December 10, 2018

Background Information: Sepsis is a complex syndrome frequently encountered in the ED. This infection-triggered, multifaceted disorder of life-threatening organ dysfunction is due to the body’s dysregulated response to pathologic and biochemical abnormalities.2-4 There has been significant debate regarding the use of clinical decision tools such as Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and quick Sepsis-related Organ Failure Assessment (qSOFA) in the early recognition of sepsis.2,5-7­ Multiple studies have shown SIRS to not be specific enough for the early detection of sepsis as many non-infectious processes, including exercise, can often meet many of its criteria.8-10 On the other hand, qSOFA has been criticized as having poor sensitivity and moderate specificity for short-term mortality.11,12 Furthermore, qSOFA  has been described as clinically valuable but an imperfect marker of sepsis as some forms of organ dysfunction, such as hypoxemia and renal failure, are not assessed using qSOFA.5 Another severity score known as the National Early Warning Score (NEWS) focuses on inpatient deterioration in detecting patients with increased risk of early cardiac arrest, unanticipated ICU admission and death.13 One study showed that utilization of NEWS in the emergency department (ED) has been shown to be effective in recognizing patients with sepsis who are at a higher risk of adverse outcomes.14  The authors of this study sought to review the use of NEWS as an early sepsis screening score, a predictor of severe sepsis/septic shock, and compare it to SIRS and qSOFA in an ED triage setting.

November 19, 2018

Background: On October 24th, 2018, Roche, the maker of oseltamivir, announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) for the treatment of acute, uncomplicated influenza in people 12 years of age and older. Historically, there have been two classes of influenza treatment, the M2 ion-channel inhibitors, and the neuraminidase inhibitors, however circulating influenza viruses have become largely resistant to M2 ion-channel inhibitors and the emergence of newer strains of influenza (H1N1) could threaten the utility of neuraminidase inhibitors as well. I have written previously about the Tamiflu Debacle and why this is a medication we should not prescribe to immunocompetent patients. In this post, we attempt to answer a different question: Is baloxavir approval another debacle or does it actually improve patient oriented outcomes?

October 24, 2018

Background:  Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), a neuraminidase inhibitor, was approved by the FDA in 1999.  The majority of the evidence supporting the use of the medication came from trials funded by Roche, the maker of the drug. Safety issues with the drug began sprouting up in 2009, due to case reports in Japan of neuropsychiatric events and these events eventually led to a label warning. The Cochrane collaboration published analyses of the available data in 1999, 2003, and 2006, supporting the use of the drug. However, in 2009, the  Cochrane collaboration began to question Roche about the completeness of the data they were using, which was data from another meta-analysis with 10 RCTs.  Only 2 of those RCTs (Nicholson 2000 and Treanor 2000) were published in peer-reviewed journals.  The other 8 RCTs were presented as proceedings of congress or abstracts in meetings.  Cochrane decided to undertake a complete analysis of full clinical trial data, but had difficulties accessing the data until 2013.  This post will serve as a review of the evidence for and against the use of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) after the full clinical trial data was finally released.

September 17, 2018

Background: The mis- and overuse of antibiotics continues to be a growing problem in medicine; the results of which are increased health-care costs, increased antibiotic resistance and, ultimately, patient harm. Unnecessary antibiotics are particularly prevalent in the treatment of lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) including asthma exacerbations and bronchitis. While it would be nice to simply stop using antibiotics when they’re not indicated, issues in stewardship abound. Amongst these are legitimate concerns by providers that the patient may have a bacterial infection causing their symptoms and, thus, benefit from a course of antibiotics.

Procalcitonin has been touted in recent years as a lab test that can help with this conundrum. Ideally, an elevated procalcitonin level would indicate the presence of a bacterial infection and, thus, suggest benefit from use of antibiotics while a low procalcitonin level would suggest a viral or non-bacterial etiology and suggest an absence of benefit from antibiotics. A recent Cochrane review showed potential for a procalcitonin approach but, there was minimal Emergency Department based evidence.

July 27, 2018

Background: In patients with an acute respiratory illness (ARI), it is often difficult to determine whether a bacterial infection is the underlying etiology and whether antibiotics are warranted. Excess antibiotic use carries risk of bacterial resistance, medical costs, and adverse drug effects. However, underuse of antibiotics risks inadequate treatment and progression of disease. In the setting of a bacterial infection, cytokines stimulate procalcitonin production and release. The serum procalcitonin level increases with the progression of bacterial infection and decreases upon recovery. Procalcitonin production is actually blocked in the setting of viral infection, resulting in low serum levels. Numerous studies have investigated the use of procalcitonin for the determination of initiating antibiotics as well as for aiding in decisions to terminate their use.

This Evidence-Based Emergency Medicine (EBEM) article reviews the following systematic review:

Schuetz P et al. Procalcitonin to initiate or discontinue antibiotics in acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2017. PMID: 29025194