COVID pandemic: finally, the end is in sight !

The latest good news about Oxford vaccine is hugely encouraging and denotes the end of pandemic is in sight.

The latest positive results show that even a single dose of the vaccine is highly effective.

The vaccine offered 76% effective protection from a single dose for three months”. This validates the UK decision to prioritise first dose of the vaccine and delay the second dose of booster vaccine.

Most importantly the Vaccine was shown to reduce spread of the virus causing the COVID.

It is the first time a vaccine has been shown to reduce transmission of the virus

If all the vaccines now in use continue to be safe and highly effective in real world population, then it is only a matter of months before the pandemic comes to an end and normal life returns in 2021 !

A separate study also reports very positive news. The study reports that 9 out of 10 people who had an actual COVID infection will have protective antibodies for at least six months.

Vaccines work by tricking the body into thinking that there is a real infection and hence the body produces antibodies. So this study indirectly indicates the protection from vaccines will also last longer and yet another reason to be hopeful about the end of pandemic in 2021.

BBC news. Covid-19: Study showing Oxford vaccine slows virus spread ‘superb’ – Hancock.

BBC news: Covid: Antibodies last at least six months in most.
By Rachel Schraer
BBC Health reporter

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is NOT a expert medical opinion on various topics. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with. The authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Where can I find official detailed information about the three COVID vaccines (Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and Moderna)

You might have read information about the COVID vaccines on various news outlets and social media messages.

If you want complete summary information about vaccines approved by the regulatory authorities, click on the links below.

Two types of information leaflets accompany all licensed medicines.
– One is meant for health professionals and has lot of clinical information. (called SPC)
– The other is meant for patients and public and provides a summary of facts using lay terms.(called PIL).

The leaflets provide information about all common side effects observed in the trials.

Oxford Astra Zeneca: Professionals Version .

Oxford Astra Zeneca: Patient Version

Pfizer. Professionals Version

Pfizer. Patient Version

Moderna. Professionals Version

Moderna. Patient Version

FDA USA: Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine prescribing informationexternal

FDA USA: Moderna COVID-19 vaccine prescribing informationexternal

The above links reproduced below with longer titles and date of publication.

Please note when new significant information comes to light, the company and regulatory authorities are likely to update the information leaflets.

Oxford Vaccine : Information for Healthcare Professionals on COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
Updated 7 January 2021.

Oxford Vaccine: MHRA. Information for UK recipients on COVID 19 Vaccine AstraZeneca
Updated 7 January 2021.

Pfizer Vaccine. MHRA. Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Updated 31 December 2020

Pfizer Vaccine. MHRA. Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
Updated 31 December 2020

Moderna. MHRA. Information for Healthcare Professionals on COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna
Updated 8 January 2021.

Moderna. MHRA. Information for UK recipients on COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna
Updated 8 January 2021.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

A third Vaccine approved for protection against COVID-19 Coronavirus infection

Pfizer Vaccine and Astra Zeneca/Oxford Vaccine were approved last month by the UK regulatory authorities.

Now the regulatory authorities have approved a third vaccine. The third vaccine from Moderna along with two other vaccines should help to bring the pandemic to an end.

The Moderna vaccine is a new technology like the Pfizer Vaccine. (based on mRNA technology).

Like the two vaccines, the short term data for Moderna vaccine is very encouraging.

Over long term, one hopes that the protective effect of all the three vaccines is long lasting and that they remain effective against any new variants of coronavirus that might emerge in the coming months.

Overall, there is certainly ‘light at end of the tunnel’ and the world can emerge out of this horrific pandemic in a short period.

BBC. Moderna becomes third Covid vaccine approved in the UK
By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online

BBC.Covid-19: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine judged safe for use in UK
By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online
Published2 December 2020

BBC. Covid-19: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved for use in UK
By James Gallagher and Nick Triggle
BBC News
Published30 December 2020

MHRA. Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine approved.

MHRA. Moderna vaccine becomes third COVID-19 vaccine approved by UK regulator.

MHRA. UK medicines regulator gives approval for first UK COVID-19 vaccine.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

New drug treatments for COVID-19

More good news in fight against COVID-19 pandemic !

Steroids were previously proven to be effective against severe Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The steroids are believed to work by dampening the inflammation caused by coronavirus.

Dexamethasone and Prednisolone are the commonly used steroids.

Now two other drugs have been reported to work in COVID-19 infection. (yet to be published).

Both the anti-inflammatory drugs are not entirely new drugs as they are already routinely used for treatment of various arthritis.

The BBC reports: “The anti-inflammatory medications, given via a drip, save an extra life for every 12 treated, say researchers who have carried out a trial in NHS intensive care units”.

The two drugs “tocilizumab and sarilumab” may become available for treatment of severe COVID-19 shortly.

All these additional drug treatments are needed ONLY for severe Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Mild COVID-19 infections do NOT need these drug treatments.

References . BBC news. Two more life-saving Covid drugs discovered. By Michelle Roberts. Health editor, BBC News online. Published 7 Jan 2021.

BBC news. Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug. By Michelle Roberts. Health editor, BBC News online. Published 16 June 2020

BBC News. Tocilizumab: Arthritis drug may treat severe Covid. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent. Published 19 November 2020

BMJ. Dexamethasone in management of covid -19. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2648 (Published 03 July 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2648

BMJ. Rapid Recommendations. A living WHO guideline on drugs for covid-19. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3379 (Published 04 September 2020). Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3379

BMJ. Covid-19: Arthritis drugs improve survival in intensive care patients, shows study
BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n61 (Published 08 January 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n61

eMC. Sarilumab is a human monoclonal antibody selective for the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor, produced in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells by recombinant DNA technology. (Sarilumab, administered as a subcutaneous injection is routinely used for treatment of arthritis and is not an entirely new drug).

eMC. Tocilizumab is a recombinant humanized, anti-human monoclonal antibody of the immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) sub-class directed against soluble and membrane-bound interleukin 6 receptors. (Tocilizumab, as a intravenous or subcutaneous formulation, is routinely used for treatment of various arthritis and is also not an entirely new drug).

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

Can a Vegan diet help weight loss?

Yes, Vegan diet can help weight loss.

Lot of diets promoted by Magazines, Social Media Influencers and Celebrities do not have strong scientific evidence in favour of them.

A scientifically sound trial published by the medical journal JAMA ( Journal of American Medical Association) recently, found the Vegan Diet helped weight loss and promoted Good metabolism.

The trial involving 244 participants found that over 16 weeks, body weight decreased on average by 5.9 kg in those having a Vegan Diet. That’s very impressive!

References: Effect of a Low-Fat Vegan Diet on Body Weight, Insulin Sensitivity, Postprandial Metabolism, and Intramyocellular and Hepatocellular Lipid Levels in Overweight Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial
Hana Kahleova et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2020.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

New oral medication approved for Prostate Cancer

Advanced Prostate cancer can be successfully controlled for many years by hormone therapy.

Until now, the hormone therapy, which is widely used widely used, involved either hormone injections or hormone implants.

The FDA in USA has recently approved a new novel oral medication for prostate cancer. It acts quickly and has been proven to be highly active. It is taken as a daily oral medication. It is reasonably well tolerated.

It is not known when the medication would be approved in UK and Europe.

References

(1) NEJM. Oral Relugolix for Androgen-Deprivation Therapy in Advanced Prostate Cancer

(2) FDA approval. FDA approves relugolix for advanced prostate cancer.

(3) Information about Relugolix. FDA: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. and FULL PRESCRIBING INFORMATION.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the new vaccine against COVID-19 causing CoronaVirus safe and effective ?

Yes, the available short term data indicates the vaccine is safe and effective in vast majority of people.

The big unknown is the long term efficacy and side effects.

Normally medicine progresses slowly and carefully like a big train turning slowly on sharp uphill bend .

But due to pandemic emergency, the vaccines are being introduced to the the general public more more earlier than it would have done, well before availability of more mature data.

Long term, there are some uncertainties. For instance, there is a possibility of loss of efficacy if vaccine effect is not long lasting. But there is no evidence to suggest at present this would happen. As regards long term side effects, once more data is collected and more patients are followed up after vaccination, there will more mature data on side effects.

The available data suggests that very high groups who are a high risk of death from COVID , have good odds of benefitting from vaccine.

The trial data published so far, UK Medicine regulator conclusions , Pfizer data sheet and UK govt Guidelines has been positive so far.

It may be that low risk groups such as people in 20s, who have less chance of dying from COVID, may opt for more long term data before having the vaccination.

References:

NHS Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

MHRA Regulatory approval of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19

Information for UK recipients on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Updated 16 December 2020.

Information for Healthcare Professionals on Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Updated 16 December 2020.

Public Health England. COVID-19 vaccination programme. Information for healthcare practitioners. Published December 2020. Version 2.1

The Green book chapter 14a COVID-19-SARS-Cov-2.

PHE. Confirmation of guidance to vaccination centres on managing allergic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 9/12/2020.

British Society for Rheumatology. Guidance for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.


The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is the new variant of Coronavirus more dangerous?

Yes and No

The new mutant is more dangerous because it is more easily transmissible from person to person. The new variant is now spreading very rapidly in London and South East of England.

But, so far, the new variant has NOT been found to be more deadly than the original version. The new variant does NOT seem to have substantially increased the risk of hospitalisation and death anymore than the original version of coronavirus.

Emergence of this new mutant (called variant VUI-202012/01 fall) is a certainly a worrying development in this pandemic.

The mutations has made the new strain 70 per cent more transmissible but scientists do not expect these mutations to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

Tests are being carried out to confirm that the existing vaccines would still have a high degree of protective affect.

It is an evolving area and we have to hope that the new variant doesn’t make things worse than they are now !

Covid-19: New coronavirus variant is identified in UK. BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4857 (Published 16 December 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4857

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Does intensive follow benefit Bowel cancer patients?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The old adage “prevention is better than cure” is mostly true with regards to cancer if you can do it.

If you can’t prevent it , at least catch it early, has been the prime motive behind screening tests for breast, cervical, bowel, lung and prostate cancers. (“early is better”). Cancers that are detected at an early stage can offer a better chance of curative treatment.

So one might logically expect that intensive monitoring and early diagnosis of a cancer relapse or a secondary cancer after initial treatment can be immensely helpful.

But the evidence for intensive hospital follow-up visits and investigations is weak for most cancers except for some cancers such as Testicular Cancers which are highly curable.

Intensive monitoring after bowel cancer treatment can detect treatable cancers. To confirm the benefit of early detection of relapse by intensive monitoring , a trial was conducted comparing intensive follow up versus routine follow up ( in France and Belgium).

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the intensive follow with scans can detect cancer recurrences which can be treated by further surgery. But unfortunately the intensive follow up did NOT lead to longer life expectancy.

The results might be counterintuitive but after an average follow up more than six years, this trial demonstrates that intensive follow is NOT always best. Scans might be done for psychological reassurance but they could end up causing significant anxiety.

When there are resource constraints (e.g low economic countries) , one has to be careful about frequents routine scans for those without symptoms.

During COVID-19, even in rich countries such as UK where there might be huge waiting lists, one has to consider prioritising scans for those who need most.

References

1. ESMO Daily reporter: INTENSIVE FOLLOW-UP INCREASES FREQUENCY OF CURATIVE INTENT SECONDARY SURGERY IN COLORECTAL CANCER.

2. DRE is useless for follow up of prostate cancer patients. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/dre-useless-follow-prostate-cancer-patients

3. Cancer patients follow up and a new role for GPs. https://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/11/03/cancer-patients-follow-and-new-role-gps

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

New treatment for Advanced Uterine Cancer

Women with advanced uterine / endometrial cancer are usually treated with chemotherapy.

Those who failed chemotherapy or those who are fit for chemotherapy are sometimes treated with hormone treatment.

Letrozole is one such hormone treatment for those patients with hormone sensitive cancer.

In breast cancer, Letrozole efficacy can be improved by a treatment called Palboclicib.

A trial was done to check whether the same improvement can be observed in uterine cancer when the combination of Letrozole and Palboclicib is tried.

The trial data presented at the ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) is very promising.

If large trials confirm this finding, the combination would be standard treatment in future.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Is Honey a better treatment for coughs and colds ?

Possibly yes, in some cases of viral infections , according to a paper published a BMJ group journal ( BMJ Evidence Based Medicine) .

The paper has been widely quoted in various newspapers today.

The BMJ group journal authors report: “Honey was superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.

It provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics…….but further high quality, placebo controlled trials are needed.”

A word of caution: Honey has high sugar content. Diabetics need to be careful. People will allergies need to take care. Of course bacterial infections need antibiotics particularly in old and vulnerable!

References

1. BMJ Evidence Based Medicine. Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis .

Abuelgasim H, Albury C, Lee J Effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine Published Online First: 18 August 2020. doi: 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111336.

2. Guardian Newspaper:

3. Daily Mail.

4. BBC paper review .

5. Evening Express

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Are Routine blood tests essential during follow up of low grade Lymphoma?

Bloods tests have the potential to pick up various abnormalities including cancer related abnormalities during follow up of cancers.

But , many patients would be surprised to know that there is ongoing debate about usefulness of routine blood tests atleast in some cancers !

In a recent study, Australian investigators assessed the role of routine blood tests during monitoring of patients with low grade lymphoma.

They found that routine blood tests rarely found or detected disease progression in patients who did not have any symptoms.

References

Routine Blood Tests in Asymptomatic Patients With Indolent Lymphoma Have Limited Ability to Detect Clinically Significant Disease Progression. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00771 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print June 25, 2020. PMID: 32584701

Effectiveness of Routine Blood Testing in Detection of Disease During Active Surveillance for Indolent Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. By Matthew Stenger. Posted: 7/16/2020 1:40:00 PM . Last Updated: 7/29/2020 1:59:00 PM

Utility of Routine Surveillance Laboratory Testing in Detecting Relapse in Patients With Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma in First Remission: Results From a Large Single-Institution Study. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.19.00733 JCO Oncology Practice – published online before print May 5, 2020. PMID: 32369413

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can you get Coronavirus infection more than once?

If you are one of the unlucky ones to have already been infected with Coronavirus infection but recovered from it, can you become unlucky again and get another Coronavirus infection later this year ?

Unfortunately, the answer is a YES.

Some Viral infections can sometimes lead to life long immunity. For example, most people who had chicken pox as a child tend to have lifelong immunity and it would be uncommon to get chicken pox again. (except in some circumstances).

But infection with ‘Coronavirus causing COVID-19’ doesn’t seem led to long lasting immunity or resistance to a second Coronavirus infection.

A Newspaper report on a study by a team from King’s College London suggests that susceptibility to a second infection may occur as short as 3 months in some patients. This because the level of antibodies produced by the immune system after first infection start to fade away within a few months in some patients.

If confirmed, this is probably one of the most worrying news during this pandemic.

This study result could also affect Vaccine development and how frequently it may need to be administered.

References

Guardian Newspaper: Coronavirus outbreak. Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests. Ian Sample. Science editor. @iansample. Sun 12 Jul 2020 17.31 BST

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.