“Real-life gaydar”? A news release sparks headlines that get ahead of the evidence

The big news yesterday, sparked by a yet-to-be-published study of twins and a related news release from the American Society of Human Genetics (ASGH), is that scientists can now predict male sexual orientation “with 70% accuracy” using a genetic test. The headline about the study in the ASGH news release put it this way: Epigenetic […]


Was Turing Pharmaceuticals’ 5000% price increase a tipping point?

There are no regulatory checks and balances on U.S. prescription drug prices. That fact was brought home again after Turing Pharmaceuticals significantly jacked up the price of a 60-year-old drug after it acquired the rights. (USA Today‘s Christine Rushton appears to be the first major media reporter to have covered the story on September 18.) […]


Podcast: Overuse in orthopedics

On the website of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) is this statement: To foster conversations between patients and physicians about what care is really necessary, the AAOS recently released a list of five specific tests or procedures that are commonly ordered but not always necessary. The effort is part of the Choosing Wisely® campaign. Here […]


5-Star Friday: Texting, “skipping chemo,” rethinking breast cancer treatment, and Planned Parenthood

Five-star Friday is our ongoing effort to recognize excellence in health care journalism — both in the stories that we review on this site and in the larger media landscape. In the former category, we’ve had two recent stories garner five stars from members of our expert review team comprised of both journalists and health […]


Podcast: Pathologic profiling – Dr. Otis Brawley on cancer overdiagnosis

Despite many advances in studying cancer, we still use a definition of cancer from the 1850s.  That’s what Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told the recent Preventing Overdiagnosis 2015 conference at the National Institutes of Health. As a result, he says, the belief continues that a cancer will kill because it […]

5 9/30/2015

Chicago Tribune repost of news release sets new low for churnalism

We recently published a review of a Chicago Tribune story about a vaccine shown to help eliminate precancerous cervical lesions. Our reviewers were effusive with their praise of the piece, calling it “a very thorough analysis” that “had much to admire, including clear quantification of benefits and an acknowledgment of study dropouts and potential harms.” […]

4 9/29/2015

The Twitter health news hype machine

The following is a guest post by Earle Holland, who, for almost 35 years, was the senior science and medical communications officer at Ohio State University. He’s now a member of our editorial team who contributes regularly to the blog.  Historically, the value of news has rested with its immediacy. Sure, content and accuracy affect […]

5 9/23/2015

Better late than never, FDA to hold long overdue safety hearing on Essure sterilization device

Editor’s note: An expert panel convened by the FDA is mulling over the evidence it heard from about 40 speakers at the day-long hearing on the Essure device on Thursday, September 24 (that hearing is previewed in the post below that was published September 23.) According to a Reuters story on the hearing, “The FDA […]

2 9/23/2015

DCIS dilemma: Dr. Laura Esserman podcast

Dr. Laura Esserman is a surgeon and breast cancer specialist who works at the University of California San Francisco.  The San Francisco Chronicle last year called her a rock star.  She told the newspaper that she is driven by “Passion, persistence and energy. I want to drive efforts to completion: change the way we run […]

2 9/22/2015

What do “breakthrough” and “promising” mean to people?

15 years ago I wrote a piece, “The Seven Words You Shouldn’t Use in Medical News.”  A revised version of that piece resides on this site. Two of those seven words were breakthrough and promising. So when those same words were the focus of a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine, it was worth a closer look. […]


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