This business section article reports on results of a Phase III clinical trial of cethromycin, a new type of antibiotic designed to treat community acquired pneumonia. In this case, the news article is inferior to the company’s press release.
The article falls short of best practices in several ways:
The article’s shortcomings as a health story weaken it as a business story as well. Independent reporting on the medical importance and likely application of this drug would have helped readers understand the company’s financial situation.
The company, which has no products on the market and is losing money, needs to put a positive spin on its recent news. By failing to explore the reality of the company’s own rosy forecast, the article does a disservice to observers in the business community as well.
The story didn’t discuss the cost of what it called the current "standard of treatment," Biaxin, nor the cost of the new drug, cethromycin. If a drugmaker says it is ready to file for new drug approval within a few months, as the story states, you can be assured they have some ballpark estimate of what they expect to charge. The story should have probed for that information.
The article reports that the drug showed a 94 percent success rate in the current trial, but does not provide any more detail.
The story said the new drug was found to be "safe and effective" but provided no details on its potential harms and no detailed safety comparison with the current standard of treatment.
If the trial was small, it may be premature to assume cethromycin is as safe as Biaxin.
The article fails to state that the current trial is just one of two Phase III trials the company is running, and the second has not been reported yet. The article fails to clearly state that the test demonstrated only "non-inferiority" to Biaxin, not superiority. It also did not say anything about the size of the trial or include meaningful details about the findings.
The article does not exaggerate the risks or severity of community acquired pneumonia. By emphasizing MRSA as a cause, however, it does engage in disease-mongering. MRSA is an extremely rare cause of CAP.
It also would have been useful to report the percentage of cases of CAP caused by bacteria resistant to Biaxin. Given the fact that Biaxin’s success rate in treatment is around 95 percent, fears of CAP being resistant to it may be premature or exaggerated.
The article interviews only the president of the company that is developing the drug. The article includes no information from independent sources.
The article states that Biaxin is the current standard of treatment for community acquired pneumonia; in fact, there are many others.
The article makes clear that cethromycin, the new antibiotic under development, is not yet approved for sale.
The article states that cethromycin works by a mechanism that is different from current antibiotics. It would have been useful to describe this mechanism.
The article does not draw language or facts from the company’s press release.
However, the article does report the drug’s potential but uNPRoven uses against MRSA and metastatic melanoma, both of which are claimed by the company’s president in a press release issued the day before the article appeared. Because only the president of the company is cited in the story, this feels like press release influence.