Sandy Szwarc, on her Junkfood Science blog, blasts lazy news coverage this week of “a study reportedly finding that acupuncture works to reduce the side effects of breast cancer treatment as effectively as conventional medicine, without the side effects.”
She counted at least 144 news stories and tied them to a news release issued by the Henry Ford Health System. She wrote:
“Whether itâs been from WebMD to the New York Times and every media outlet in between, the medical news has all simply repeated the script provided in the press release. ABCâs medical science reporter, John McKenzie, hadnât even read the press release carefully to catch the date the abstract was to be presented and in his story published three days before it happened, he said the findings âwere presented today at the ASTRO annual meeting,â? as if heâd been there!
What are press releases? Marketing, of course. …
The level of media hype this week far outstripped the scientific merits of this research, but, no doubt, will encourage the spending of countless dollars on a modality that the strongest evidence suggests is little more than a placebo. That concerns us, too. At a time when everyone is talking about how expensive our healthcare system is, we canât afford to waste public resources, or our insurance premiums. Dr. Walker was quoted in USA Today this morning lamenting that âmany insurance plans donât cover acupuncture,â? while they do cover the medication. Surely, all of this marketing wasnât about money.
Saddest is the false hope and misinformation that untold numbers of breast cancer patients heard this week, the subtle reinforcement of feelings of distrust and inferiority of their medical care and modern medicine, and the disservice these media stories provide by exploiting women at the most vulnerable time in their lives.”