CBS proclaims miraculous results from lifesaving drug – but provides no evidence

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CBS News last night proclaimed the drug peramavir as a “lifesaving drug” for serious cases of H1N1 infection.

Lines from the story:

• “Experts caution its too early to see Peramivir as a miracle drug, but there’s no doubting the drugs connection to some miraculous results.”

• “Human clinical trials in the U.S. and Japan have called Peramivir safe and effective.”

But not one shred of evidence was provided.

Instead, the story used the framing that the FDA was dragging its feet – as the website subheading read: “Doctors Say Intravenous Drug Peramivir Effective in Serious Cases; But It’s in Trials and FDA Makes Few Exceptions”

Folks: it’s the trials that determine benefits and harms. Not hyperbole about people being deprived of a wonder drug. Data – evidence – is what counts, and CBS didn’t provide any in this story.

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October 20, 2009 at 9:35 am

Here is the report about Phase 3 study of Peramivir conducted in Japan.

dan kehoe

October 20, 2009 at 11:53 am

what is the point. cbs had boil it down to 2 had plenty of time to research peramivir,before writing this.if you had done your homework you would have known phase 2& phase 3 trial results. the drug works. why don’t you find out why it is not available. that would be constructive.

Gary Schwitzer

October 20, 2009 at 12:14 pm

If I had done my homework? I’m not the one who put the story on the air. The point is that CBS shouldn’t refer to “lifesaving” and “miraculous” without giving one shred of evidence.

Tevis Morrow

October 20, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I am curious as to what kind of “proof” you would expect CBS to provide to a lay audience in a brief TV clip. Are you suggesting that they shouldn’t report on Peramivir because all the trials aren’t completed?
They did mention that Peramivir has completed phase II studies in the US and phase III studies in Japan. These studies had excellent safety profiles and demonstrated effectiveness at least on par with Tamiflu and Relenza.
They did track down ten of the twenty or so critically ill patients who were administered the drug und compassionate use (E-IND). Eight of the ten are alive today. Would they be alive today if they had not received IV Peramivir? At least some of the doctors involved think not.
Would the two who died be alive if they had received the drug sooner? Quite possibly, but of course we will never know.
If your objection is the unfortunate use of the word “miracle”, they we agree. Peramivir is not a miracle. It is simply the only intravenous antiviral for flu that has had enough testing to be considered for emergency use.
Should the FDA approve this drug for general use without the completion and review of phase III trials in the US? Of course not. There is, however, enough data for a Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to be issued by the FDA, making the drug available for use in ICUs under strict CDC guidelines.
If you had a loved one in a respirator with their life slipping away and the doctor suggested Peramivir, would you say “No thank you, CBS didn’t provide sufficient proof.”?

Gary Schwitzer

October 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I want to see the same kind of evidence we push for in all the health care news stories we review. Don’t just tell me it was lifesaving and miraculous. Give me the numbers from the trials.
How many people took it?
What happened to them – good and bad?
Anecdotes about compassionate uses are not data. The plural of anecdote is not data.
No, I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t report on the drug. But report on the evidence.
I do object to the use of the term miraculous.
Your final comment misses the point of what I do every day on this blog and on my website. I evaluate the quality of health care journalism.
What CBS did or didn’t do has no bearing on what my personal health choices would be, and this story was a good example of why not.
I commented on the journalism, not on the potential for the drug itself. I did not write one derogatory thing about the drug.
I’m not an investor and don’t have a dog in the hunt.
I just want to see quality journalism. Period.