News from the FDA/CDC

Vaping-associated lung injury cases exceed 1,000


More than 1,000 cases of vaping-associated lung injury have been reported in 48 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a telebriefing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A picture of a young man vaping an e-cigarette vchal/Getty Images

As of Oct. 1, there have been 1,080 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, said Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director of the CDC. The latest figures were also reported in a statement issued by the CDC.

Dr. Schuchat said 18 related deaths in 15 states have been confirmed, and additional deaths are under investigation.

“As we have continued to get data for additional cases, the trends we reported last week persist,” Dr. Schuchat said (MMWR. 2019 Sep 27;68[39];860-4).

“Most patients reported a history of using THC [tetrahydrocannabinol]-containing products, and most patients are male and young people.” Of the 1,080 cases identified, approximately 70% are male, roughly 80% are younger than 35 years of age, and 37% are under 21 years of age. The patients’ median age is 23 years (range, 13-75 years). Among patients who have died, the median age is 50 years (range, 27-71 years).

The CDC now has information from 578 patients on the substances used in vaping products in the 90 days before symptom onset. About 78% of these patients reported using THC-containing products, and 37% reported exclusive use of THC-containing products. Roughly 58% of patients reported using nicotine-containing products, and 17% reported exclusive use of nicotine-containing products.

“I wish we had more answers regarding the specific harmful products or components that are causing these illnesses,” Dr. Schuchat said. She noted that THC-containing products appear to be the most commonly used, but these products don’t appear to be the only culprit. Additionally, in a report released recently in the New England Journal of Medicine (2019 Sep 9. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1911614), THC-containing products bought “off the street” were commonly used by patients with lung injuries. However, the CDC can’t say for certain if it’s safer for consumers to buy THC-containing products from a licensed dispensary.

The CDC has deployed staff to several states to help investigate the lung injuries, reached out to the clinical community to increase awareness of the injuries, and worked with clinicians and medical examiners to review assessments of patients who have developed these injuries, including those who have died. The CDC has also convened clinical professional societies to “help strengthen the detection, reporting, and management of cases,” Dr. Schuchat said.

In addition, the CDC has joined with the Food and Drug Administration and other public health partners to develop a laboratory plan for “continued testing of products, aerosol testing of substances produced by the products, and clinical pathology lung specimens from patients,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The FDA is also working to gather more information about vaping-associated lung injuries. The FDA is trying to obtain “critical details” about the specific products or substances that may be involved, said Judy McMeekin, PharmD, deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the FDA.

“There does not currently appear to be one product or substance involved in all of the cases,” Dr. McMeekin said. “We are leaving no stone unturned and following all potential leads regarding any particular product, constituent, or compound that may be at issue.”

The FDA has collected more than 440 samples of vaping devices and products from 18 states. The agency is still analyzing these samples, but a preliminary analysis has shown that some products contain THC concentrations ranging from 14% to 76%, and some products contain a combination of THC and vitamin E acetate ranging from 31% to 88%.

For information about the collection of vaping products for possible testing by the FDA, email [email protected]. For information about collection and submission of clinical specimens for possible testing by the CDC, see the Healthcare Provider webpage.

Clinicians and health officials who have questions about this outbreak can email [email protected]. All others with questions about this outbreak can contact CDC-INFO at 800-232-4636 or submit information at the Contact CDC-INFO page.


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