Methotrexate -Not Effective as Monotherapy for Ulcerative Colitis

A recent study (H Hansfarth et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1098-1108) examined the use of methotrexate for ulcerative colitis (UC).  The authors performed a 48-week trial (MERIT-UC trial) with 179 patients with a mean age of 42 years in the induction period.  In those who improved during induction, methotrexate was continued in 44 patients and compared to 40 patients who received placebo; this was a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Key findings:

  • During induction which included 16 weeks with methotrexate at 25 mg per week SC and a 12-week steroid taper, 51% had achieved a response.
  • During maintenance, 60% of patients receiving placebo and 66% of patients receiving methotrexate had a relapse of UC.  At 48 weeks, 30% in the placebo group and 27% in the methotrexate group were in steroid-free clinical remission.
  • No new safety signals were evident with methotrexate.

The associated editorial by Dulai (pg 967-69) which reviewed this study and a prior study (METEOR) comes to the conclusion that: “there is likely no place for methotrexate monotherapy in UC.”

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Are Patients (but not Doctors) Better Off with EMRs?

A terrific piece by Atul Gawande explores the issues related to adoption of EMRs (electronic medical records): Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

He reviews in-depth many of the reasons why doctors face difficulties with their EMRs:

  • Spending twice as long in front of computer screen instead of with patients
  • Longer days
  • Endless problem lists
  • Inability to delegate some tasks (that previously were done by staff) and needing to provide more information on orders

“Gregg Meyer … the chief clinical officer at Partners HealthCare, Meyer supervised the software upgrade.

‘We think of this as a system for us and it’s not,’ he said. ‘It is for the patients.’

While some sixty thousand staff members use the system, almost ten times as many patients log into it to look up their lab results, remind themselves of the medications they are supposed to take, read the office notes that their doctor wrote in order to better understand what they’ve been told. Today, patients are the fastest-growing user group for electronic medical records.”

Hospital systems can use EMRs in various ways:

Other topics:

  • the emergence of scribes, including scribes in places like India where doctors transcribe recorded patient visits.
  • physician burnout
  • alarm/signal fatigue
  • ” the inevitability of conflict between our network connections and our human connections.”

My take: This is a terrific article and shows why physicians are struggling with EMRs; this article explains the problem in a way that is easy for non-physicians to grasp.  It shows that other professions face similar challenges.

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Hep B-related Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Kids: 8 Needles in 4 Haystacks

Over a 25-year period, investigators (DB Mogul et al. JPGN 2018; 67: 437-440) from 4 medical centers identified 8 patients (8-17 years) with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) associated with hepatitis B virus (HBV).

The authors indicate that all of the cases were thought to have acquired HBV via vertical transmission.

Key features:

  • 3 were asymptomatic; 50% reported abdominal pain
  • Only 1 case presented to a hepatologist
  • 4 patients had ALT values <1.5 times the upper limit of normal
  • Among those with documented HBeAg (n=3), all were negative and all were positive for anti-HBeAb
  • Alphafetoprotein was elevated in 3 patients, normal in 2 patients and not documented in 3 patients.

My take: HCC rarely occurs in children with HBV.  The most effective way to reduce HCC is through prevention, particularly vaccination.  The role of regular imaging which could detect tumors earlier remains unclear (in the absence of a risk factor like cirrhosis); in this series, only one patient presented to a hepatologist.

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Changing Liver Mortality Trends Since 2007

A recent study (D Kim et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 1154-63) used a CDC database which captures >99% of deaths in the U.S. to analyze mortality trends from 2007 through 2016.  Full text link available online: Changing Trends in Etiology-Based Annual Liver Mortality

When looking at all-cause mortality, there has been a significant decline in deaths associated with hepatitis C (HCV) but not in deaths associated with alcoholic liver disease (ALD).  The image below shows the trend and the impact of direct-acting antivirals.  Deaths associated with nonalcholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and due to hepatitis B (HBV) are described in this study as well, though both together account for less than 1/4th deaths associated with ALD.  Interestingly, mortality related to NAFLD was increasing slowly over the study period.

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Pediatric Experience with Infliximab Biosimilar in UK

Briefly noted: N Chanchlani et al. JPGN 2018; 67: 513-9.  The authors report on the use of infliximab biosimilar (IFX-B), n=82, compared to infliximab originator (IFX-O) in 175.

  • While the authors did not find a difference with the biosimilar in terms of efficacy and adverse effects, this finding is quite limited; only 28 in IFX-O and 19 in IFX-B had a physician global assessment data which was used to determine efficacy.
  • The authors noted that less than 20% of their patients had a baseline and 3-month followup PCDAI recorded.
  • In addition, of those with available data, less than half (44%) had screening for hepatitis B and tuberculosis.
  • The authors estimate that 875,000 pounds would have been saved for a 1-year period with universal adoption of biosimilars

My take: This study, due to incomplete data, does not add much to our knowledge about biosimilars.  It does indicate that better screening prior to infusions for HBV and tuberculosis is needed along with more well-documented experience.

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IBD Shorts -November 2018

G Horneff et al. J Pediatr 2018; 201: 166-75.  This industry-funded analysis of 577 pediatric patients who received adalimumab (1440 patient-years) identified no new safety signals.  The most common serious infection was pneumonia (0.6 events per 100 patient-years).  The most common adverse events were respiratory tract infections/nasopharyngitis. Serious infections were more common in the subset of patients with Crohn’s disease (CD), (n=189), occurring in 13%.

PS Dulai et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 687-95.  This study, using data from GEMINI 2 phase 3 trial with 814 patients, developed a clinical prediction tool for determining the likelihood of a clinical response to vedolizumab.  Common predictors for response:

  • No prior bowel surgery
  • No prior anti-TNF exposure
  • No prior fistulizing disease
  • Higher baseline albumin
  • Lower baseline CRP

R Matro et al. Gastroenterol 2018; 155: 696-704.  The authors performed a prospective study of women with IBD and their infants (n=72).  They “detected low concentrations of infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, natalizumab, and ustekinumab in breast milk samples.  We found breastfed intants of mothers on biologics, immunomodulators, or combination therapies to have similar risks of infection …compared to non-breastfed infants or infants unexposed to these drugs.”


Endoscopic Incisional Therapy for Esophageal Strictures

MA Manfredi et al. JPGN 2018; 464-8. This retrospective chart review describes the use of endoscopic electrocautery incisional therapy as a treatment for refractory benign esophageal anastomotic strictures (n=57) from 2011-2017.

The authors define refractory as inability to achieve an adequate esophageal lumen diameter after 5 dilatations to the following:

  • Age <9 months: at least 8 mm
  • 9-23 months: at least 10 mm
  • 24 months to 5 years: at least 12 mm
  • 6 years or older: at least 14 mm

Key findings:

  • The median number of dilatations prior to EIT was 8 in the refractory group (n=36) and 3 in the nonrefractory group
  • In the 2 years following EIT the median number of dilatations was 2 in the refractory group and 1 in the nonrefractory group
  • Major complications were reported in 3 (2.3%) —>”non-contained” leak. All healed without surgical intervention. There were an additonal 4 cases of contained fluid leaks (total of 5.3% of esophageal leaks)
  • The authors had a 61% treatment success in children with refractory anastomotic strictures.  Their definition of success “no stricture resection, appropriate diameter for age, and fewer than 7 dilatations in the 2 years following the first EIT session.”
  • The authors note that patients were generally referred for stricture resection in the refractory group after the first or second EIT session IF there was not improvement in esophageal diameter.

Role of this therapy/technical aspects:

  • The authors note that this technique is particularly suited to an asymmetric stricture rather than a completely circular stricture.  With a circular stricture, typical balloon or bougie dilatations exert force equally in all directions and “will more likely tear less dense tissue adjacent to the thicker shelf.”
  • Fluoroscopy during a conventional dilatation may facillitate identification of stricture asymmmetry.
  • In the associated editorial (J Mack, MR Narkewicz) note that the technique should be limited to short (<1 cm) refractory strictures
  • In the technique for EIT, the authors note that combining EIT with balloon dilatation frequently allows a more shallow incision and likely lowers the risk of perforation.

My take: This is a promising treatment for a stubborn problem though its use will require advanced therapeutic experience. As an aside, I think their definition of success is at odds with common sense.

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