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Understanding Cancer Survivors’ Reasons to Medicate With Cannabis: A Qualitative Study Based on the Theory of Planned Behavior

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-10-17
Abstract: 

Background

Prior to nonmedical cannabis legalization in Canada, individuals were only able to access cannabis legally through licensed producers with medical authorization. Now with an additional legal access system designed for nonmedical purposes, it is unclear what factors influence cancer survivors’ decisions to medicate or not medicate cannabis as a complementary therapy to alleviate their cancer symptoms.

Methods

We recruited cancer survivors via social media. Interested individuals were purposively sampled to ensure maximization in terms of age, sex, and province of residence. Constructs of the Theory of Planned Behavior were explored during the telephone interviews as participants described what influenced their decisions to medicate or not medicate cannabis to manage their symptoms.

Results

Interviews were conducted with 33 cancer survivors. All individuals believed that cannabis would manage their cancer symptoms. Those that chose to medicate with cannabis provided a variety of reasons, including that cannabis was a more natural alternative; that it reduced their overall number of prescription drugs; and that safer products had become available with the legalization of nonmedical cannabis. Some individuals also indicated that support from physicians and validation from family and friends were important in their decision to medicate with cannabis. Individuals who opted not to medicate with cannabis raised concerns about the lack of scientific evidence and/or possible dependency issues. Some also felt their physician's disapproval was a barrier to considering cannabis use.

Conclusions

The findings revealed that recreational legalization made using cannabis appear safer and easier to access for some cancer survivors. However, physicians’ censure of cannabis use for symptom management was a barrier for survivors considering its use.

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Article
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A Computable Phenotype Model for Classification of Men Who Have Sex With Men Within a Large Linked Database of Laboratory, Surveillance, and Administrative Healthcare Records

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-10-06
Abstract: 

Background: Most public health datasets do not include sexual orientation measures, thereby limiting the availability of data to monitor health disparities, and evaluate tailored interventions. We therefore developed, validated, and applied a novel computable phenotype model to classify men who have sex with men (MSM) using multiple health datasets from British Columbia, Canada, 1990–2015.

Methods: Three case surveillance databases, a public health laboratory database, and five administrative health databases were linked and deidentified (BC Hepatitis Testers Cohort), resulting in a retrospective cohort of 727,091 adult men. Known MSM status from the three disease case surveillance databases was used to develop a multivariable model for classifying MSM in the full cohort. Models were selected using “elastic-net” (GLMNet package) in R, and a final model optimized area under the receiver operating characteristics curve. We compared characteristics of known MSM, classified MSM, and classified heterosexual men.

Findings: History of gonorrhea and syphilis diagnoses, HIV tests in the past year, history of visit to an identified gay and bisexual men's clinic, and residence in MSM-dense neighborhoods were all positively associated with being MSM. The selected model had sensitivity of 72%, specificity of 94%. Excluding those with known MSM status, a total of 85,521 men (12% of cohort) were classified as MSM.

Interpretation: Computable phenotyping is a promising approach for classification of sexual minorities and investigation of health outcomes in the absence of routinely available self-report data.

Document type: 
Article
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Cost-Effectiveness of Brentuximab Vedotin in Advanced Stage Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: A Probabilistic Analysis

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-10-13
Abstract: 

Background  Treatment with ABVD (doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine) is a well-established therapy for advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL). However, the recently completed ECHELON-1 trial showed potential net clinical benefit for brentuximab vedotin (BREN+AVD) compared to ABVD as frontline therapy in patients with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The objective of this analysis is to determine whether, on current evidence, BREN+AVD is cost-effective relative to ABVD as frontline therapy in patients with advanced HL.

Methods  We constructed a probabilistic Markov model with two arms and six mutually exclusive health states, using six-month cycle lengths, and a 15-year time horizon. Time-dependent transition probabilities were calculated from ‘real-world’ data collected by the BC Cancer’s Centre for Lymphoid Cancer database or from the literature for ABVD. Time-dependent transition probabilities for BREN+AVD were taken from the ECHELON-1 trial. We estimated the incremental cost and effects per patient of each therapy and calculated the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER). Costs were measured in 2018 Canadian dollars and effects measured in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). A probabilistic analysis was used to generate a cost-effectiveness acceptability curve (CEAC).

Results  The incremental cost between standard therapy with ABVD and therapy with BREN+AVD was estimated to be id="mce_marker"92,336. The regimen of BREN+AVD resulted in a small benefit in terms of QALYs (0.46 QALYs). The estimated ICER was $418,122 per QALY gained. The probabilistic analysis suggests very few (8%) simulations fall below id="mce_marker"00,000 per QALY. Even at a threshold of $200,000 per QALY gained, there was only a 24% chance that BREN+AVD would be considered cost-effective. Sensitivity analyses evaluating price reductions for brentuximab showed that these reductions needed to be in excess of 70% for this regimen to be cost-effective at a threshold of id="mce_marker"00,000 per QALY.

Conclusions  There may be a clinical benefit associated with BREN+AVD, but on current evidence the benefit is not adequately substantive compared to ABVD therapy given the cost of brentuximab vedotin. Agencies responsible for making decisions about BREN+AVD as frontline therapy for patients with advanced HL should consider whether they are willing to implement this treatment given the current uncertainty and cost-benefit profile, or negotiate substantial price-reductions from the manufacturer should they choose to reimburse.

Document type: 
Article
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Developing Co-Funded Multi-Sectoral Partnerships for Chronic Disease Prevention: A Qualitative Inquiry Into Federal Governmental Public Health Staff Experience

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-08-20
Abstract: 

Background

Multi-sectoral partnerships (MSPs) are frequently cited as a means by which governments can improve population health while leveraging the resources and expertise of the private and non-profit sectors. As part of their efforts in this area, the Public Health Agency of Canada (the Agency) introduced a novel funding programme requiring applicants to procure matched resources from private sources to support large-scale interventions for chronic disease prevention. The current literature on MSPs is limited in its applicability to this model of multi-sectoral engagement. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of Agency staff working with potential partners to develop programme applications, such that we might identify lessons from adopting this type of partnership approach.

Methods

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the 12 staff working in the MSP programme. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Preliminary themes were used to inform follow up focus-groups sessions. A second round of analysis was conducted guided by a coding paradigm focused on understanding process.

Results

We identified “experiencing uncertainty” to be a central concept in participants’ accounts of the MSP process, related specifically to the MSP programme’s novel conditions, shifts that occurred in sectoral roles and demands for new capacities. In response, Agency staff employed strategies to clarify partner interests, build trust in inter-sectoral relationships, and support internal and partner capacity. Outcomes associated with this process include impacts on trust between the Agency and potential partners, a deeper understanding of other sectors, and programme adaptations and refinements to address challenges related to the programme model.

Conclusions

The co-funding model employed by the Agency is a potentially popular one for government bodies wanting to leverage funding from private sector sources. Our study identifies the potential challenges that can occur under this model. Some challenges are related to addressing material conditions related to partner capacity, whereas other challenges speak to deeper and more difficult to address concerns regarding trust and alignment of motivations and interests between partners. Future research exploring the challenges associated with specific models of MSP engagement is necessary to inform approaches to addressing complex problems through collaborative efforts.

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Article
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Psychosis: Is prevention possible?

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020
Abstract: 

Background: Controversy persists about whether or not it is possible to prevent psychotic disorders. We set out to identify if there were any effective interventions that prevent psychosis among youth.

Methods: We used systematic review methods to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating prevention interventions. After applying our rigorous inclusion criteria, we accepted three RCTs –  evaluating one supplement and two psychosocial interventions with youth found to be at high-risk for psychosis.

Results: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplements reduced psychosis diagnoses and symptoms use and improved overall functioning over six years follow-up. Two other interventions – Auditory Cognitive Training and Family-Focused Treatment – did not produce significant benefits post-intervention.

Conclusions: More studies are needed to replicate results for PUFAs. As well, additional research is needed to develop psychosocial interventions that may help high-risk youth. Given the high burdens and costs associated with psychosis, prevention remains an important goal for youth and families.

Some Notes on the Use, Concept and Socio-political Framing of ‘stigma’ Focusing on an Opioid-related Public Health Crisis

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-08-03
Abstract: 

Canada has been home to a longstanding public health crisis related to opioids, including an extensive mortality and morbidity toll in the face of substantive intervention gaps. Recently (2019), two extensive reports from preeminent federal authorities – the Chief Public Health Officer and the Mental Health Commission of Canada – have been tabled with detailed, core focus on the phenomenon of ‘stigma’ and its impacts on substance/opioid use and harms. The reports present extensive descriptions of the nature and effects, as well as a multitude of prescriptions for remedial measures and actions to “stop the cycle of stigma”. Closer reading of the documents, however, suggests substantial conceptual and empirical limitations in the characterization of the – multi-faceted and challenging – nature and workings of ‘stigma’ as a socio-political, structural or individual process or force, specifically as it applies to and negatively affects substance use and related outcomes, primarily the wellbeing of substance users. Concretely, it is unclear how the remedial actions proposed will materially alleviate stigma process and impacts, especially given apparent gaps in the issues examined, including essential strategies – for example, reform of drug user criminalization as a fundamental element and driver of structural stigma - for action that directly relate to the jurisdictions and privileged mandates of the report sources themselves as health and policy leaders. The commentary provides some concrete while subjective notes and observations on the dynamics of stigma as applies to and framed for substance/opioid use, as well as strategies and measures necessary to both tangibly address the material health and wellbeing of substance users, and related forces of stigma, in the distinct context of the opioid crisis in Canada.

Document type: 
Article
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Examining Correlations Between Opioid Dispensing and Opioid-related Hospitalizations in Canada, 2007–2016

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-07-22
Abstract: 

Background

High levels of opioid-related mortality, as well as morbidity, contribute to the excessive opioid-related disease burden in North America, induced by high availability of opioids. While correlations between opioid dispensing levels and mortality outcomes are well-established, fewer evidence exists on correlations with morbidity (e.g., hospitalizations).

Methods

We examined possible overtime correlations between medical opioid dispensing and opioid-related hospitalizations in Canada, by province, 2007–2016. For dispensing, we examined annual volumes of medical opioid dispensing derived from a representative, stratified sample of retail pharmacies across Canada. Raw dispensing information for ‘strong opioids’ was converted into Defined Daily Doses per 1000 population per day (DDD/1000/day). Opioid-related hospitalization rates referred to opioid poisoning-related admissions by province, for fiscal years 2007–08 to 2016–17, drawn from the national Hospital Morbidity Database. We assessed possible correlations between opioid dispensing and hospitalizations by province using the Pearson product moment correlation; correlation values (r) and confidence intervals were reported.

Results

Significant correlations for overtime correlations between population-levels of opioid dispensing and opioid-related hospitalizations were observed for three provinces: Quebec (r = 0.87, CI: 0.49–0.97; p = 0.002); New Brunswick (r = 0.85;CI: 0.43–0.97; p = 0.004) and Nova Scotia (r = 0.78; CI:0.25–0.95; p = 0.012), with an additional province, Saskatchewan, (r = 0.073; CI:-0.07–0.91;p = 0.073) featuring borderline significance.

Conclusions

The correlations observed further add to evidence on opioid dispensing levels as a systemic driver of population-level harms. Notably, correlations were not identified principally in provinces with reported high contribution levels (> 50%) of illicit opioids to mortality, which are not captured by dispensing data and so may have distorted or concealed potential correlation effects due to contamination.

Document type: 
Article
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Quality of Life and Socioeconomic Indicators Associated with Survival of Myeloid Leukemias in Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-07-10
Abstract: 

Understanding how patient‐reported quality of life (QoL) and socioeconomic status (SES) relate to survival of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) may improve prognostic information sharing. This study explores associations among QoL, SES, and survival through administration of the Euro‐QoL 5‐Dimension, 3‐level and Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy‐Leukemia and financial impact questionnaires to 138 adult participants with newly diagnosed AML or MDS in a longitudinal, pan‐Canadian study. Cox regression and lasso variable selection models were used to explore associations among QoL, SES, and established predictors of survival. Secondary outcomes were changes in QoL, performance of the QoL instruments, and lost income. We found that higher QoL and SES were positively associated with survival. The Lasso model selected the visual analog scale of the EQ‐5D‐3L as the most important predictor among all other variables (P = .03; 92% selection). Patients with AML report improved QoL after treatment, despite higher mean out‐of‐pocket expenditures compared with MDS (up to $599 CDN/month for AML vs $239 for MDS; P = .05), greater loss of productivity‐related income (reaching id="mce_marker"786/month for AML vs $709 for MDS; P < .05), and greater caregiver effects (65% vs 35% caregiver productivity losses for AML vs MDS; P < .05). Our results suggest that including patient‐reported QoL and socioeconomic indicators can improve the accuracy of survival models.

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Article
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Retaining Participants in Community-Based Health Research: A Case Example on Standardized Planning and Reporting

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-05-11
Abstract: 

Background

Effective strategies for participant retention are critical in health research to ensure validity, generalizability and efficient use of resources. Yet standardized guidelines for planning and reporting on retention efforts have been lacking. As with randomized controlled trial (RCT) and systematic review (SR) protocols, retention protocols are an opportunity to improve transparency and rigor. An RCT being conducted in British Columbia (BC), Canada provides a case example for developing a priori retention frameworks for use in protocol planning and reporting.

Methods

The BC Healthy Connections Project RCT is examining the effectiveness of a nurse home-visiting program in improving child and maternal outcomes compared with existing services. Participants (N = 739) were girls and young women preparing to parent for the first time and experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage. Quantitative data were collected upon trial entry during pregnancy and during five follow-up interviews until participants’ children reached age 2 years. A framework was developed to guide retention of this study population throughout the RCT. We reviewed relevant literature and mapped essential retention activities across the study planning, recruitment and maintenance phases. Interview completion rates were tracked.

Results

Results from 3302 follow-up interviews (in-person/telephone) conducted over 4 years indicate high completion rates: 90% (n = 667) at 34 weeks gestation; and 91% (n = 676), 85% (n = 626), 80% (n = 594) and 83% (n = 613) at 2, 10, 18 and 24 months postpartum, respectively. Almost all participants (99%, n = 732) provided ongoing consent to access administrative health data. These results provide preliminary data on the success of the framework.

Conclusions

Our retention results are encouraging given that participants were experiencing considerable socioeconomic disadvantage. Standardized retention planning and reporting may therefore be feasible for health research in general, using the framework we have developed. Use of standardized retention protocols should be encouraged in research to promote consistency across diverse studies, as now happens with RCT and SR protocols. Beyond this, successful retention approaches may help inform health policy-makers and practitioners who also need to better reach, engage and retain underserved populations.

Document type: 
Article
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What Medical Crowdfunding Campaigns Can Tell Us About Local Health System Gaps and Deficiencies: Exploratory Analysis of British Columbia, Canada

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2020-05-22
Abstract: 

Background: There are a range of perceived gaps and shortcomings in the publicly funded Canadian health system. These include wait times for care, lack of public insurance coverage for dental care and pharmaceuticals, and difficulties accessing specialist care. Medical crowdfunding is a response to these gaps where individuals raise funds from their social networks to address health-related needs.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the potential of crowdfunding data to better understand what health-related needs individuals are using crowdfunding for, how these needs compare with the existing commentary on health system deficiencies, and the advantages and limitations of using crowdfunding campaigns to enhance or augment our understanding of perceived health system deficiencies.

 

Methods: Crowdfunding campaigns were scraped from the GoFundMe website. These campaigns were then limited to those originating in the metropolitan Vancouver region of two health authorities during 2018. These campaigns were then further limited to those raising funds to allow the treatment of a medical problem or related to needs arising from ill health. These campaigns were then reviewed to identify the underlying health issue and motivation for pursuing crowdfunding.

 

Results: We identified 423 campaigns for health-related needs. These campaigns requested CAD $8,715,806 (US $6,088,078) in funding and were pledged CAD $3,477,384 (US $2,428,987) from 27,773 donors. The most common underlying medical condition for campaign recipients was cancer, followed by traumatic injuries from collisions and brain injury and stroke. By far, the most common factor of motivation for crowdfunding was seeking financial support for wages lost because of illness (232/684, 33.9%). Some campaigns (65/684, 9.5%) sought help with purchasing medical equipment and supplies; 8.2% (56/684) sought to fund complementary, alternative, or unproven treatments including experimental interventions; 7.2% (49/684) sought financial support to cover travel-related costs, including in-province and out-of-province (49/684, 7.2%) travel; and 6.3% (43/684) campaigns sought help to pay for medication.

 

Conclusions: This analysis demonstrates the potential of crowdfunding data to present timely and context-specific user-created insights into the perceived health-related financial needs of some Canadians. Although the literature on perceived limitations of the Canadian health system focuses on wait times for care and limited access to specialist services, among other issues, these campaigners were much more motivated by gaps in the wider social system such as costs related to unpaid time off work and travel to access care. Our findings demonstrate spatial differences in the underlying medical problems, motivations for crowdfunding, and success using crowdfunding that warrants additional attention. These differences may support established concerns that medical crowdfunding is most commonly used by individuals from relatively privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. We encourage the development of new resources to harness the power of crowdfunding data as a supplementary source of information for Canadian health system stakeholders.

Document type: 
Article
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