ENDO 2021 Roundup: COVID-19 Risk With Adrenal Insufficiency, Cushing’s Death Risk, Jatenzo Liver Data, and More

Some of the latest research advancements in the field of endocrinology presented at the Endocrine Society’s virtual ENDO 2021 meeting included quantifying diabetic ketoacidosis readmission rateshyperglycemia as a severe COVID-19 predictor, and semaglutide as a weight loss therapy. Below are a few more research highlights:

More Safety Data on Jatenzo

In a study of 81 men with hypogonadism — defined as a serum testosterone level below 300 ng/dL — oral testosterone replacement therapy (Jatenzo) was both safe and effective in a manufacturer-sponsored study.

After 24 months of oral therapy, testosterone concentration increased from an average baseline of 208.3 ng/dL to 470.1 ng/dL, with 84% of patients achieving a number in the eugonadal range.

And importantly, the treatment also demonstrated liver safety, as there were no significant changes in liver function tests throughout the 2-year study — including alanine aminotransferase (28.0 ± 12.3 to 26.6 ± 12.8 U/L), aspartate transaminase (21.8 ± 6.8 to 22.0 ± 8.2 U/L), and bilirubin levels (0.58 ± 0.22 to 0.52 ± 0.19 mg/dL).

Throughout the trial, only one participant had elevation of liver function tests.

“Our study finds testosterone undecanoate is an effective oral therapy for men with low testosterone levels and has a safety profile consistent with other approved testosterone products, without the drawbacks of non-oral modes of administration,” said lead study author Ronald Swerdloff, MD, of the Lundquist Research Institute in Torrance, California, in a statement.

In addition, for many men with hypogonadism, “an oral option is preferred to avoid issues associated with other modes of administration, such as injection site pain or transference to partners and children,” he said. “Before [testosterone undecanoate] was approved, the only orally approved testosterone supplemental therapy in the United States was methyltestosterone, which was known to be associated with significant chemical-driven liver damage.”

Oral testosterone undecanoate received FDA approval in March 2019 following a rocky review history.

COVID-19 Risk With Adrenal Insufficiency

Alarming new data suggested that children with adrenal insufficiency were more than 23 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than kids without this condition (relative risk 23.68, P<0.0001). This equated to 11 deaths out of 1,328 children with adrenal insufficiency compared with 215 deaths out of 609,788 children without this condition (0.828% vs 0.035%).

These young patients with adrenal insufficiency also saw a much higher rate of sepsis (RR 21.68, P<0.0001) and endotracheal intubation with COVID-19 infection (RR 25.45, P<0.00001).

Data for the analysis were drawn from the international TriNetX database, which included patient records of children ages 18 and younger diagnosed with COVID-19 from 60 healthcare organizations in 31 different countries.

“It’s really important that you take your hydrocortisone medications and start stress dosing as soon as you’re sick,” study author Manish Raisingani, MD, of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s in Little Rock, explained during a press conference. “This will help prevent significant complications due to COVID-19 or any other infections. A lot of the complications that we see in kids with adrenal insufficiency are due to inadequate stress dosing of steroids.”

And with kids starting to return back to in-person schooling, “parents should also be reeducated about using the emergency injections of hydrocortisone,” Raisingani added. He noted that the COVID-19 complication rates were likely so high in this patient population because many had secondary adrenal insufficiency due to being on long-term, chronic steroids. Many also had comorbid respiratory illnesses, as well.

Cushing’s Death Risk

In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 87 studies — including data on 17,276 patients with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome — researchers found that these patients face a much higher death rate than those without this condition.

Overall, patients with endogenous Cushing’s syndrome faced a nearly three times higher mortality ratio (standardized mortality ratio 2.91, 95% CI 2.41-3.68, I2=40.3%), with those with Cushing’s disease found to have an even higher mortality risk (SMR 3.27, 95% CI 2.33-4.21, I2=55.6%).

And those with adrenal Cushing’s syndrome also saw an elevated death risk, although not as high as patients with the disease (SMR 1.62, 95% CI 0.08-3.16, I2=0.0%).

The most common causes of mortality among these patients included cardiac conditions (25%), infection (14%), and cerebrovascular disease (9%).

“The causes of death highlight the need for aggressive management of cardiovascular risk, prevention of thromboembolism, and good infection control, and emphasize the need to achieve disease remission, normalizing cortisol levels,” said lead study author Padiporn Limumpornpetch, MD, of the University of Leeds in England, in a statement.

From https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/endo/91808

Severe COVID-19 risks greatly increased for children with adrenal insufficiency

Adrenal insufficiency increases the risk for severe outcomes, including death, 23-fold for children who contract COVID-19, according to a data analysis presented at the ENDO annual meeting.

“Adrenal insufficiency in pediatrics does increase risk of complications with COVID-19 infections,” Manish Gope Raisingani, MD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics in the division of pediatric endocrinology at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, told Healio. “The relative risk of complications is over 20 for sepsis, intubation and mortality, which is very significant.”

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Source: Adobe Stock

Using the TriNetX tool and information on COVID-19 from 54 health care organizations, Raisingani and colleagues analyzed data from children (aged 0-18 years) with COVID-19; 846 had adrenal insufficiency and 252,211 did not. The mortality rate among children with adrenal insufficiency was 2.25% compared with 0.097% for those without, for a relative risk for death of 23.2 (P < .0001) for children with adrenal insufficiency and COVID-19. RRs for these children were 21.68 for endotracheal intubation and 25.45 for sepsis.

“Children with adrenal insufficiency should be very careful during the pandemic,” Raisingani said. “They should take their steroid medication properly. They should also be appropriately trained on stress steroids for infection, other significant events.”

From https://www.healio.com/news/endocrinology/20210321/severe-covid19-risks-greatly-increased-for-children-with-adrenal-insufficiency

Nasal Swab Test for COVID-19 Risky for Sinus Surgery Patients

There is an absence of online information regarding the risks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) nasopharyngeal swab (NPS) testing for patients with a history of sinus and/or pituitary surgery, according to a research letter published online March 4 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Noting that blind NPS testing poses a risk to patients with sinus pathology, Taylor Fish, from the University of Texas Health San Antonio, and colleagues examined online preoperative and postoperative patient information regarding the potential risks of SARS-CoV-2 NPS testing for individuals with a history of sinus or skull-base surgery. The top 100 sites for searches on “sinus surgery instructions” and “pituitary surgery instructions” were identified. The authors also noted the presence of any of the following terms on the webpages: COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, coronavirus, or nasopharyngeal swab.

Searches for sinus surgery instructions and pituitary surgery instructions returned 6,600,000 and 1,200,000 results, respectively. The researchers identified 79 websites that displayed the date of the last update, and nine of these had been updated since the declaration of COVID-19 as an international health emergency on Jan. 30, 2020. None of the top 200 websites (53 academic, 93 private practice, and 54 other sites) contained warnings for high-risk patients or information pertaining to SARS-CoV-2 NPS testing.

“Otolaryngologists should inform at-risk patients about blind NPS testing and alternative diagnostic methods,” the authors write. “Health care professionals ordering or administering testing must prescreen patients with a history of sinus and skull-base surgery prior to NPS testing and use alternative testing.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the medical device industry.

Abstract/Full Text

From https://www.physiciansweekly.com/nasal-swab-test-for-covid-19-risky-for-sinus-surgery-patients/

COVID-19 and Cushing’s syndrome: recommendations for a special population with endogenous glucocorticoid excess

Rosario Pivonello,a,b Rosario Ferrigno,a Andrea M Isidori,c Beverly M K Biller,d Ashley B Grossman,e,f and Annamaria Colaoa,b

Over the past few months, COVID-19, the pandemic disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, has been associated with a high rate of infection and lethality, especially in patients with comorbidities such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and immunodeficiency syndromes.

These cardiometabolic and immune impairments are common comorbidities of Cushing’s syndrome, a condition characterised by excessive exposure to endogenous glucocorticoids. In patients with Cushing’s syndrome, the increased cardiovascular risk factors, amplified by the increased thromboembolic risk, and the increased susceptibility to severe infections, are the two leading causes of death.

In healthy individuals in the early phase of infection, at the physiological level, glucocorticoids exert immunoenhancing effects, priming danger sensor and cytokine receptor expression, thereby sensitising the immune system to external agents. However, over time and with sustained high concentrations, the principal effects of glucocorticoids are to produce profound immunosuppression, with depression of innate and adaptive immune responses. Therefore, chronic excessive glucocorticoids might hamper the initial response to external agents and the consequent activation of adaptive responses. Subsequently, a decrease in the number of B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, as well as a reduction in T-helper cell activation might favour opportunistic and intracellular infection. As a result, an increased risk of infection is seen, with an estimated prevalence of 21–51% in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. Therefore, despite the absence of data on the effects of COVID-19 in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, one can make observations related to the compromised immune state in patients with Cushing’s syndrome and provide expert advice for patients with a current or past history of Cushing’s syndrome.

Fever is one of the hallmarks of severe infections and is present in up to around 90% of patients with COVID-19, in addition to cough and dyspnoea. However, in active Cushing’s syndrome, the low-grade chronic inflammation and the poor immune response might limit febrile response in the early phase of infection. Conversely, different symptoms might be enhanced in patients with Cushing’s syndrome; for instance, dyspnoea might occur because of a combination of cardiac insufficiency or weakness of respiratory muscles. Therefore, during active Cushing’s syndrome, physicians should seek different signs and symptoms when suspecting COVID-19, such as cough, together with dysgeusia, anosmia, and diarrhoea, and should be suspicious of any change in health status of their patients with Cushing’s syndrome, rather than relying on fever and dyspnoea as typical features.

The clinical course of COVID-19 might also be difficult to predict in patients with active Cushing’s syndrome. Generally, patients with COVID-19 and a history of obesity, hypertension, or diabetes have a more severe course, leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Because these conditions are observed in most patients with active Cushing’s syndrome, these patients might be at an increased risk of severe course, with progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), when developing COVID-19. However, a key element in the development of ARDS during COVID-19 is the exaggerated cellular response induced by the cytokine increase, leading to massive alveolar–capillary wall damage and a decline in gas exchange. Because patients with Cushing’s syndrome might not mount a normal cytokine response, these patients might parodoxically be less prone to develop severe ARDS with COVID-19. Moreover, Cushing’s syndrome and severe COVID-19 are associated with hypercoagulability, such that patients with active Cushing’s syndrome might present an increased risk of thromboembolism with COVID-19. Consequently, because low molecular weight heparin seems to be associated with lower mortality and disease severity in patients with COVID-19, and because anticoagulation is also recommended in specific conditions in patients with active Cushing’s syndrome, this treatment is strongly advised in hospitalised patients with Cushing’s syndrome who have COVID-19. Furthermore, patients with active Cushing’s syndrome are at increased risk of prolonged duration of viral infections, as well as opportunistic infections, particularly atypical bacterial and invasive fungal infections, leading to sepsis and an increased mortality risk, and COVID-19 patients are also at increased risk of secondary bacterial or fungal infections during hospitalisation. Therefore, in cases of COVID-19 during active Cushing’s syndrome, prolonged antiviral treatment and empirical prophylaxis with broad-spectrum antibiotics should be considered, especially for hospitalised patients (panel ).

Panel

Risk factors and clinical suggestions for patients with Cushing’s syndrome who have COVID-19

Reduction of febrile response and enhancement of dyspnoea

Rely on different symptoms and signs suggestive of COVID-19, such as cough, dysgeusia, anosmia, and diarrhoea.

Prolonged duration of viral infections and susceptibility to superimposed bacterial and fungal infections

Consider prolonged antiviral and broad-spectrum antibiotic treatment.

Impairment of glucose metabolism (negative prognostic factor)

Optimise glycaemic control and select cortisol-lowering drugs that improve glucose metabolism. Hypertension (negative prognostic factor) Optimise blood pressure control and select cortisol-lowering drugs that improve blood pressure.

Thrombosis diathesis (negative prognostic factor)

Start antithrombotic prophylaxis, preferably with low-molecular-weight heparin treatment.

Surgery represents the first-line treatment for all causes of Cushing’s syndrome, but during the pandemic a delay might be appropriate to reduce the hospital-associated risk of COVID-19, any post-surgical immunodepression, and thromboembolic risks. Because immunosuppression and thromboembolic diathesis are common Cushing’s syndrome features, during the COVID-19 pandemic, cortisol-lowering medical therapy, including the oral drugs ketoconazole, metyrapone, and the novel osilodrostat, which are usually effective within hours or days, or the parenteral drug etomidate when immediate cortisol control is required, should be temporarily used. Nevertheless, an expeditious definitive diagnosis and proper surgical resolution of hypercortisolism should be ensured in patients with malignant forms of Cushing’s syndrome, not only to avoid disease progression risk but also for rapidly ameliorating hypercoagulability and immunospuppression; however, if diagnostic procedures cannot be easily secured or surgery cannot be done for limitations of hospital resources due to the pandemic, medical therapy should be preferred. Concomitantly, the optimisation of medical treatment for pre-existing comorbidities as well as the choice of cortisol-lowering drugs with potentially positive effects on obesity, hypertension, or diabates are crucial to improve the eventual clinical course of COVID-19.

Once patients with Cushing’s syndrome are in remission, the risk of infection is substantially decreased, but the comorbidities related to excess glucocorticoids might persist, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, together with thromboembolic diathesis. Because these are features associated with an increased death risk in patients with COVID-19, patients with Cushing’s syndrome in remission should be considered a high-risk population and consequently adopt adequate self-protection strategies to minimise contagion risk.

In conclusion, COVID-19 might have specific clinical presentation, clinical course, and clinical complications in patients who also have Cushing’s syndrome during the active hypercortisolaemic phase, and therefore careful monitoring and specific consideration should be given to this special, susceptible population. Moreover, the use of medical therapy as a bridge treatment while waiting for the pandemic to abate should be considered.

Acknowledgments

RP reports grants and personal fees from Novartis, Strongbridge, HRA Pharma, Ipsen, Shire, and Pfizer; grants from Corcept Therapeutics and IBSA Farmaceutici; and personal fees from Ferring and Italfarmaco. AMI reports non-financial support from Takeda and Ipsen; grants and non-financial support from Shire, Pfizer, and Corcept Therapeutics. BMKB reports grants from Novartis, Strongbridge, and Millendo; and personal fees from Novartis and Strongbridge. AC reports grants and personal fees from Novartis, Ipsen, Shire, and Pfizer; personal fees from Italfarmaco; and grants from Lilly, Merck, and Novo Nordisk. All other authors declare no competing interests.

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COVID-19 May Be Severe in Cushing’s Patients

A young healthcare worker who contracted COVID-19 shortly after being diagnosed with Cushing’s disease was detailed in a case report from Japan.

While the woman was successfully treated for both conditions, Cushing’s may worsen a COVID-19 infection. Prompt treatment and multidisciplinary care is required for Cushing’s patients who get COVID-19, its researchers said.

The report, “Successful management of a patient with active Cushing’s disease complicated with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia,” was published in Endocrine Journal.

Cushing’s disease is caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland, which results in abnormally high levels of the stress hormone cortisol (hypercortisolism). Since COVID-19 is still a fairly new disease, and Cushing’s is rare, there is scant data on how COVID-19 tends to affect Cushing’s patients.

In the report, researchers described the case of a 27-year-old Japanese female healthcare worker with active Cushing’s disease who contracted COVID-19.

The patient had a six-year-long history of amenorrhea (missed periods) and dyslipidemia (abnormal fat levels in the body). She had also experienced weight gain, a rounding face, and acne.

After transferring to a new workplace, the woman visited a new gynecologist, who checked her hormonal status. Abnormal findings prompted a visit to the endocrinology department.

Clinical examination revealed features indicative of Cushing’s syndrome, such as a round face with acne, central obesity, and buffalo hump. Laboratory testing confirmed hypercortisolism, and MRI revealed a tumor in the patient’s pituitary gland.

She was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor, and treated with metyrapone, a medication that can decrease cortisol production in the body. Shortly thereafter, she had close contact with a patient she was helping to care for, who was infected with COVID-19 but not yet diagnosed.

A few days later, the woman experienced a fever, nausea, and headache. These persisted for a few days, and then she started having difficulty breathing. Imaging of her lungs revealed a fluid buildup (pneumonia), and a test for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — came back positive.

A week after symptoms developed, the patient required supplemental oxygen. Her condition worsened 10 days later, and laboratory tests were indicative of increased inflammation.

To control the patient’s Cushing’s disease, she was treated with increasing doses of metyrapone and similar medications to decrease cortisol production; she was also administered cortisol — this “block and replace” approach aims to maintain cortisol levels within the normal range.

The patient experienced metyrapone side effects that included stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, swelling, increased acne, and hypokalemia (low potassium levels).

She was given antiviral therapies (e.g., favipiravir) to help manage the COVID-19. Additional medications to prevent opportunistic fungal infections were also administered.

From the next day onward, her symptoms eased, and the woman was eventually discharged from the hospital. A month after being discharged, she tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

Surgery for the pituitary tumor was then again possible. Appropriate safeguards were put in place to protect the medical team caring for her from infection, during and after the surgery.

The patient didn’t have any noteworthy complications from the surgery, and her cortisol levels soon dropped to within normal limits. She was considered to be in remission.

Although broad conclusions cannot be reliably drawn from a single case, the researchers suggested that the patient’s underlying Cushing’s disease may have made her more susceptible to severe pneumonia due to COVID-19.

“Since hypercortisolism due to active Cushing’s disease may enhance the severity of COVID-19 infection, it is necessary to provide appropriate, multidisciplinary and prompt treatment,” the researchers wrote.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2021/01/15/covid-19-may-be-severe-cushings-patients-case-report-suggests/?cn-reloaded=1

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