Health News Review

70% of the stories we review fail to adequately address costs. This is one of them.

Our Review Summary

When a single injection may cost $700, we don’t know why that information is not included in the story. Reuters did – up high in its story.  We also thought Reuters painted a far clearer picture of the limitations of the current research.


Why This Matters

Earlier studies have suggested that GHRH and IGF-1 play important roles in the cognitive decline associated with normal aging and in patients with Alzheimers disease.  Recent studies in otherwise healthy older adults have suggested that supplementation with GHRH may improve executive function.  This study provides a bit of additional evidence that GHRH may play a role in the treatment of cognitive decline in older adults.  But the story is far from clear and this work should be viewed as a preliminary step and not the end of the journey.  There isn’t a proven intervention for mild cognitive impairment.  So news stories about research in this field needs to be clear about the state of research.


Criteria

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Cost was never mentioned – a significant oversight since, as Reuters Health reported, a single shot may cost $700.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

We were puzzled by the lack of clarity of the benefits.  While benefits were not quantified, the impact of GHRH on IGF-1 was.  We think that the statement in the Reuters story: “It’s unclear how the test differences will translate into real life,” provided a clear statement on benefit

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned spiked insulin levels.  But it didn’t mention any of the side effects reported in the study:

“Adverse events primarily consisted of local skin
reactions (redness, itching, or stinging) and increased arthralgias.
Other adverse events reported, although less
frequently, included gastrointestinal upset, numbness or
tingling in the hands, weight gain, and fluid retention.
Although increased fluid retention can potentially precipitate
or exacerbate symptoms of congestive heart failure
and hypertension, coronary adverse events were not
observed in our study.”

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The ending of the story included some evaluation of the evidence, including an independent perspective and this final sentence:

“The researchers said larger and longer trials are needed to assess the hormone’s therapeutic potential.”

 

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering at play here.

But, we were a bit troubled by the suggestion that people with mild cognitive impairment, “…don’t yet have Alzheimer’s disease…”  While MCI is a precursor, not all people with it go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

One independent expert’s input was important at the end of the story.

Not Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There wasn’t the kind of clear context and background as provided in the Reuters story:

“…researchers have failed so far to come up wiht effective drugs to treat mild cognitive impairment, just as there is no known treatment to stave off the normal memory decline that comes with age.”

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

There could have been a line or two about how GHRH is used now in medicine and whether there is much off-label use of the injections.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story at least established that the same team had done prior work with GHRH.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

There’s no sign that the story relied on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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