New Federal Grant Allows Studies on Connection between Asthma and Obesity; Risks from Popular Over-the-Counter Medications.
Researchers at Nemours Children’s Health System will leverage 4.5 million patient records to answer medical questions that have challenged families and providers for generations. The de-identified data is available to Nemours through PEDSnet, a network that pools patient information from eight pediatric health systems, including Nemours, to help to produce new and better research into treatments for childhood illness and disease.
“PEDSnet allows Nemours to conduct studies that could only be imagined a few years ago,” said Terri H. Finkel, M.D., Ph.D, Chief Scientific Officer and chair of pediatrics at Nemours Children’s Hospital. “It gives us the ability to answer questions by looking at information from millions of patients from around the country. One health system could never gather a sample size this large.”
Nemours just received an $850,000 grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to conduct two studies using the PEDSnet data. The first will allow a pulmonologist from Nemours to explore why children with asthma, who are also obese, report more severe asthma symptoms leading to missed school and hospitalizations. Researchers have never known the precise nature of this relationship.
“This is by far the biggest study ever to explore the link between obesity and childhood asthma,” said Jason Lang, M.D., M.P.H. “I expect to learn a great deal, most importantly about how doctors everywhere can help children and families better manage asthma.”
A second study, led by Nemours investigators Drs. James Franciosi and John Lima, will examine the risks associated with one of the most frequently prescribed groups of over-the-counter medications used to block stomach acid — proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) — which go by brand names such as Nexium, Prevacid and Prilosec.
“There is increasing concern in the medical community and the Food and Drug Administration about PPI medications, but we simply do not know the full extent of the risk, and this PEDSnet study will be one of the largest studies to explore the risk of infection in children taking PPI medications,” said James Franciosi, MD, MS, MSCE, division chief of gastroenterology at Nemours Children’s Hospital.
Specifically, the study will investigate whether PPI medications increase the rate of lung infections like pneumonia, and gastrointestinal infections like C. diff in the following populations:
- healthy children
- children with asthma
- children with inflammatory bowel disease
Researchers will also examine how the unique genetic profile of a child may impact the rate of infection.
“We anticipate that children who break down PPI medications too slowly will have an increased risk of PPI-associated infections,” said John Lima, PharmD, research scientist with Nemours Children’s Health System.
Nemours was the first health system in the southeast selected to participate in PEDSnet. Other participating systems include Boston Children’s Hospital, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Seattle Children’s Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and project lead The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
In December 2013, a $7 million grant from PCORI allowed these organizations to build the technological infrastructure to share data in a manner that protects patient privacy. Anonymity is achieved using de-identified patient records so they can be investigated solely to answer medical questions.