News Briefs


Iron for Allergies


Targeted dietary measures can reduce the symptom burden in allergic reactions, researchers reported in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

Deficiencies in micronutrients, particularly iron, can make the immune system particularly sensitive to allergenic substances, researchers noted in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In PracticeA clinical trial showed that an iron lozenge is an effective remedy.

The investigators developed a lozenge based on the whey protein beta-lactoglobulin from cows, which acts as a carrier for numerous micronutrients. The carrier allows absorption to take place via the lymph, where immune cells are present, instead of blood vessels.

According to the study results, supplementation with the lozenge significantly reduced the symptom burden in birch and grass pollen-allergic individuals. After six months of intake, there was improvement in the iron status of circulating monocytes and red blood cell parameters, and a 45% reduction of the Combined Symptom Medication Score, a measure for the symptoms and medication use, during the peak birch pollen season.

"Supplying the immune cells with micronutrients via the lozenge showed a strikingly similar efficacy [to allergen immunotherapy], but in a completely allergen-independent and therefore universal way," said study leader Franziska Roth-Walter from the Messerli Research Institute. "The study therefore presents a new approach in the care of allergy sufferers. In this approach, a dietary measure is used to reduce the underlying hypersensitivity of the immune cells to allergenic substances rather than targeting the allergy itself."




History of COVID Affects Work Performance

tired at work

People who have recovered from COVID-19 often experience lingering memory, attention, and concentration problems that affect their work, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo collected data from 94 full-time working adults who either had or had not contracted COVID-19 at least one month prior to the study. Both groups were matched on key demographic characteristics.

The group who had experienced COVID-19 reported more cognitive failures at work, which are defined as problems with attention, memory, and action. Those cognitive failures were associated with decreased self-ratings of job performance and increased intentions to voluntarily leave one's current job.

"These results may have important implications for managers and organizations more broadly," said lead author James Beck, an associate professor in Waterloo's Psychology department. "Individuals returning to work after contracting COVID-19 may experience difficulties returning to their pre-COVID-19 level of performance and accommodations may be necessary. These accommodations might include reducing workloads, extending deadlines, or providing flexible work arrangements."



COVID Vaccination Safe and Effective During Pregnancy


Getting a second or third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the final stages of pregnancy protects infants from this virus, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Of 21,643 newborns included in the register-based cohort study, 9,739 (45%) were born to women who received a second or third dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. Those infants had a lower incidence of confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection than infants whose mothers were unvaccinated. Vaccination was more effective against the Delta variant than the Omicron variant.

[[Read More: Health-Care Workers Change Their Minds on Vaccinations]]

Similar protective benefits against infant infection have been observed for pertussis and influenza vaccination during pregnancy in randomized clinical trials and observational studies, the study authors noted. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy does not increase the frequency of complications around the time of childbirth.

[[Read More: Patients with Allergic Reaction to First COVID Shot Are Often Fine After the Second]]

"Young infants are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 compared with older children, and there is no approved COVID-19 vaccine for this age group. Getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19 during pregnancy helps protect young infants from potential SARS-CoV-2 infection when they are born," said Dr. Deshaye Fell, Scientist at the CHEO Research Institute and Associate Professor in the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Medicine.


Limited Evidence Supports the Role of Cannabis for Pain Relief

medical marijuana

The pain-relieving effects of cannabis and related products are based on their ability to mimic the body's own endocannabinoid system, which can affect the sensation of pain. A federally funded systematic evidence review of 3,000 studies (25 of which had scientifically valid evidence) found that just three products showed evidence providing pain relief: Dronabinol (Marinol) and nabilone (Cesamet), both FDA-approved synthetic products; and nabiximols (Sativex; not available in the United States), a sublingual spray.

In the review, researchers sorted products into high, comparable, and low ratios of THC to CBD and compared their reported benefits and side effects. Dronabinol and nabilone, both of which contain 100% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), showed the strongest benefit among the products studied. Nabiximols contains equal parts THC and cannabidiol (CBD).

The review found an otherwise surprising dearth of evidence. "In general, the limited amount of evidence surprised all of us," said lead author Marian S. McDonagh, PharmD, emeritus professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

"We saw only a small group of observational cohort studies on cannabis products that would be easily available in states that allow it, and these were not designed to answer the important questions on treating chronic pain."

While 22 states have legalized marijuana (both medical and recreational), few of the products available in dispensaries have been well studied. "For some cannabis products, such as whole-plant products, the data are sparse with imprecise estimates of effect and studies had methodological limitations," the authors wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Cannabis products vary quite a bit in terms of their chemical composition, and this could have important effects in terms of benefits and harm to patients," said co-author Roger Chou, MD, director of OHSU's Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center. "The evidence for one cannabis-based product may not be the same for another."

 The project was funded by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



Medication Adherence Improves Outcomes

self administering a shot

Patients with cystic fibrosis who adhered to prescribed cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator modulator (CFTRm) therapies were significantly less likely to be hospitalized than nonadherent patients in a recent study, researchers reported at the May ISPOR conference in Washington, D.C.

A separate study found similar results in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Medication-adherent patients had fewer hospitalizations, shorter stays in the hospital if hospitalized, and lower inpatient costs than nonadherent patients.

Both studies were retrospective analyses of a deidentified commercial claims database. Adherence was measured by using a proportion of days covered metric among patients who had medical claims with ICD-10 codes for their respective study during 2019. Researchers examined outcomes, including hospitalizations, inpatient bed days and inpatient costs.

Nishita Hira, AllianceRx Walgreens Prime clinical program manager and an author of the CF study, said that the research findings reinforce the role specialty pharmacies play in supporting CF patients. “Specialty pharmacies can help support adherence through monthly touchpoints with patients. These include refill reminders and screening for and counseling on adherence barriers — such as administration difficulties or side effects — that may pose a threat to continued adherence. Through improving adherence, specialty pharmacies can have a beneficial outcome on patient quality of life.”

The same holds true for patients with UC/Crohn’s disease, according to Renee Baiano, clinical program manager at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime and an author of the UC/Crohn’s disease study. “The continual interaction between the patient, specialty pharmacy and provider is fundamental in the continuity of care for IBD patients. Specialty pharmacists can improve the quality of life for these patients by providing expert advice and support of treatment regimens, as well as by encouraging medication adherence.”

“For patients, the message is staying adherent can keep you out of the hospital,” said Edward Witt, Walgreens manager of health analytics, research and reporting, and an author of the study. “For payers and providers, medication adherence is a key factor for reducing inpatient costs and improving quality of care.”


Colorado Passes the First Law Giving Patients the Right to Repair Their Own Powered Wheelchairs


Powered-wheelchair users face a lengthy uphill battle to get even the simplest repairs done, but Colorado is trying to ease the process.

Under current law, powered wheelchair users can only obtain maintenance, diagnostics, or repairs directly from the manufacturer. The power-wheelchair market is dominated by two suppliers, both of which are owned by private equity firms, explains Kaiser Health News. Both seek to increase profits by limiting spending on technicians and repairs.

“They usually keep a limited inventory of parts on hand and wait until health plans approve repair claims before ordering parts,” according to KHN.

Wheelchair users often can’t make their own repairs because the wheelchairs often require a key or passcode to make repairs, and any repairs a user does male can endanger insurance payments or warranties. Even independent shops can’t make the repairs as the wheelchair manufacturers restrict access to parts, tools, and service manuals.

Wheelchair users report months-long waits for even simple repairs and have been fighting to be able to repair their wheelchairs themselves or through independent repair shops.

The Colorado bill requires the manufacturer to provide embedded software, firmware, parts, tools, and documentation (such as diagnostic, maintenance, or repair manuals) to independent repair providers and wheelchair owners so they can diagnose, maintain, and repair the wheelchairs. Failure to comply, under the bill, will be deemed a deceptive trade practice.

Legislators in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are considering similar bills, and at least three right-to-repair bills have been introduced in Congress this year.