Health News Review

Woefully inadequate reporting on animal research on a weight loss drug. Makes the unfounded leap that this is a “promising new drug that could ultimately impact how to control obesity and diabetes.”

Our Review Summary

This segment barely scratched the surface of reporting on animal research on an injectable drug approach to weight loss. 

It failed to:

  • explain the limitations of animal research
  • put the stage of research into clear context, confusing viewers by once saying "science is about to help you out" but at another point it said it was "years away from human trials" and "10 years out." 
  • put the research into the context of other weight loss therapies
  • acknowledge that all drugs have side effects

To make the leap that this is a "promising new drug that could ultimately impact how to control obesity and diabetes" is simply unfounded.


Criteria

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No estimate of costs – which may be understandable given the early phase of research.  But if the drug contains the active ingredients of two drugs already in use – and if it would be a weekly injection – couldn’t some projection of these costs have been made based on what’s known about the two existing drugs’ prices and the cost of a weekly visit to the doctor?

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

All we were told was that "A single injection of this drug decreased the rodents’ body weight by a quarter and fat mass by 42 percent after just one week."  But a quarter of what?  42% of what?  What were the longer term results? Anyone can deliver anecdotes about weight loss results in a week.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Potential harms were waved away with this exchange:

(Robin Roberts:) "there’s been no adverse effects, right?

(David Muir:) Not yet.

None?  What’s the track record of Byetta and Glucagon?  Drawing conclusions about side effects in rodent models as if they are applicable to humans is absurd. All drugs have side effects.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The limitations of animal research- and the enormity of the leap from mice to men – were important factors that received no attention.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering.  But hype for the drug, framing it as if it is for the "millions who want to lose weight." A hesitant satisfactory score on this criterion.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Two people were interviewed but we weren’t told what their connection was to the research, what their expertise was, etc.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story simply stated, "Despite the introduction of the weight loss pill Alli in 2007, surgical interventions like gastric bypass remain the closest thing to an obesity cure. Experts say this new drug mimics the action of that surgery and that this drug shows we’ve made enormous progress in understanding obesity."  That’s totally insufficienct context for all of the treatment options for obesity.  And equating the drug to a surgical approach is puzzling.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

Confusing terms used – at one time saying "science is about to help you out" but at another point it said it was "years away from human trials" and "10 years out."  Nonetheless, we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The segment made no attempt to put this research into the context of other weight loss research.

Not Applicable

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

Not Applicable

Two different sources were interviewed, so the segment did not appear to rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory


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