Health News Review

Better than the WebMD story, this story was strong in several regards.

Our Review Summary

This story uses absolute reduction numbers to quantify the benefits of therapeutic hypnosis, which gives a more helpful perspective of the study’s findings. It also does a good job in comparing the various alternatives available for postmenopausal women suffering from hot flashes. However, we yearned for some expert perspective to give context to the numbers.


Why This Matters

Menopause is a normal life event for women, but the symptoms can interfere with sleep and other function.  Safe and effective therapies without bothersome side effects are important advances.


Criteria

Not Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not detail the costs of the weekly sessions of therapeutic hypnosis, which are likely to be high. But if the woman can learn the technique and use it herself over several years, it may be more cost effective than medication. This is what makes the cost consideration worth mentioning.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

This story used absolute reduction numbers, instead of relative risk figures. The WebMD story and the press release led with how hypnosis could help cut hot flashes by as much as 74%. But the LA Times writes, “The frequency of hot flashes in the hypnotherapy group dropped by 48% at six weeks and 56% at 12 weeks, compared to drops of 7% and 13% at six and 12 weeks, respectively. among those in the trial’s control condition.” That does a better job putting the benefits of the therapy into perspective.

Some aspects of the data presentation were still confusing, especially since there is no explanation at the end of the article regarding all the numbers. For example, what is the exact difference between “drop in frequency of hot flashes” versus “improvement in severity and frequency of hot flashes?” And how was improvement measured?

Nonetheless, because the story gave readers detailed views of what the study found, we think it earns a satisfactory grade.

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

The story states that hypnosis comes with no known risks, unlike hormone replacement therapy.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

There is no critical analysis of the study in the article. It would have been helpful to comment on the small sample size and short duration of the study. And although the study was randomized, it was not double-blind. And how long did the effects last? Was there any “decay” in the effectiveness over time? Would patients have to undergo hypnosis for the rest of their lives to experience fewer hot flashes? The menopausal transition, with the hot flashes (called “vasomotor symptoms”) can last for several years.

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

There are no quotations in the story, only reporting on what appeared in the journal Menopause.  There are no comments from independent sources and also no mention of conflicts of interest.

Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does a thorough job in comparing alternatives. It mentions the effectiveness and side effects of hormone replacement therapy and even cites the results of the Women’s Health Initiative. It also talks about other medications used to treat hot flashes and other alternative therapies, such as yoga, acupuncture, qi gong and meditation. However, the effectiveness of the other alternative therapies is not proven (beyond small, short term, and often un-blinded studies).

Not Satisfactory

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

Not Satisfactory

Like the WebMD story, the LA Times story wasn’t clear whether a clinician could conduct the self-hypnosis trainings, or whether the patient needed to find another certified professional. And how were the hypnotic recordings obtained? Readers need to know if their “local” hypnotherapist can do this.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article mentions that alternative therapies are not new and says that hypnosis “is among the many non-drug treatments to which women turn for hot flash relief.”

Satisfactory

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

Satisfactory

There is no evidence that this story relies on a press release.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory


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