Health News Review

Is this news? Or an ad for an uNPRoven, costly idea sold to an uninformed public? Anecdotes, but no evidence on benefits and harms, no costs, no context. Blatant disease-mongering. Puff piece.

Our Review Summary

Is this news? Or an ad for an uNPRoven, costly idea sold to an uninformed public?

This was a very incomplete report on platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy for tendonitis (and maybe other problems?).  The story was filled with anecdotes but lacked any data.  Viewers were not given any sense of the track record for this approach, how often it’s been done, how widespread it is, and what has been found about benefits and harms in trials.

Compare the ABC story with a New York Times story this same week.  The Times discussed costs and failure rates – two things the ABC story never touched on.  

Instead, the ABC story was cheerleading, using terms like "groundbreaking…great…miracle" to describe the procedure.

It didn’t put the PRP approach in the context of surgical or other nonsurgical options.  It simply delivered throwaway lines like this "may keep us from going under the knife."  But there are thousands of Americans who pursue other nonsurgical options for the kinds of problems the story describes. People who weigh benefits and harms and costs – something this story didn’t do.


Criteria

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No mention of costs.

The New York Times, in a piece also this week (curious:  did they both get the same news release, or did ABC just react to the NYT piece or are we to believe this is mere coincidence?) was able to report that "the procedure costs about $2,000 — compared with $10,000 to $15,000 for surgery."

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

No evidence on trial data is given.  So we have no idea how often it works and with what kind of results.  As stated above, the New York Times was able to report that several doctors emphasized that platelet-rich plasma therapy as it stands now appeared ineffective in about 20 to 40 percent of cases, depending on the injury."

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The ABC anchor says the therapy is "basically safe."  Is that akin a little bit pregnant? No details given on safety.

The New York Times piece cited above reported, "several doctors emphasized that platelet-rich plasma therapy as it stands now appeared ineffective in about 20 to 40 percent of cases, depending on the injury."  So that’s $2,000 for a treatment that fails 20-40% of the time.  Some people might consider that a harm. 

Not Satisfactory

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story had plenty of time to give context, but delivered none.  No mention of studies, of how often this has been done, on what’s been reported on benefits and harms.  Just anecdotes.  In fact, one physician-promoter says in the piece, "The anecdotal stories are that things are getting better a lot more quickly."  Network news time should be used up on anecdotes; it should dwell on data.  Cuba Gooding, Jr. might say, "SHOW ME THE DATA." 

Not Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

What, exactly, is this treating?  The story never explains.  It does say it’s not just for professional athletes and then tells viewers about a woman "who injured her elbow while golfing."  What was the injury?  What, exactly, is being treated? At another point we’re told it’s for shoulder arthritis.  Is it for knees, hands, ankles – anything a weekend warrior might experience?  Sprains?  Tendinitis?  Tendon ruptures? This is blatant disease-mongering.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

No independent source is interviewed, just true believers in the therapy.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No meaningful comparison was given between this therapy and surgical or other nonsurgical options.  Just throwaway lines like "may keep us from going under the knife."  Well there are thousands of Americans who pursue other nonsurgical options for the kinds of problems the story describes. People who weigh benefits and harms and costs – something this story didn’t do.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story gives no indication of how available this procedure is.  Is it only available at the two NY facilities mentioned in the segment?  We know that’s not the case, but viewers wouldn’t.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The piece calls this a "new remedy" but really doesn’t give us any information on "how new" – how often it’s been done in how many people with what results.

Not Applicable

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure whether the story relied on a news release.  We do find it curious that both the New York Times and ABC did the same story in the same week.

Total Score: 0 of 9 Satisfactory


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