issue of The Journal of Trauma.

Schneider says he and his colleagues now want to do a clinical trial administering statins to brain-injured patients not already on the cholesterol-lowering drugs immediately upon arrival in the emergency department, to study whether the medication would have a direct beneficial impact on recovery. “If you get this drug into people very quickly after the injury, we may get the same effect as if the drug were in the body before the accident,” he says.

Let's hope that's the case.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Some Parents are Increasing Risk of Preventable Outbreaks

A national survey of parents of young children found more than 1 in 10 use an alternative vaccination schedule, and a large proportion of parents using the recommended schedule seem to be “at risk” for switching to an alternative schedule.

“Small decreases in vaccine coverage are known to lead to dramatic increases in the risk of vaccine preventable disease outbreaks,” says Amanda Dempsey, M.D., assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases and a member of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Not following the recommended schedule leaves kids at risk for these diseases unnecessarily.”

Following a vaccination schedule that deviates from those recommended by recognized groups such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics leads to under-immunization. Under-immunization has been shown to significantly increase the risk of contracting and spreading vaccine preventable diseases like measles and whooping cough,” Dempsey adds.

This research shows that the problem of under-immunization is likely to continue to worsen in the future given that many parents have attitudes that indicate they are not convinced about the safety of having their kids vaccinated at recommended times. The study, “Alternative vaccination schedule preferences among parents of young children,” was published online today ahead print in the journal Pediatrics. It involved a survey of 771 parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years. Among this group, surveyed in May 2010, 13 percent reported deviating from the recommendations, though only 2 percent refused all vaccines.

Most of the parents using an alternative schedule said they themselves (41 percent) or a friend (15 percent) developed the schedule. Research has shown that using an alternative vaccine schedule is strongly associated with not having a regular health care provider for the child. The vaccines most commonly delayed were the measles-mumps-rubella (45 percent) and diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (43 percent) vaccines. A large minority (30 percent) of parents using an alternative schedule said they had initially followed the recommended vaccination schedule; most said they switched because it “seemed safer.”