Browsing Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC) by Author "Agar, Meera Ruth"
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ItemAdverse events in hospice and palliative care: a pilot study to determine feasibility of collection and baseline rates(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2011-01-19) Currow, David Christopher; Agar, Meera Ruth; To, Timothy H M; Rowett, Debra Sharon; Greene, Aine; Abernethy, Amy PickarBackground: Continuous quality improvement is fundamental in all health care, including hospice and palliative care. Identifying and systematically reducing symptomatic adverse events is limited in hospice and palliative care because these events are mostly attributed to disease progression. Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of symptomatic adverse events in hospice and palliative care and assessing their incidence. Methods: A retrospective, consecutive cohort of notes from a specialist palliative care inpatient service was surveyed by a clinical nurse consultant for symptomatic adverse events: falls, confusion, decreased consciousness, hypo- and hyperglycaemia, urinary retention, and hypotension. Demographic and clinical factors were explored for people at higher risk. Results: Data were available on the most recent admissions of 65 people, generating >900 inpatient days. Fifty people (78%) had events precipitating admission, of whom 31 (62%) had at least one further event during admission. Eleven of 15 people who were admitted without an event experienced at least one during their admissions. Only 4 did not have an adverse event. During their stay, there were 0.13 (standard deviation [SD] = 0.19) events per patient per day. No drug-drug or drug-host events were noted. No clinical or demographic factors predicted groups at higher risk. Conclusions: This pilot highlights the feasibility of collecting, and ubiquity of, symptomatic adverse events, and forms a baseline against which future interventions to decrease the frequency or intensity can be measured. Given the frailty of hospice and palliative patients, any adverse event is likely to accelerate irreversibly their systemic decline. ItemAnti-cholinergic load, health care utilization, and survival in people with advanced cancer: a pilot study(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2010-07-02) Agar, Meera Ruth; To, Timothy H M; Plummer, John Lewis; Abernethy, Amy Pickar; Currow, David ChristopherIntroduction: Anti-cholinergic medications have been associated with increased risks of cognitive impairment, premature mortality and increased risk of hospitalisation. Anti-cholinergic load associated with medication increases as death approaches in those with advanced cancer, yet little is known about associated adverse outcomes in this setting. Methods: A substudy of 112 participants in a randomised control trial who had cancer and an Australia modified Karnofsky Performance Scale (AKPS) score (AKPS) of 60 or above, explored survival and health service utilisation; with anti-cholinergic load calculated using the Clinician Rated Anti-cholinergic Scale (modified version) longitudinally to death. A standardised starting point for prospectively calculating survival was an AKPS of 60 or above. Results: Baseline entry to the sub-study was a mean 62 ± 81 days (median 37, range 1–588) days before death (survival), with mean of 4.8 (median 3, SD 4.18, range 1 – 24) study assessments in this time period. Participants spent 22% of time as an inpatient. There was no significant association between anti-cholinergic score and time spent as an inpatient (adjusted for survival time) (p = 0.94); or survival time. Discussion: No association between anti-cholinergic load and survival or time spent as an inpatient was seen. Future studies need to include cognitively impaired populations where the risks of symptomatic deterioration may be more substantial. ItemA collateral benefit of research in palliative care(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2011-09-12) Lobb, Elizabeth A; Swetenham, Kate; Agar, Meera Ruth; Currow, David ChristopherA collateral benefit of being in a research-active clinical unit is that there is evidence that better care is delivered. The most dramatic data to date demonstrate that in cardiology, research- active cardiology departments in community and university hospitals deliver better survival than those units that do not enroll people in clinical trials. ItemEnd-of-life research: do we need to build proxy consent into all clinical trial protocols studying the terminal phase?(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2012-09-04) Sheehan, Caitlin; Agar, Meera Ruth; Currow, David ChristopherResearch into symptoms that occur at the end of life is paramount for ensuring we provide the best possible care for patients in the terminal phase, yet obtaining informed consent from the study participant is not possible at the time these symptoms occur. Importantly, these questions cannot be answered in any clinical population and defining the net clinical effect of medications used, for example, for noisy respiratory secretions is crucial if the quality of care is to be further improved. ItemInformed consent in palliative care clinical trials: challenging but possible(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2013-04-30) Agar, Meera Ruth; Ko, Danielle N; Sheehan, Caitlin; Chapman, Michael; Currow, David ChristopherObtaining informed consent is a key protection that should be afforded universally to people using health services and the basis around which any participation in clinical trials is built. Randomized controlled effectiveness studies are necessary to answer key questions in hospice and palliative care, in order to help systematically improve the quality of care. In order to be properly generalizable, such trials need to have broad inclusion criteria to reflect the population most likely to be affected by the condition. The inclusion of patients who are seriously ill, and therefore potentially vulnerable, requires careful exploration of ethical and legal principles that underpin informed consent. Specific challenges in obtaining informed consent for randomised clinical trials (RCTs) in clinically unstable populations such as hospice and palliative care include higher rates of people with impaired cognitive capacity as well as interventional studies in clinical situations which may present as a sudden change in condition. None of these challenges is unique to hospice and palliative care research, but the combination and frequency with which they are encountered require systematic and considered solutions. This article outlines five different ethically valid consent approaches and discusses their applicability to hospice and palliative care research trials. These include: consent by the patient (at the time of enrolment, in advance of the study, or delayed until after the study has commenced); a proxy (or legally authorised representative); or a consent waiver. Increased use of the less traditional modes of informed consent may lead to greater participation rates in hospice and palliative care trials, thereby improving the evidence base more rapidly in part by better reflecting the population served and hence improving generalizability. ItemOff-label prescribing in palliative care – a cross-sectional national survey of Palliative Medicine doctors(SAGE Publications, 2012-11-05) To, Timothy H M; Agar, Meera Ruth; Shelby-James, Tania Maree; Abernethy, Amy Pickar; Doogue, Matthew; Rowett, Debra Sharon; Ko, Danielle N; Currow, David ChristopherBackground: Regulatory bodies including the European Medicines Agency register medications (formulation, route of administration) for specific clinical indications. Once registered, prescription is at clinicians’ discretion. Off-label use is beyond the registered use. While off-label prescribing may, at times, be appropriate, efficacy and toxicity data are often lacking. Aim: The aim of this study was to document off-label use policies (including disclosure and consent) in Australian palliative care units and current practices by palliative care clinicians. Design: A national, cross-sectional survey was conducted online following an invitation letter. The survey asked clinicians their most frequent off-label medication/indication dyads and unit policies. Dyads were classified into unregistered, off-label and on-label, and for the latter, whether medications were nationally subsidised. Setting/participants: All Australian palliative medicine Fellows and advanced trainees. Results: Overall, 105 clinicians responded (53% response rate). The majority did not have policies on off-label medications, and documented consent rarely. In all, 236 medication/indication dyads for 36 medications were noted: 45 dyads (19%) were for two unregistered medications, 118 dyads (50%) were for 26 off-label medications and 73 dyads (31%) were for 12 on-label medications. Conclusions: Off-label prescribing with its clinical, legal and ethical implications is common yet poorly recognised by clinicians. A distinction needs to be made between where quality evidence exists but registration has not been updated by the pharmaceutical sponsor and the evidence has not been generated. Further research is required to quantify any iatrogenic harm from off-label prescribing in palliative care. ItemPlanning phase III multi-site clinical trials in palliative care: the role of consecutive cohort audits to identify potential participant populations(Springer-Verlag, 2010) Currow, David Christopher; Shelby-James, Tania Maree; Agar, Meera Ruth; Plummer, John Lewis; Rowett, Debra Sharon; Glare, Paul; Spruyt, Odette; Hardy, JanetGoals of Work: Multiple sites enable more successful completion of adequately powered phase III studies in palliative care. Audits of the frequency and distribution of the symptoms of interest can better inform research planning by determining realistic recruitment goals for each site. The proposed studies are to improve the evidence-base for registration and subsidy applications for frequently encountered symptoms where current pharmacological interventions are being used ‘off-licence’. Methods: Six services participated in a standardized, retrospective, consecutive cohort audit of five symptoms of their inpatient populations to inform the design of double blind randomised controlled phase III studies to which each site would recruit simultaneously. The audit covered all deaths in a three month period for people who were referred to a specialist palliative care service who had at least one inpatient admission between referral and death regardless of when the person was referred to the service. The audits were based around inclusion and exclusion criteria for the proposed studies. Main Results: Of the 468 people whose medical records were reviewed, potential study participant rates varied by symptom having accounted for general and specific inclusion and exclusion criteria: pain 17.7%; delirium 5.8%; anorexia 5.1%; bowel obstruction 2.8% and cholestatic itch 0%. For those people with a symptom of interest, it was noted at the beginning of the inpatient admission more than half the time. Of all inpatients, fewer then one third would be eligible to participate in at least one study. Conclusions: These data provide a baseline estimate of potential people to approach about clinical trials in supportive care but do not account for clinician ‘gate-keeping’, lack of interest in participating nor withdrawal from the study once initiated. The data are retrospective and therefore limited by clinical documentation. The audit directly informed an increase in the number of participating sites. ItemProgressing an evidence-base beyond case series(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2011-12-06) Hardy, Janet; Agar, Meera Ruth; Currow, David ChristopherHigh-quality randomized trials in hospice and palliative care are achievable to provide quality evidence to guide our practice especially if several sites work together to conduct the trial. Palliative medicine is a specialty that is contributing more and more to the care of patients with life limiting disease. It is time we based this practice on highquality evidence and that can only come with high-quality research. ItemThe role of benzodiazepines in breathlessness: a single site, open label pilot of sustained release morphine together with clonazepam(Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 2013-04-18) Allcroft, Peter; Margitanovic, Vera; Greene, Aine; Agar, Meera Ruth; Clark, Katherine; Abernethy, Amy Pickar; Currow, David ChristopherBackground: Breathlessness at rest or on minimal exertion despite optimal treatment of underlying cause(s) is distressing and prevalent. Opioids can reduce the intensity of chronic refractory breathlessness and an anxiolytic may be of benefit. This pilot aimed to determine the safety and feasibility of conducting a phase III study on the intensity of breathlessness by adding regular benzodiazepine to low-dose opioid. Methods: This is a single site, open label phase II study of the addition of regular clonazepam 0.5 mg nocte orally to KapanolR 10 mg (sustained release morphine sulphate) orally mane together with docusate/sennosides in people with modified Medical Research Council Scale ≥2. Breathlessness intensity on day four was the efficacy outcome. Participants could extend for another 10 days if they achieved >15% reduction over their own baseline breathlessness intensity. Results: Eleven people had trial medication (eight males, median age 78 years (68 to 89); all had COPD; median Karnofsky 70 (50 to 80); six were on long-term home oxygen. Ten people completed day four. One person withdrew because of unsteadiness on day four. Five participants reached the 15% reduction, but only three went on to the extension study, all completing without toxicity. Conclusion: This study was safe, feasible and there appears to be a group who derive benefits comparable to titrated opioids. Given the widespread use of benzodiazepines for the symptomatic treatment of chronic refractory breathlessness and its poor evidence base, there is justification for a definitive phase III study.