Probably neither the prime minister nor the chief minister of Delhi including their mandarins in the health and urban ministries ever realized that the deadliest stalker on the planet is the mosquito. Mosquitoes kill more than 8 lakhs people in a year with man coming a distant second accounting for 5 lakh kills. The lion slaughters a mere 100 people, while snakes in a year send almost 50,000 to paradise. Astoundingly in all the din most anchors and panelists on television debates have been unable to pronounce Dengue correctly; the emphasis by the media has all along been (with some justification) on slinging as much mud as possible on Delhi hospitals; but not a whisper or murmur of the terrible ramifications of the horrendously dirty city we live in. There has not been the slightest hint suggesting removal of all those puddles of water or administering a vaccine.
A sensational leaked database form the archives of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) revealing rampant doping among elite medal winning athletes elicited little or no reaction from the Indian media. There was not one editorial, not one column and not a single blog on the biggest ever leak of 12000 blood reports done on 5000 international athletes from 2001 to 2012; of which 800 were considered suspicious by independent experts. A large chunk of these were from athletes in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus while India contributed about 5% of suspect samples. Surprisingly the database suggested that Kenya too suffered from widespread blood doping including administration of synthetic erythropoietin (EPO) besides anabolic steroids. There have been no pre-competition blood tests of all athletes participating in the current Beijing world championships in which the Kenyans lead with 7 gold medals. Despite serious allegations by the London Times and German TV broadcaster ARD, the IAAF for all practical purposes appears to be disinclined to swoop down on drug cheats.
The new oral anticoagulants (NOAC’s) either directly inhibit thrombin (dabigatran) or factor Xa (rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban). These direct oral anticoagulants have several advantages over vitamin K antagonists; they have a wider therapeutic window, quick onset of action, do not require regular blood coagulation monitoring, and have a shorter half lives. Warfarin (vitamin K antagonist) demands constant monitoring of the international normalized ratio (INR) that in turn compels dose adjustment. The new oral anticoagulants have proven to be viable alternatives to a vitamin K antagonist in industry sponsored randomized trials involving thousands of patients. The NOAC’s when compared to warfarin providing good anticoagulation (INR between 2and 3, 60% of the time) were found to be non-inferior and in some cases superior in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. Intracranial and fatal bleeds were lowered by 50% with the NOAC’s and major bleeding by 28% as compared to warfarin.
The Future Revascularization Evaluation in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus :Optimal Management of Multivessel Disease (FREEDOM) was the largest randomized trial studying the impact of percutaneous intervention (PCI) with drug eluting stents (DES) versus CABG in patients of diabetes mellitus with multivessel disease. Nineteen hundred diabetic patients (mean age 63 years) were enrolled in 140 international centers; 83% had 3-vessel disease and 71% were men. The DES group received sirolimus or paclitaxel eluting stents, which are now considered first generation DES. Median follow up was 3.8 years. The primary outcome (death from any cause, nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI) or nonfatal stroke) was significantly more common in the PCI patients (27% vs. 19%; p=0.005); driven largely by rates of myocardial infarction (p<0.001) and death from any cause (p=0.049). The CABG group had both lower mortality (6% vs. 13%) and MI (11% vs.16%). Strokes were however more common with CABG (5.2% vs.2.4%; p=0.03). The authors concluded that CABG was superior to PCI in diabetic patients in that it significantly reduced death and MI (1).
Percutaneous intervention (PCI) has become standard care for treatment of patients suffering from acute coronary syndrome consisting of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), non ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and unstable angina. The procedure demands, for success, adjunctive therapy in the form of antiplatelet agents and anticoagulants. The Harmonizing Outcomes with Revascularization and Stents in Acute Myocardial Infarction (HORIZONS-AMI) trial established the role bivalirudin (a direct thrombin inhibitor); the trial compared bivalirudin with heparin plus a glycoprotein inhibitor (GPI) in patients with STEMI, with bivalirudin recording survival benefit extending to 3 years, albeit with a 5 fold increased incidence of stent thrombosis (ST) (1).
This week JAMA Internal Medicine published a massive retrospective study that included almost a million subjects. Almost half a million people taking statins were compared to an equivalent population not popping any. They also added more than 26,000 patients on non-statin lipid lowering drugs. The authors observed, in their own words, a strong association between first exposure to statins and acute memory loss diagnosed within 30 days following exposure. The increase in memory loss was 4.40 times compared with non-statin users; in other words statins hiked up loss of memory by 440%.
A recent New York Times article on the toxicity of Delhi’s air not only set the cat among the pigeons but compelled the Hindustan Times (a daily) to print a series of reports on it’s front page emphasizing the same. The Times quotes a remarkable study commissioned by Central Pollution Control Board; which then sat over the conclusions drawn by the investigators for more than half a decade. The study assessing lung functions in almost 6,000 Delhi school children from 36 schools (begun in 2002) found that 44% suffered from poor or restrictive lungs, and that 10-27% of them complained of headache, eye irritation, nausea, palpitation and fatigue. The Times correspondent decided enough was enough when he found that his little boy had developed full blown severe asthma necessitating hospitalization.
The last quarter of the eighteenth century substantially altered the complexion of the planet; the Yanks prevailed over the Brits under George Washington in the Battle of Princeton and the subsequent birth of the most powerful nation on Earth (January 1777). The Brits, however, 2 decades earlier had overcome Siraj-ud-Daulah in the Battle of Palashi (Plassey) to herald British imperialism over the Indian subcontinent,(courtesy the treachery of Mir JAfar). It istill unclear whether Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar to betray the Nawab of Bengal or Mir Jafar enticed Clive with a pay off to attack the Nawab with the assurance of deception in the heat of battle; anyway this classic non-military maneuver would be employed repeatedly by the English as they overran an ancient but corrupt civilization. The historic betrayal by Mir Jafar (not the first or last by an Indian) took place in June 1757.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has rapidly emerged as a viable alternative for the treatment of severe symptomatic valvular aortic stenosis (AS). Almost 100,000 patients of AS have benefited from this technique. Symptomatic severe AS is a killer that needs prompt surgical intervention. The PARTNER trials established the superiority of TAVR over medical management in inoperable cases, and equivalence with surgical valve replacement in high-risk patients of AS. The UK Registry of 870 patients with mean age of 82 years now provides long- term data on efficacy of TAVR from 25 centers spread out in England and Wales.
The revenue department of the government of Maharashtra revealed that 422 farmers had killed themselves by the first week of December 2014. There were 77 suicides in Beed, the home district of former union minister Gopinath Munde, 44 in Nanded which is the former home district of former chief minister Ashok Chavan and 18 suicides took place in Latur, the home district of another former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The farmers were culling themselves because they were simply unable to cope with debts accrued and crop losses due to sparse irrigation and mitigating rain fall. The Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti (VJS) an NGO following farmer suicides recorded 1022 deaths in the cotton belt of Maharashtra alone. Mercifully the current chief minister has acknowledged these suicides and promised to garner a Rs. 4,500 crore (Rs. 450 million) financial package from the federal government.
The RIVAL study had randomized 7021 patients of acute coronary syndrome (mean age 62 years; 14% more than 75; 28% ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction-STEMI) to either radial or femoral access for coronary angiography and planned PCI between 2006 and 2010. It was seen that at the end of 30 days, the rate of the primary outcome (a composite of death, myocardial infarction, stroke and major bleeding unrelated to coronary artery bypass graft surgery) was the same in both groups. Large hematomas and pseudo aneurysms needing closure occurred significantly less in the radial group than in the femoral cohort (1.2% vs. 3.0% and 0.2% vs. 0.7% respectively). Cross over rates from radial to femoral approach due to vessel spasm or tortuosity was greater than femoral to radial (7% vs. 0.9%) and fluoroscopy was significantly longer in the radial than in the femoral group (9.8 vs. 8 minutes, p< 0.001). It was concluded that albeit both approaches had similar clinical outcomes the radial approach resulted in less local complications, less bleeding and earlier ambulation. The RIVAL data was published in 2011.
The final nail in the coffin of manual thrombo-suction (MT) during treatment of acute STEMI has been delivered in this week’s ‘TOTAL” trial published in the NEJM. The TAPAS study had in randomized manner shown reduced mortality with MT some years ago in a cohort of more than 1000 patients of STEMI followed for a year. Manual thrombo-suction was considered effective and safe and therefore widely practiced during primary PCI. The procedure was simple, inexpensive and intuitively appeared to produce excellent results. TAPAS (a single center study) was however underpowered for hard clinical endpoints and their results were reckoned hypothesis generating.
Primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI) is the established technique for restoring flow in the infarction related blocked artery (IRA) in the setting of acute ST -segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Numerous randomized studies have confirmed that PPCI significantly reduced mortality, re-infarction and stroke as compared to thrombolytic treatment. What is however still not clear is what is to be done with the other coronary arteries if found blocked during PPCI; bearing in mind that approximately 30% to 40% of patients undergoing primary PCI for acute MI have multi but meta-analysis and observational studies have shown mixed results for complete revascularization. The guidelines had frowned upon tackling non-IRA in setting of STEMI and most physicians are reluctant to stent non-IRA because of the fear of complications and prolongation of the procedure. All professional cardiac societies recommend treating non-IRA only if hemodynamic compromise persists after opening up the IRA.