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Platelet E-News – July 17, 2006

This e-newsletter is a monthly publication of The Platelet Disorder Support Association. The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. For advice on your unique medical condition, please consult a health care professional.

Contents:

  • News from the Disease Front
    • Study shows eltrombopag raises platelet counts in ITP patients
    • NIH launches network to study rare diseases
    • Asbestos implicated in autoimmune diseases
    • Study reveals connection between pregnancy and arthritis symptoms
  • General Health News
    • Online healthcare services may cut costs
    • Organic diets lower children's exposure to pesticides
    • Children's DNA database sparks debate
    • Hospitals seek to prevent errors during "hand-offs"
    • Natural Herbal Solutions Developed by MDs (advertisement)

 

NEWS FROM THE DISEASE FRONT

 

STUDY SHOWS ELTROMBOPAG RAISES PLATELET COUNTS IN ITP PATIENTS

In a global study, GlaxoSmithKline found that the potential ITP drug, eltrombopag, significantly increased platelet counts in ITP patients. The study was the Phase II trial of three trial phases required for FDA approval. Volunteers with platelet counts below 15,000 were randomly assigned different dosages of eltrombopag or a placebo.

By the end of the six-week trial, 70 percent of the patients taking 50mg of eltrombopag and 81 percent on 75mg had platelet counts over 50,000/mL.

Eltrombopag, an oral drug is a small molecule that, like thrombopoeitin, stimulates platelet production.

Patients did experience some side effects on the drug; the most common complaint was a headache. But, only three of the patients stopped taking eltrombopag because of the side effects.

Source: Medical News Today (www.medicalnewstody.com)

NIH LAUNCHES NETWORK TO STUDY RARE DISEASES

In the past, researchers studying rare diseases struggled to fund their studies, find patients, and co-ordinate their efforts. But this May, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Rare Disease Clinical Research Network, a $71 million effort to increase rare disease research, according to the NIH.

The NIH expects over 20 studies to open at 50 sites throughout the U.S. and other countries including the United Kingdom, Japan and Brazil.

Although any one rare disease affects less than 200,000 people, 6,000 rare diseases have been identified. Altogether, 25 million people in the U.S. have rare diseases.

The network encourages research in rare diseases by funding trials seeking new drugs, and new applications of current drugs. Researchers will also have easier access to patients through the network.

Doctors and researchers are encouraged to collaborate, sharing experiences, and developing protocols for disease managements.

Source: http://rarediseasesnetwork.epi.usf.edu/index.htm, www.NIH.gov, and Hampton, Tracy. “Rare disease research gets boost.” JAMA. June 28, 2006.

ASBESTOS IMPLICATED IN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES

Asbestos, usually associated with lung-cancer, may also cause autoimmune diseases. The new study examined residents from Libby, Mont., a mining town where 1,500 people have become ill from asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos increased a person's risk of three autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and scleroderma. Mine workers, over 65 with high exposure to the mineral, were twice as likely to have any one of three diseases, and they were three times as likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than other Libby residences, said Science News.

By re-examining a former study of Libby residents, the researchers discovered that 6.7 percent of the Libby residents had one of the autoimmune diseases compared to less than one percent of the general population.

Further study is needed to confirm these results and discover how asbestos exposure increases the risk of autoimmune diseases.

"Mineral Deposit: Asbestos linked to lupus, arthritis." Science News. June 2006.

STUDY REVEALS CONNECTION BETWEEN PREGNANCY AND ARTHRITIS SYMPTOMS

During pregnancy, a woman's symptoms of arthritis may lessen or disappear until a few months after giving birth, and recently, scientist have revealed a potential connection between the two.

A small study published in the July issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism found that the symptoms of arthritis were inversely associated with the serum fetal DNA in the blood.

The study conducted by Zhen Yan from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, examined blood samples from 25 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, including six with juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Most of the women experienced fewer symptoms during pregnancy, when levels of fetal DNA were highest, but they relapsed three to four months after childbirth when no fetal DNA was found in the blood serum.

Although the inverse association gives researchers a clue about the relationship between pregnancy and autoimmune diseases, it leaves many unanswered questions. The researchers do not know if the fetal DNA reduces symptoms or if some other factor affects both the DNA levels and arthritic symptoms. Also, the study was very small, further research is needed to validate the results.

Source: Molnar, Amy. “New study gives insight connection between pregnancies on inflammatory arthritis.” EurekAlert. John Wiley & Sons. June 27, 2006.

GENERAL HEALTH NEWS

 

ONLINE HEALTHCARE SERVICES MAY CUT COSTS

New Internet services allow consumers to point and click for less expensive healthcare. Since the advent of online medical advice Web sites, like WebMD, patients have been using the Internet to learn about diseases access their symptoms and view potential treatments.

The trend of online healthcare continues cost-reducing programs, like price comparison lists offered by some insurance companies and online medical testing.

Comparison shopping
Last year, Aetna Inc. revealed a list of prices it had negotiated with local hospitals in Cincinnati, according to Sarah Rubenstein at The Wall Street Journal. Until this service became available, customers could only view hospitals’ listed prices, which do not usually reflect the final price.

Aetna customers in Cincinnati can compare the prices of procedures, like knee replacement, at different local hospitals, and then choose the best hospital for them. Aetna plans on expanding its program and other insurers, including Cigna Corp., Humana Inc. and United Health Group Inc. are creating similar sites.

These Web-based services are not foolproof. The services also require access to the Internet, a privilege many patients do not have. The cost of a visit to the doctor’s office can fluctuate if unexpected tests are needed or if a patients' hospital stay is longer than expected. As of yet, there is no evidence that consumers are using the price lists to make medical decisions.

Order your own on-line lab tests
Other potentially cost-saving online services are being offered by medical labs. Patients can now order medical tests through the Internet, bypassing the preliminary trip to their doctor’s office.

The customers can select a test on the Web site, enter their Zip Code and receive directions to the nearest lab. They pay for the tests through a credit card or health savings account and can save the receipt for possible reimbursement from their insurance agent.

The service's convenience and low-costs are attractive; a blood test is $45 at MyMedLab.com and $295 at a local hospital, according to Nick Timiraos at the Wall Street Journal. But many physicians worry that without a doctor's advice patients may misinterpret the results or rely on false readings.

Rubenstein, Sarah. "Patients get new tools to price health care." The Wall Street Journal. Tuesday June 13, 2006.

Timiraos, Nick. "New online services tout low-cost medical tests." The Wall Street Journal. Tuesday June 20, 2006.

ORGANIC DIETS LOWER CHILDREN’S EXPOSURE TO PESTICIDES

For five days, a small group of elementary school children substituted organic foods for their normal diets, said a study published in the Environmental Health Perspective. During those five days, the amount of dangerous pesticides in the urine decreased, but rose again once the children returned to their normal diets.

The study showed that food is the primary way children are exposed to organophosphorus pesticides, insecticides that may cause neurological effects in animals and humans. The study also showed that children can be protected from these pesticides by switching to organic foods.

"We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production," said the study's authors.

Source: Lu, Chenshen, Kathryn Toepel, Rene Irish, Richard A. Fenske, Dana B. Barr and Roberto Bravo. "Organic diets significantly lower children's dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides." Environmental Health Perspective. March 8, 2006.

Kamen, Betty. "Organic diets significantly lower children's dietary exposure to harmful pesticides." Nutrition Hints. www.bettykamen.com

CHILDREN’S DNA DATABASE SPARKS DEBATE

Is there an asthma gene? Or a fat gene? Researchers at the Children’ Hospital of Philadelphia, known as CHOP, want to find out.

They are creating a database to analyze the DNA collected from up to 100,000 of its child patients. In a $40 million project, the hospital will collect blood samples from patients whose parents consent and use a DNA scanner to map the patients’ genes.

Although the information will remain confidential, many people still wonder if the database is ethical and are concerned about how the information may be used. Patients who contribute will not be informed every time the data is used; therefore, they may not speak out if the researches conduct studies they may find objectionable, like looking for genetic differences between ethnic groups.

Other people tout the benefits of such a project. The database will give scientists the opportunity to unearth genetic predispositions which have hereto been obscure.

CHOPS’ program is one of a growing number of programs creating genetic profiles.

Source: Regalado, Antonio. “Plan to build children’s DNA database raises concerns.” The Wall Street Journal. June 7, 2006.

HOSPITALS SEEK TO PREVENT ERRORS DURING ‘HAND-OFFS’

In hospitals, dangerous errors can occur during the “hand-off,” when doctors and nurses change shifts or a patient moves to another unit.

Evidence suggests that miscommunication during these hand-offs is the greatest source of medical error, and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHCO) requires hospital to create protocol for these transfers.

One hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, solved the problem by creating pocket-sized cards which nurses and staff fill out for the next shift of doctors. The program was started in 2004 and by the end of 2005, 98 percent of nurses used it and the number of unexpected medical problems fell from 89.9 to 39.6 per 1,000 patient days.

Source: Landro, Laura. The Wall Street Journal Online. June 28, 2006.