In a recent Wall Street Journal article, journalists Janet Adamy and Tom McGinty tell the story of Scott Crawford, a young father who had been healthy his whole life until he was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy at age 26. That diagnosis signalled the beginning of a long, painful journey through medication, transplants, surgery, therapy, amputation, and nearly chronic pain, which ended with his death in late 2009. Estimates from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Mr. Crawford was receiving treatment, put the cost of his Medicare claims at the staggering total of $2.7 million, $766,919 of which remains unpaid. Read the full article here.
Adamy and McGinty use Mr. Crawford's story as a springboard to discuss Medicare and the shockingly high cost of care in the US. However, something very compelling stands out in Mr. Crawford's story: The frequent mention of sepsis, defined as an overzealous response to a severe infection, as a leading culprit in his downward spiral.
For example, deputy administrator and director for Medicare Jonathan Blum commented that for Mr. Crawford, "a lot of the costs were driven by complications that could have been avoided," citing an early infection as an example. Additionally, after 2 heart transplants, Mr. Crawford developed a severe infenction and had to have his leg above the knee amputated. Shortly before he died, sepsis was again identified as the condition that was overwhelming his system.
Mr. Crawford isn't the only patient who could have been spared years of pain by catching and treating sepsis early. According to a 2011 brief by the CDC, "an estimated $14.6 billion was spent on hospitalizations for septicemia [In 2008], and from 1997 through 2008, the inflation-adjusted aggregate costs for treating patients hospitalized for this condition increased on average annually by 11.9%. Despite high treatment expenditures, septicemia and sepsis are often fatal. Those who survive severe sepsis are more likely to have permanent organ damage, cognitive impairment, and physical disability. Septicemia is a leading cause of death." Read more here.
When a person develops sepsis, the body frequently overresponds to the threat by producing a massive excess of cytokines, called cytokine storm. While cytokines normally help the body cope with injury, a cytokine storm "is toxic to the body, driving severe inflammation and a cascade of dangerous changes in the body that cause cell damage, organ failure and often death. It follows that reduction of cytokine storm may limit this cascade of events, thereby reducing the severity of illness, and helping patients recover and survive. Until recently, however, there were no effective ways to reduce cytokine storm broadly."
CytoSorbents Corporation (OTCBB: CTSO) is one company working on a solution, that has until recently has not been possible to do. Its flagship product, CytoSorb®, is a blood filtration cartridge that works to modulate the immune system by removing excess cytokines in critically-ill patients. If left unchecked, these inflammatory toxins can lead to deadly inflammation, multiple organ failure, immune dysfunction, and often death in common illnesses such as sepsis, trauma, burn injury, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pancreatitis. CytoSorb® has demonstrated statistically significant reductions in mortality in septic patients at high risk of death and is now available for sale in Germany for the treatment of critical care illnesses with availability in other E.U. countries planned in the future, assuming adequate and timely funding, and continued positive results from its clinical studies. Read more at cytosorbents.com.