Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Is Hydroxychloroquine Effective Against COVID-19?

     
As with any popular treatment, there are plenty of people who want us to ignore the research, or to focus on giving people hope. That is not a reasonable, or ethical, approach to medicine. That is not even a medical approach to medicine. If we lower our standards enough, we can claim that everything works, but that would kill a lot more people than only using treatments based on EBM (Evidence Based Medicine). Should we make excuses for lowering our standards, and killing people, or should we insist on raising our standards?

There is currently a pandemic, so there is a bit of a rush to find something that works, which some people mistake for a need to provide hope. If you want hope, you can pray and there should not be any harmful effects of praying. However knowing that you were being prayed for by others has been associated with a significantly higher incidence of complications. In other words, praying for yourself or others is fine, but telling others that you are going to pray for them is probably harmful, even though your intent is to help.[1]

The reasonable way to look at taking medicine is take only those treatments that have been demonstrated to improve outcomes for people with the studied diagnosis, when you have that diagnosis. Everything else is a crap shoot, where you don’t even know the risks – and there probably is no benefit.

Why do I state that the risks to the person taking the treatment are unlimited, but the benefits probably do not exist?

That is the history of the study of treatments. Almost everything proposed as a treatment has been more harmful than beneficial. It would be nice if this were not true, but reality doesn’t care about being nice. All of alternative medicine falls into the category of probably more harmful than safe and unlikely to be of any benefit, other than a benefit to the finances of the person selling the alt med.

Is hydroxychloroquine alternative medicine? Hydroxychloroquine is approved as real medicine for malaria, lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis.[2] For these diagnoses, hydroxychloroquine is not alternative medicine. For everything else, the use is off-label, which is a legal way of saying alternative medicine, as far as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is concerned. Sometimes off-label use can be supported by good evidence, but the treatment has not been submitted to the FDA for approval for that diagnosis, but that is not the case with hydroxychloroquine. The FDA issued an EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) for hydroxychloroquine limited to adults and adolescents who weigh 50 kg (approximately 110 pounds) or more, who were hospitalized with COVID-19, and for whom participation in a clinical trial was not available, or participation was not feasible.[3]

Why are those limitations important?

1. If a treatment is effective, diverting patients from clinical trials will delay learning that the treatment is effective, which will significantly decrease the number of lives saved.

2. If a treatment is not effective, diverting patients from clinical trials will delay learning that the treatment is not effective, which will significantly decrease the number of lives saved, because patients are receiving a useless distraction from effective treatment.

3. If a treatment is harmful, which is much worse than just being not effective, diverting patients from clinical trials will delay learning that the treatment is harmful, which will significantly increase the number of patients killed.

All of those results – and those are the possibilities – are ignored by those who reject research. No treatment, however good, will be purely beneficial. All treatments have adverse effects. however, the reverse of that is not true. A treatment that is harmful often does not provide any benefit.

The odds are always against the patient. Any doctor trying to just do something is endangering patients. Kitchen sink medicine (throwing everything at the patient, just in case) has always been bad medicine.

There is a good discussion of the evidence in two podcasts:

15. Covid-19: Is There a Case for Hydroxychloroquine?
Stimulus with Rob Orman, MD (who also hosts the ERCast)
July 30, 2020
Podcast page

Dr. Orman does not specifically mention the Arshad study, which claims to show a benefit in patients treated with HCQ (HydroxyChloroQuine), AZM (AZithroMycin), and HCQ+AZM (HydroxyChloroQuine + AZithroMycin), but that does not change the conclusion of an examination of the evidence.[4]


COVID-19 Treatment Update: Can We Just Stop Wasting Time on Hydroxychloroquine
Written by Salim Rezaie
July 6, 2020
Podcast page

Here is the most important point from Salim Rezaie about the outcomes from the Arshad study:

As most patients in this trial receiving HCQ or HCQ + AZM received steroids and the patients receiving AZM alone or neither therapy had far fewer patients receiving steroids, the likely mortality benefit of this trial is due to the steroids and not the HCQ or HCQ + AZM


Dr. Rezaie concludes: This study should not change clinical practice of not prescribing these medications.

The Arshad study is being used by proponents of hydroxychloroquine alternative medicine to try to contradicting higher quality research, which is the reason it is not real medicine. When there is only low quality evidence, we should be cautious in recommending any treatment. When the high quality evidence shows that the low quality evidence is misleading, we should ignore the low quality evidence until there is high quality evidence to support the findings of the low quality evidence. Don’t expect that to happen.

The reason most medical research is overturned is the reliance on low quality evidence.[5], [6], [7], [8]


Footnotes:

[1] Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: a multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer
Herbert Benson 1, Jeffery A Dusek, Jane B Sherwood, Peter Lam, Charles F Bethea, William Carpenter, Sidney Levitsky, Peter C Hill, Donald W Clem Jr, Manoj K Jain, David Drumel, Stephen L Kopecky, Paul S Mueller, Dean Marek, Sue Rollins, Patricia L Hibberd
Am Heart J. 2006 Apr;151(4):934-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2005.05.028.
PMID: 16569567

Our study had 2 main findings. First, intercessory prayer itself had no effect on whether complications occurred after CABG. Second, patients who were certain that intercessors would pray for them had a higher rate of complications than patients who were uncertain but did receive intercessory prayer.



[2] Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate tablet
INDICATIONS AND USAGE
Daily Med
FDA Label


[3] Frequently Asked Questions on the Revocation of the Emergency Use Authorization for Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate and Chloroquine Phosphate
FDA
Page as PDF download

Q. Why did FDA grant the EUA for hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQ) and chloroquine phosphate (CQ) for the treatment of COVID-19 initially?
A. On March 28, 2020, BARDA requested and FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for emergency use of oral formulations of chloroquine phosphate (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQ) for the treatment of COVID-19. Based on the scientific information available to FDA as of that date, the Agency determined that CQ and HCQ may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of CQ and HCQ outweighed the known and potential risks for this use. The agency limited the use of authorized products to adults and adolescents who weigh 50 kg (approximately 110 pounds) or more, who were hospitalized with COVID-19, and for whom participation in a clinical trial was not available, or participation was not feasible.



[4] Treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and combination in patients hospitalized with COVID-19
Samia Arshad,a Paul Kilgore,b,c Zohra S. Chaudhry,a Gordon Jacobsen,e Dee Dee Wang,d Kylie Huitsing,a Indira Brar,a George J. Alangaden,a,c Mayur S. Ramesh,a John E. McKinnon,a William O’Neill,d Marcus Zervos,a,c,⁎ and Henry Ford COVID-19 Task Force1
Int J Infect Dis. 2020 Aug; 97: 396–403.
Published online 2020 Jul 2. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2020.06.099
PMID: 32623082

PMCID: PMC7330574 (Free Full Text from PubMed Central)


[5] Why Most Published Research Findings Are False
John P. A. Ioannidis
PLoS Med. 2005 Aug; 2(8): e124.
Published online 2005 Aug 30. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124
PMID: 16060722

PMCID: PMC1182327 (Free Full Text from PubMed Central)

The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance.



[6] Evidence-based de-implementation for contradicted, unproven, and aspiring healthcare practices
Vinay Prasad and John PA Ioannidis
Implement Sci. 2014; 9: 1.
Published online 2014 Jan 8. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-9-1
PMID: 24398253

PMCID: PMC3892018 (Free Full Text from PubMed Central)

Abandoning ineffective medical practices and mitigating the risks of untested practices are important for improving patient health and containing healthcare costs. Historically, this process has relied on the evidence base, societal values, cultural tensions, and political sway, but not necessarily in that order. We propose a conceptual framework to guide and prioritize this process, shifting emphasis toward the principles of evidence-based medicine, acknowledging that evidence may still be misinterpreted or distorted by recalcitrant proponents of entrenched practices and other biases.


[7] Observational studies often make clinical practice recommendations: an empirical evaluation of authors’ attitudes
Vinay Prasad 1, Joel Jorgenson, John P A Ioannidis, Adam Cifu
J Clin Epidemiol.
2013 Apr;66(4):361-366.e4.
PMID: 23384591   DOI: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2012.11.005

It is common to see new studies contradict previous adopted standards of care [25,26]. Even the results of highly cited studies can be refuted [7], and the replication rate tends to be low for claims made from observational designs [7]. We have previously noted that the most common correlate for reversal of standards of care was the original adoption of a practice based on nonrandomized evidence alone [27]. The studies examined here offer many recommendations that may be precarious or erroneous. If adopted, such practices may need to be reversed in the future after having been detrimental to health, health finances, and the reputation of medical science.



[8] Contradicted and initially stronger effects in highly cited clinical research
John P A Ioannidis
JAMA. 2005 Jul 13;294(2):218-28. doi: 10.1001/jama.294.2.218.
PMID: 16014596   DOI: 10.1001/jama.294.2.218

Free Full Text from JAMA

Of the 45 eligible highly cited studies with efficacy claims (Table 2), 7 (16%) were contradicted by subsequent research, and another 7 (16%) were found to have initially stronger effects. In all these 14 cases (BOX 1), subsequent studies were either larger or better controlled (randomized vs a nonrandomized original study). The findings of 20 highly cited articles (44%) were replicated (also with a larger sample size in subsequent research compared with the original highly cited study) and 11 (24%) had remained largely unchallenged.58-78



.

What’s the Good News on Hydroxychloroquine?

Hydroxychloroquine is a darling of the media and of politicians, but what about the evidence? Well, the evidence on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat humans with COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease identified in 2019) is either negative (hydroxychloroquine is worse than homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, prayer, . . . ) or the evidence is neutral (hydroxychloroquine is just as useless as homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, prayer, . . . ).


But what is the good news?


The good news is that all of the research on hydroxychloroquine is of low quality or of very low quality. This is exactly the kind of evidence that frauds use to sell their fly by night panaceas.


The “best” news for the frauds is that one study showing harm from hydroxychloroquine has been retracted by most of the authors, due to problems with the data.[1],[2] The researchers contracted out the data acquisition and analysis to Surgisphere Corporation, a private company that appears to have promised to be able to deliver more than it can deliver.


If the negative paper has been retracted, why am I calling the promoters of hydroxychloroquine the frauds?


I am not referring to any of the researchers as frauds, not even the ones from the company that provided the retracted information. The frauds are the people promoting hydroxychloroquine without any evidence that hydroxychloroquine is safe or effective to treat COVID-19 in our species. These people are recklessly and irresponsibly endangering people for their own apparently political reasons.


We still do not have any valid evidence that hydroxychloroquine is safe to use in any humans to treat COVID-19.


We still do not have any valid evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective at improving any outcomes for any humans with COVID-19.


Experimentation on humans should be limited to well controlled research studies.


The WHO (World Health Organization) appropriately, and only temporarily, paused research on hydroxychloroquine to re-examine the safety data available. The enrollment of patients in the WHO research has resumed.[3]


For those who claim that this retraction is evidence that science doesn’t work – It is amusing to see you trying to cite evidence to support your rejection of evidence, every time you do it. May you never tire of demonstrating the validity of the Dunning-Kruger effect.


This is like using a stopped clock to tell you the time. The stopped clock does not provide any useful information about the actual time, but it does provide useful information about the person claiming it provides useful information about the time.



This was pre-print – not yet peer reviewed, which was retracted by most of the authors, because of questions raised about the data. It may turn out that the outcomes for patients were better than represented in the paper. It may turn out that the outcomes for patients were the same as than represented in the paper. It may turn out that the outcomes for patients were worse than represented in the paper. We won’t know until the full information is independently analyzed, which might not happen. The failure to provide access for independent analysis was the reason for the retraction.


Late addition (6/08/2020 at 15:08): Dr. Steven Novella has a more detailed description of this at Neurologica, written on 6/08/2020 after I posted this on 6/06/2020:


The Surgisphere Fiasco



Footnotes:


[1] Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis.
Mehra MR, Desai SS, Ruschitzka F, Patel AN.
Lancet. 2020 May 22:S0140-6736(20)31180-6. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31180-6. Online ahead of print.
PMID: 32450107


Free Full Text from PubMed Central.


[2] Retraction—Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis
Mandeep R Mehra, Frank Ruschitzka, Amit N Patel
Published:June 05, 2020
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31324-6


[3] “Solidarity” clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments
WHO (World Health Organization)
Information page.


Update on hydroxychloroquine


Originally posted 27 May 2020, updated 4 June 2020


Having met on 23 May 2020, the Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial decided to implement a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial, because of concerns raised about the safety of the drug. This decision was taken as a precaution while the safety data were reviewed by the Data Safety and Monitoring Committee of the Solidarity Trial.


On 3 June 2020, WHO’s Director-General announced that on the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee have recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol.


The Executive Group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of the Solidarity Trial, including hydroxychloroquine.


The Data Safety and Monitoring Committee will continue to closely monitor the safety of all therapeutics being tested in the Solidarity Trial.



.

NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 begins

     

The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) in Omaha is the receiving facility for Americans repatriated with suspicion of infection with COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019). UNMC will be enrolling patients in a double-blind study comparing standard treatment with an investigational antiviral drug against standard treatment with a placebo.[1]

The start of this study does not mean that anyone knows, or even has has good reason to believe, that remdesivir is an effective treatment in humans for COVID-19. Remdesivir is an investigational antiviral that has been tested on other coronaviruses, but has not been shown to be effective in treating humans. Remdesivir was also studied as a possible treatment for ebola virus (a filovirus), and was found to be effective in other species, but was not found to be effective in humans.
 

About Remdesivir Remdesivir is an investigational nucleotide analog with broad-spectrum antiviral activity – it is not approved anywhere globally for any use. Remdesivir has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against the viral pathogens MERS and SARS, which are also coronaviruses and are structurally similar to COVID-19. The limited preclinical data on remdesivir in MERS and SARS indicate that remdesivir may have potential activity against COVID-19.

This is an experimental medicine that has only been used in a small number of patients with COVID-19 to date, so Gilead does not have an appropriately robust understanding of the effect of this drug to warrant broad use at this time.[2]
 

What is the most common symptom?

There does not appear to be any symptom that is always present.

Travel to China, or to the region of China where COVID-19 was first identified, or contact with people who were in contact with people known to be infected with COVID-19 are often present, but not always. Cough and fever appear to be the most common symptoms, but that are also not always present.

The full text of the first case in the US is worth reading.[3] A 35 year old male with a cough and no fever (37.2°C – 99.0°F), but he felt like he had a fever, went to an urgent care clinic, based on his symptoms and news reports. He did not test positive for anything else that is screened for. A sample was sent to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). He was treated with a variety of medications. A day after he was treated with remdesivir, he began to improve. Was he just getting better on his own? We do not know, but the research at UNMC should help to answer that question. Given the number of patients, and the already known distribution of patients, there should be plenty of participants, unless someone decides to promote the political witchcraft of “compassionate use”.[4] Then we may never know and remdesivir could become the blood-letting of the 21st century.

Footnotes:

[1] NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat COVID-19 begins Study enrolling hospitalized adults with COVID-19 in Nebraska.
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
News release

and –

NIH Clinical Trial of Remdesivir to Treat COVID-19 Begins Study Enrolling Hospitalized Adults with COVID-19 in Nebraska February 25, 2020
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
News release

[2] COVID-19 Gilead Sciences Update On The Company’s Ongoing Response To COVID-19
Gilead Sciences
Article

[3] First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States.
Holshue ML, DeBolt C, Lindquist S, Lofy KH, Wiesman J, Bruce H, Spitters C, Ericson K, Wilkerson S, Tural A, Diaz G, Cohn A, Fox L, Patel A, Gerber SI, Kim L, Tong S, Lu X, Lindstrom S, Pallansch MA, Weldon WC, Biggs HM, Uyeki TM, Pillai SK; Washington State 2019-nCoV Case Investigation Team.
N Engl J Med. 2020 Jan 31. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2001191. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 32004427

Free Full Text from N Engl J Med.

[4] “Right to try” laws create tremendous legal uncertainties; FDA expanded access preferable The Goldwater Institute and the Kochs pushed “right to try” laws in an attempt to get rid of FDA oversight of access to investigational drugs. Instead, they created tremendous legal uncertainties, making the FDA’s expanded access program preferable for all.
Jann Bellamy
January 17, 2019
Science-Based Medicine
Article

.

Does Room Air Reduce Mortality Among Term Neonates Requiring Respiratory Support at Birth?

     

The title of this meta-analysis suggests that it is important for us to have evidence in order to withhold treatments that are based on assumptions and anecdotes, rather than based on evidence. We should not even suggest this. Fortunately, the neonatal resuscitation guidelines have recommended not using the assumption-based and anecdote-based treatment since 2010.

 

Before 2000, resuscitation guidelines recommended 100% Fio2 for newborn respiratory support.6 However, hyperoxemia caused by high Fio2 results in the formation of free radicals, which can damage the lungs, brain, eyes, and other organs.7 Hypoxemia may also lead to harm. Literature in the early 2000s suggested no harm with room air resuscitation in term neonates, but also potentially an improvement in short-term mortality.8 In accordance with this literature, in 2010 and 2015 ILCOR recommended using room air for the initial resuscitation of term neonates.9, 10 [1]
 

The authors of this summary of the meta-analysis qualify this meta-analysis with a list of the weaknesses of the research. This is important for every analysis of research, but is it relevant, when there is no good reason to recommend the traditional intervention?  

According to these results with low evidence certainty, room air reduces short-term mortality compared with 100% Fio2 among term neonates requiring respiratory support at birth. Despite the low-quality evidence, these results are consistent across studies with low heterogeneity. The effect of intermediate Fio2 levels is not known and may benefit from further study. [1]
 

These are not reasons to reconsider, or oppose, the withholding of any treatments that are based on assumptions and anecdotes, rather than based on evidence.

The burden of proof is on those promoting any intervention. In the absence of valid evidence, we should limit ourselves to interventions that are supported by high quality evidence.

For epinephrine in cardiac arrest, there is no high quality evidence of benefit. The highest quality evidence is evidence of harm from epinephrine. The same is true for amiodarone, ventilation in cardiac arrest not due to a respiratory problem, furosemide in ADHF/CHF (Acute Decompensated Heart Failure/Congestive Heart Failure), and many other treatments we provide to patients, but definitely not for the benefit of patients.

We need to stop putting patients last in treatment decisions. The neonatal resuscitation guidelines are correct in their rejection of supplemental oxygen for neonatal resuscitation and the guidelines should not be changed.

Footnotes:

[1] Does Room Air Reduce Mortality Among Term Neonates Requiring Respiratory Support at Birth?

Brit Long, MD (EBEM Commentator), Michael D. April, MD, DPhil (EBEM Commentator) Department of Emergency Medicine, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, Fort Sam Houston, TX

Annals of Emergency Medicine

October 2019, Volume 74, Issue 4, Pages 509–511

DOI:&nbps;https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annemergmed.2019.03.017

Free Full Text from Annals of Emergency Medicine. .

Happy Full Moon Friday the 13th


Technically, the full moon is not until 00:33 – 33 minutes after the end of Friday the 13th, so that may help the superstitious to feel better, since these superstition events are not actually coinciding – pitting twice as many Gods against the superstitious (a double whammy). Or the superstitious may feel worse, because they now have two days in a row of the Gods conspiring against them. The reality is that only their own beliefs conspire against them. it is all in the heads of the believers.

Even when someone does claim to come up with some evidence to support their beliefs, those conclusions are not supported by higher quality research.
 

In conclusion, Friday the 13th appears to be dangerous for some women. Since Friday falls on the 13th day of the month only twice a year on average, prospects for significant public health gains are limited. However, the risk of death for women who venture into traffic on this unlucky day is higher by 63%, and it should be possible to prevent one-third of the deaths occurring on this particular day. Even then, the absolute gain would remain marginal, since only one death per 5 million person-days could be prevented.[1]

 

The total number of deaths is small. Drawing that conclusion, based on a small sample size is a problem. In order to be able to come up with larger numbers, to minimize the effects of the small sample size, other researchers looked at the motor vehicle collisions, rather than just fatal motor vehicle collisions. The assumption that the cause of the fatalities was anxiety, produced by superstition among the drivers is projecting a lot onto the drivers – without any evidence to support this supposed cause.

It should not be a surprise that the results of a much larger sample size contradicts the assumptions based on the much smaller sample.
 

Conclusion:
We conclude that, in the Finnish traffic accident statistics for 1989–2002, females have not incurred more injury (or fatal) road traffic accidents on Fridays the 13th than expected, as a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian. We suggest that Näyhä’s contradicting result on fatalities is due to different sampling, non-optimal setting and chance in a fairly small data. However, this does not imply a nonexistent effect on accident risk as no exposure-to-risk data [18] are available. People who are anxious of “Black Friday” may stay home, or at least avoid driving a car. The only relevant data [4], suggesting a small decrease in highway traffic, is rather limited and should be confirmed with more extensive research.[2]

 

The law of small numbers is an attempt to expose the mistake of extrapolating from small numbers as if the small numbers are representative. Small numbers are misleading. Small numbers are often used to promote ideas that are not supported by adequate numbers – such as the claims that epinephrine improves cardiac arrest outcomes that matter, or that amiodarone improves cardiac arrest outcomes that matter.[3]

Footnotes:

[1] Traffic deaths and superstition on Friday the 13th.
Näyhä S.
Am J Psychiatry. 2002 Dec;159(12):2110-1.
PMID: 12450968

[2] Females do not have more injury road accidents on Friday the 13th.
Radun I, Summala H.
BMC Public Health. 2004 Nov 16;4:54.
PMID: 15546493

Free Full Text from PubMed Central.

[3] Chapter 10
The Law of Small Numbers

Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman
2011
Wikipedia page

.

Safety and Effectiveness of Field Nitroglycerin in Patients with Suspected ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction

 

Is prehospital use of NTG (NiTroGlycerin; GTN GlycerylTriNitrate in Commonwealth countries) safe for treating prehospital suspected STEMI (ST segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction) patients?

The evidence is limited, but does not suggest that prehospital NTG produces enough harm to discourage use in suspected STEMI. These researchers looked at the emergency department assessments of patients following prehospital NTG for suspected STEMI.  

Despite the theoretical risk, the limited retrospective studies of NTG in the prehospital setting for multiple indications suggest that the medication is safe.(10-13) However, with regard to NTG use for STEMI, the AHA International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care concluded that there was not enough evidence to determine the benefit or harm of out-of-hospital use of NTG.(14) Given the high false positive rates for STEMI identified in the field, an additional concern is that many patients treated with NTG for presumed STEMI will ultimately have an alternate etiology for their pain.(15, 16) Therefore, it is not clear that the benefits outweigh the risks of administering NTG to all patients with suspected STEMI in the field.[1]
 

This paper helps to show the safety of prehospital NTG for suspected STEMI, providing evidence that blood pressure changes were similar in suspected STEMI patients with an SBP (Systolic Blood Pressure) of 100, or higher, regardless of whether they were treated with NTG. The study is a retrospective chart review, so we do not know why some of the patients were not treated with NTG.

One reason mentioned, but not discussed, is that only 22% (96 of 440) suspected STEMI patients not treated with NTG are documented to have had pain, but there is no information on the type of pain or other cardiac symptoms of the patients. Were the paramedics avoiding treating atypical chest pain, such as pressure, heaviness, gastric discomfort, difficulty breathing, et cetera? We do not know. Was only chest pain being documented, rather than shoulder, or arm, or jaw, pain? We do not know. Did the pain resolve prior to EMS arrival? We do not know. Were the paramedics correctly recognizing when the machine interpretation of the ECGs (ElectroCardioGrams) were wrong? We do not know.

The median Initial Pain Score is documented as 8, with an IQR (Inter-Quartile Range) of 5-9 for those treated with NTG. For those not treated with NTG the Initial Pain Score is documented as 0, with an IQR of 0-0. We do not know the Initial Pain Score of those who did have pain, but were not treated with NTG. All of these patients were in an IQR that was not documented in the paper. The good news is that the suspected STEMI patients not treated with NTG act as a control group, although possibly with important differences that are not discussed in the paper.

Click on the image of the LA County protocol to make it larger.[2]

What about the 17% of suspected STEMI patients with SPB <100 mmHg who were treated with NTG?

Was medical command (California has certified MICNs [Mobile Intensive Care Nurses] providing medical command on the radio, with physicians available, as well) contacted for authorization to deviate from the protocol? If so, that is something that should be documented in the charts, which were reviewed for this paper. That information is not included in this paper. Those patients are much more interesting to me.

I do not object to using NTG to treat suspected STEMI with an SBP below 100 mmHg, but the authors seem to think that EMS should not even consider it. Do the outcomes of those patients support the approach of the authors? We do not know.

I suspect that the fears of bottoming out the blood pressure are very exaggerated, but it would be nice to have some evidence either way.

An important secondary end point was the differences between those with inferior/right ventricular STEMI, but treated with NTG.  

By vasodilating all blood vessels, and the venous system in particular, it causes a drop in blood pressure and preload. Thus, there is concern for precipitating hypotension in ACS involving the right ventricle.(1-3) Contraindications to the use of NTG, as outlined by the American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines on the treatment of ACS, include right ventricular infarction.(4) This raises concern for use in inferior ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) in the prehospital setting, since many inferior STEMI result from proximal right coronary artery (RCA) occlusion and 50% involve the right ventricle.(3) Traditional 12-lead ECG is focused mainly on the left side of the heart and typically EMS protocols do not include acquisition of right-sided ECG leads. Further, in many systems, Basic Life Support (BLS) protocols allow for administration of NTG without differentiating the location of STEMI. There is also risk of other adverse events including bradycardia and cardiac arrest.(5-9)[1]
 

I have aggressively promoted the use of NTG for even hypotensive CHF/ADHF (Congestive Heart Failure/Acute Decompensated Heart Failure). Many physicians are not comfortable with that, even though the available evidence shows that aggressive IV NTG doubled the survival rate for these hypotensive patients. More research is needed on the use of NTG, especially in hypotensive patients.  

Further, we did not find an increased risk of hypotension among patients with proximal or mid RCA occlusions confirmed on coronary angiography. There are several possible reasons for our findings. First, while right ventricular involvement in inferior STEMI is common, hemodynamic instability is actually rare due to the right ventricle’s more favorable oxygen supply-demand ratio compared to the left heart and more extensive collateral flow.(3, 22) In addition, left heart occlusions may also involve the right ventricle and result in a preload dependent condition.(23-25) While limited by sample size, our results suggests that specifically avoiding NTG use in inferior STEMI, which is common in EMS systems, may be misguided. One quarter of the local EMS agencies in the state of California, for example, currently prohibit the use of NTG in inferior STEMI.(26) This analysis would benefit from additional study with a larger sample size and specific information about the infarct territory. Further studies are needed to determine which patients, in particular, are at increased risk for hypotension when treated with NTG.[1]
 

Perhaps NTG is also safe for treating patients with inferior ischemia and even right ventricular ischemia.

Footnotes:

[1] Safety and Effectiveness of Field Nitroglycerin in Patients with Suspected ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction.

Bosson N, Isakson B, Morgan JA, Kaji AH, Uner A, Hurley K, Henry TD, Niemann JT.

Prehosp Emerg Care. 2018 Dec 17:1-9. doi: 10.1080/10903127.2018.1558318. [Epub ahead of print]

PMID: 30556765

[2] Treatment Protocol: Chest Pain */ Acute MI

Reference No. 1244

LA County Paramedic Protocols

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services – Emergency Medical Services

Protocol

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Association of ventilation with outcomes from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

 

Does this study compare chest compressions with pauses for ventilation (regular CPR [CardioPulmonary Resuscitation]) against continuous chest compressions with no ventilations (compression-only CPR)?

Absolutely not.

This only compares compressions with pauses for good ventialtions against compressions with pauses for bad ventilations.

Will this be used to justify including ventilations in CPR, in spite of the absence of any valid evidence that ventilations improve outcomes?

Yes. It already has in the editorial about the study, published in the same issue.[1]

The authors of the paper were clear about the actual comparison in the discussion.
 

Why did so few patients in our study receive ventilation during CPR? Ventilation with a BVM device is a difficult skill to perform properly and must be practiced to maintain proficiency.22 The person performing ventilation must extend the neck, or place an oral airway, and/or perform a jaw thrust maneuver in order to maintain an open airway, a tight mask seal on the face must be maintained to prevent air from leaking around the mask, and the rescuer must then simultaneously squeeze the manual ventilator over 1 to 1.5 s. Our study showed no significant difference in the number of pauses between Group 1 and Group 2 patients (11 vs. 12 pauses). However, Group 2 patients received significantly more ventilations than Group 1 patients (8 vs. 3 ventilations). The study suggests that the rescuers in both Groups attempted ventilation about the same number of times per patient, but these attempts frequently did not result in lung inflation in Group 1 patients.[2]

 

In other words, this is a study of 30 compressions with a pause for 2 adequate ventilations to 30 compressions with a pause for 2 inadequate ventilations. This is important to know, but it has nothing to do with compression-only resuscitation.
 


 

Were the ventilations in the bad ventilation group going into the stomach? There are not a lot of possibilities, but not much of the ventilations were not going into the lungs or the ventilations were very shallow.

The authors do not mention if there is any difference in the rate of vomiting, aspiration, or other side effects expected from bad ventilation, between the groups.

The authors appear to be measuring the quality of ventilation, which is has never been shown to improve outcomes over compression-only resuscitation.

There is research showing that ventilations do not improve outcomes:
 

Cardiocerebral resuscitation improves survival of patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Kellum MJ, Kennedy KW, Ewy GA.
Am J Med. 2006 Apr;119(4):335-40.
PMID: 16564776 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Cardiocerebral resuscitation improves neurologically intact survival of patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Kellum MJ, Kennedy KW, Barney R, Keilhauer FA, Bellino M, Zuercher M, Ewy GA.
Ann Emerg Med. 2008 Sep;52(3):244-52. Epub 2008 Mar 28.
PMID: 18374452 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Minimally interrupted cardiac resuscitation by emergency medical services for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Bobrow BJ, Clark LL, Ewy GA, Chikani V, Sanders AB, Berg RA, Richman PB, Kern KB.
JAMA. 2008 Mar 12;299(10):1158-65.
PMID: 18334691 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Free Full Text at JAMA

Passive oxygen insufflation is superior to bag-valve-mask ventilation for witnessed ventricular fibrillation out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Bobrow BJ, Ewy GA, Clark L, Chikani V, Berg RA, Sanders AB, Vadeboncoeur TF, Hilwig RW, Kern KB.
Ann Emerg Med. 2009 Nov;54(5):656-662.e1. Epub 2009 Aug 6.
PMID: 19660833 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

And more.

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Ventilation during cardiopulmonary resuscitation-Only mostly dead!
Mosesso VN Jr.
Resuscitation. 2019 Aug;141:200-201. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2019.06.274. Epub 2019 Jun 22. No abstract available.
PMID: 31238035

 

[2] Association of ventilation with outcomes from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Chang MP, Lu Y, Leroux B, Aramendi Ecenarro E, Owens P, Wang HE, Idris AH.
Resuscitation. 2019 Aug;141:174-181. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2019.05.006. Epub 2019 May 18.
PMID: 31112744

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How Effective Is Epinephrine for Improving Survival Among Patients in Cardiac Arrest?

   

There have been two studies comparing epinephrine with placebo to treat out of hospital cardiac arrest. The Jacobs study was stopped early, because of interference by those who do not want to know if their medicine actually works.[1] The purpose of research is to determine, as objectively as possible, if a treatment is better than placebo nothing.  

Click on the image to make it larger.  

Even the small sample size shows a impressive p values of <0.001 for both ROSC (Return Of Spontaneous Circulation) and being admitted to the hospital. Unfortunately, that does not lead to outcomes that are better than placebo.

The Perkins study (PARAMEDIC2) did not find a significant difference between adrenaline (epinephrine in non-Commonwealth countries) and placebo.[2] The Jacobs study also did not find a difference, but the numbers were small, due to the interference by the less than knowledgeable. Following the Jacobs study, some intervention proponents have suggested that the problem is not a lack of evidence of benefit, but need to look at the evidence from the right perspective. The inadequate evidence is not “inadequate”, but really just misunderstood. All we need to do is use a method of analysis that compensates for the tiny sample size. A Bayesian approach will produce the positive outcome that is not justified by so few patients.[3]

What happens when the numbers are combined, so that the sample size is large enough to eliminate the need for statistical chicanery to come up with something positive?

The outcomes do not improve.  

Neither standard dose adrenaline, high-dose adrenaline,vasopressin nor a combination of adrenaline and vasopressin improved survival with a favourable neurological outcome.[4]
 

If the Bayesian approach were appropriate, then the much larger sample size would have provided more than enough patients to confirm the optimism of the epinephrine advocates. The result is still not statistically significant. Maybe a much, much larger study will show a statistically significant, but tiny, improvement in outcomes with epinephrine, but don’t hold your breath for that. It took half a century to produce the first study, then seven more years for the second. With the cost of research and the problems coordinating such a large study, it is more likely that the guidelines will continue to recommend spending a lot of time and money giving a drug that diverts attention from the interventions that do improve outcomes.

There is still no evidence that adrenaline provides better outcomes than placebo in human cardiac arrest patients.

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Footnotes:

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[1] Effect of adrenaline on survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial Jacobs IG, Finn JC, Jelinek GA, Oxer HF, Thompson PL. Resuscitation. 2011 Sep;82(9):1138-43. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2011.06.029. Epub 2011 Jul 2. PMID: 21745533

Free Full Text PDF Download from semanticscholar.org  

This study was designed as a multicentre trial involving five ambulance services in Australia and New Zealand and was accordingly powered to detect clinically important treatment effects. Despite having obtained approvals for the study from Institutional Ethics Committees, Crown Law and Guardianship Boards, the concerns of being involved in a trial in which the unproven “standard of care” was being withheld prevented four of the five ambulance services from participating.

In addition adverse press reports questioning the ethics of conducting this trial, which subsequently led to the involvement of politicians, further heightened these concerns. Despite the clearly demonstrated existence of clinical equipoise for adrenaline in cardiac arrest it remained impossible to change the decision not to participate.

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[2] A Randomized Trial of Epinephrine in Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest. Perkins GD, Ji C, Deakin CD, Quinn T, Nolan JP, Scomparin C, Regan S, Long J, Slowther A, Pocock H, Black JJM, Moore F, Fothergill RT, Rees N, O’Shea L, Docherty M, Gunson I, Han K, Charlton K, Finn J, Petrou S, Stallard N, Gates S, Lall R; PARAMEDIC2 Collaborators. N Engl J Med. 2018 Aug 23;379(8):711-721. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1806842. Epub 2018 Jul 18. PMID: 30021076

Free Full Text from N Engl J Med.

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[3] Regarding “Effect of adrenaline on survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: A randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial”. Youngquist ST, Niemann JT. Resuscitation. 2012 Apr;83(4):e105; author reply e107. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2011.09.035. Epub 2012 Jan 18. No abstract available. PMID: 22266068

Free Full Text from Resuscitation.

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[4] Adrenaline and vasopressin for cardiac arrest. Finn J, Jacobs I, Williams TA, Gates S, Perkins GD. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Jan 17;1:CD003179. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003179.pub2. PMID: 30653257    

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