News in brief: Inhaler boycott possible after tobacco company takeover, TSANZ warns; Climate change to worsen COPD symptoms; Healthcare worker vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission;

Tuesday, 14 Sep 2021

Inhaler boycott possible after tobacco company takeover, TSANZ warns

Respiratory specialists may boycott COPD inhalers that use Vectura technology if the company is taken over by tobacco company Philip Morris International, according to Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand chief executive Graham Hall.

At least 10 dry powder inhaler devices use a technology made by Vectura, whose shareholders are considering as takeover bid on Wednesday.

Professor Hall told the ABC that doctors could not in good conscience give a COPD treatment to a patient if some of revenue would go to the company that sold tobacco, which is the main cause of the disease

“No doctor is going to want to prescribe a treatment to a patient, that they know may be funding a tobacco company,” he said.

In August, Prof Hall was one of several signatories of a letter to Vectra shareholders highlighting potential business risks if the company came under ownership of Philip Morris International.

If controlled by a tobacco company the inhaler device company could be boycotted by academics, clinicians, medical journals and lose access to government research grants, the letter warned.

UPDATE: This story has been edited to remove an incorrect reference from the ABC story stating that Ellipta inhalers were developed in partnership with Vectura.

Climate change to worsen COPD symptoms

Warmer weather is linked to a worsening of COPD symptoms, according to US research presented at ERS 2021 Congress.

Dr Supaksh Gupta, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at the University of Washington, said the study of 1,177 current and former smokers with COPD in the SPIROMICS cohort found that modest ambient temperature increases were followed by an increase in COPD exacerbations.

“We found that each one-degree Celsius increase in ambient temperature was associated with a 2% increase in the likelihood of COPD exacerbations in the following two days among this group of patients.”

He said the findings were consistent with other studies which have shown a connection between extreme heat exposure and increased risk of health problems and death in people with COPD.

“There are concerns that these problems will accelerate with the ongoing and worsening climate crisis. Therefore, it is important to quantify the health risks associated with changes in ambient temperature, while also determining who is most at risk to inform policy-makers and healthcare providers.”

Healthcare worker vaccination reduces COVID-19 transmission

In findings described reassuring for healthcare workers and their families, a UK study has provided evidence suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination of healthcare staff reduces transmission within their household.

Researchers in the UK evaluated data from almost 200,000 household members of 144,525 health care workers in Scotland who worked from March to November 2020.

At the time of the study, 78% of healthcare workers had received at least one dose of either Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine, and 25% had received a second dose.

The analysis found that risk of COVID-19 among household members of vaccinated health care workers was 30% lower (Hazard Ratio 0.70) after the first dose and more than 50% lower (HR 0.46) after the second dose of vaccine.

The effect of vaccination may have been larger because the analysis did not cover risk of transmission from sources outside the household, the researchers wrote in NEJM.

“Given that vaccination reduces asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2, it is plausible that vaccination reduces transmission,” said the researchers led by Dr Anoop Shah of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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