Welcome to the April edition of GI & Hepatology News. April has always been a month where we have a sense of renewal and hope. For those of us living in northern climates, the distinct change in daylight and the melting of the snow (finally) both lifts us from the doldrums of winter darkness. In just over a month, we will gather in Washington for Digestive Disease Week® (DDW). I have seen a preview of AGA plenary sessions (basic science and clinical). They will be terrific. We will hear about advances in areas such as the microbiome, IBD-related inflammatory pathways, new insights into functional bowel disorders, and myriad new therapeutics (both medical and device) for us to share with our patients.
Substantial work is being done to better define an IBD severity index. These metrics are of critical importance for clinical researchers to use as we investigate the efficacy and effectiveness of new IBD drugs. You can also read about incorporating psychological care in the management of chronic diseases – a topic becoming more important as we expand our focus beyond just the biology of disease and into social determinants of health as we continue our transition to value-based reimbursement. Another topic included this month (and to which several DDW sessions are dedicated) is the devastating impact of opiates on our patients.
We have included a number of hepatology articles this month, such as the front-page story on NASH and its relationship with hepatocellular cancer. Pioglitazone benefits NASH patients with and without type 2 diabetes and biomarkers may predict liver transplant failures. There are selected articles about Barrett’s esophagus progression and risk stratification for colorectal cancer.
From Washington, we have received some good news. Please see the AGA commentary on the proposed budget. We were reminded last month about how Federal politics can impact U.S. medicine. With the (very late) reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), we saw how political dysfunction can impact millions of American family’s lives. Changes in 340-B funding, continued transition from commercial to government payers, a tightening labor market, relentless increases in overhead expenses, all combine to reduce financial margins of both academic and nonacademic health systems. Economic pressures are leading to massive consolidations within the health care delivery system. Vertical integrations now have supplanted horizontal integrations as the industry trend. This situation that will impact many of our independent gastroenterology practices as demand-side management by large national corporations increases.
John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF
Editor in Chief