This is one of the finest, most complete health care news stories we’ve reviewed in a long time. The fact that its topic was a sensitive, confusing, controversial one adds to our appreciation of the journalism.
Please read our entire review. Top to bottom, beginning to end, this story sparkled with the kind of context, clarity, and completeness rarely seen in health care journalism today.
If you do a search of our past reviews, you’ll find many stories in a littered landscape of good, bad and ugly stories on Alzheimer’s tests. This story was one of the best.
The story reports, “Lack of coverage for the $3,000 test is the biggest barrier.”
The story did a nice job outlining the potential benefit of the test and the number of limitations
The story reports:
The story reported: “Recent studies involving Amyvid, which is made by Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, an Eli Lilly & Co. subsidiary, have shown that a surprising number of patients thought to have Alzheimer’s didn’t. A paper in the October issue of Annals of Neurology noted that 12 of 53 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by expert physicians had negative PET scans for amyloid.”
But the story’s narrative displayed healthy skepticism and a concern for evidence throughout:
That section, as well as any we’ve seen in many recent news stories, showed an appreciation for the value of accurate, balanced and complete news stories on sensitive subjects like Alzheimer’s testing. We will point to this part of the story with praise for some time to come.
KUDOS to the reporter and to the paper!
No disease-mongering in this story.
As already noted, the quote from the California geriatric neurologist was crucial. But other independent experts were quoted as well. Excellent sourcing.
The story did a solid job of reporting on some of the landscape of research into other tests and other biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.
The story tells us that the PET scan/radioactive tracer approach was approved by the FDA months ago. It also explains some of the limitations on availability:
“Rajan Agarwal, an Abington Memorial Hospital radiologist, did the country’s first three commercial Amyvid scans in June and has had no referrals since. Adler also has done three. Though doctors think the test can be a blockbuster, PETNET, a Siemens subsidiary that distributes the tracer, said it had made 100 commercial doses for this region since June.
The tracer is made individually for each patient on test day at 15 sites around the country, then delivered within a 2½-hour radius. …
Lack of coverage for the $3,000 test is the biggest barrier to it here. Medicare’s decision on coverage, which often sets the standard for private insurers, is due by July.”
The relative novelty of this approach is clear from the story.
Clearly, this was not press-release-driven journalism. Rather, it was a fine piece of entrepeneurial health care journalism.