Health News Review

Story on implanted pacemaker for HBP called it “a breakthrough…a game-changer…proven highly effective…could help millions.” Long on hyperbole but short on evidence, cost or independent voices.

Our Review Summary

This story on an implanted pacemaker to control previously uncontrolled high blood pressure called it a “breakthrough” a “game-changer,” and said it has “proven highly effective” and could help millions.  

Strip away the hyperbole and the story failed to:

  • Give any evidence – any data – on how well it worked;
  • Include any independent expert perspective (the only interviews were with sources with a vested interest);
  • Include any cost estimate. 

The medical editor who reviewed this piece for us said it was one of the worst he’s reviewed in three years.  


Criteria

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of estimated price for this device and treatment.  If it’s not too early for the network to say this is "proven highly effective" and a "game-changer," then it’s certainly not to early to discuss costs.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no information provided about the extent to which this device might be expected to reduce blood pressure or any information about its impact on cardiovascular events.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

One patient mentioned noticing every once in a while that the device was there.  The patient who was interviewed said that there were no downsides that he was aware of.  However – this does not adequately describe the harms of an implanted medical device, nor possible side effects from stimulating the baroreceptors.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The story gave no data – just saying the device had "proven highly effective."  The piece provided no indication about the percentage of individuals whose pressure was reduced with the use of this device; it also did not indicate the extent to which pressure was reduced.  Further – merely showing that the device lowers blood pressure is not enough evidence of benefit. Studies would really need to demonstrate thatuse of the device results in a decrease in heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.  Just because lowering BP in medication trials does this doesn’t mean that lower BP with the device would do this.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

It didn’t exaggerate the seriousness of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Besides a patient, two doctors involved in the clinical trial (one of whom is the CEO and president of the company manufacturing the device) were interviewed for this segment.  There were no independent clinicians or physiologists interviewed to provide background and some perspective about the device reported on.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Medical therapy for the control of hypertension was mentioned during the course of this segment.  There was no discussion of other medical devices currently being investigated for the purpose of controlling blood pressure or lifestyle factors that affect blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.  There was no discussion of secondary causes of hypertension or interventions that can be used to improve adherence to treatments that have been shown to lower cardiovascular risk.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The broadcast segment did not emphasize that the device is currently being tested in clinical trials and is not available outside of the trials.

 

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The broadcast described the device as a ‘breakthough’. It is premature to use this terminology as the device is still only being studied to determine whether it is effective for this purpose.  However – the broadcast was clear that this was a new application of the technology.

Not Applicable

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release.  We do know that physicians at only one medical center appeared in the segment.  

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory


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