Five-star frogs, false hopes and … I guess … ennui.

Michael Joyce produces multimedia at HealthNewsReview and tweets as @mlmjoyce

You can get a good manure spreader for anywhere between $100 and $10,000 dollars. Don’t believe me? Then I”ll let the Iowa Craigslist be my definitive source .

Made you click didn’t I?

Keep in mind, regardless of how much you spend, you will still be spreading the same thing.

It’s a good lesson for all of us, especially those of us who spread information. This Five Star Friday highlights what happens when a treatment is spread recklessly or false hope is spread thoughtlessly.

It’s also about frog mucus.

It’s Five Star Friday … take a deep breath in, and appreciate the bouquet of good health care journalism.

“Could Be the Thyroid: Could be Ennui. Either Way, the Drug Isn’t Helping | Paula Span (@paula_span) | The New York Times

When a doctor in a kilt (it’s possible) is quoted as saying “we are tending to medicalize and rush to treat” the highly questionable “disease” of subclinical hypothyroidism, you know you’ve come across a reporter who knows both good sources and bad disease mongering.

Reporter Paula Span covers a Scottish study that shows doctors treating elderly adults with the vague symptoms of “could it be hypothyroidism?” may actually be treating “could it be aging?” or “could it be a bad day?” One of her sources says the real diagnosis may well be either “postmodern humanity or the current state of politics.”

The writing is clever, the background medical information very thorough, and the comparison to other precursor conditions like osteopenia and pre-diabetes is spot-on.

Widespread Hype Gives False Hope to Many Cancer Patients | Liz Szabo (@LizSzabo) | Kaiser Health News

I’ve wanted to write this article for many years but Liz Szabo beat me to it and wrote it much better than I ever could. And it takes courage, because any time you write about how some cancer studies are prematurely hyped, or the vernacular of cancer shouldn’t always be a battle or a war, then you run the risk of being accused of being insensitive. has faced this risk for many years, and we were thrilled to provide some of the supporting background — including perspective from contributor Harold DeMonaco — to help tell this important story.

Szabo’s beautiful writing makes it clear that fueling false hope is a toxic side effect of modern cancer treatment.

She connects these dots: how new cancer therapies often need to be hyped to attract investors, how promises to cure can trump evidence to the contrary, and the much ignored disconnect between what is touted as statistically significant and “what is really significant for patients.” But she also connects the consequences: patients going through bankruptcy and horrible side effects because of a promised breakthrough. Dashed hopes to whose benefit?

MD Anderson Cancer Center has a logo circulated around Houston with “Cancer” crossed out in red. The White House dreams of a “Cancer Moonshot” that will eradicate cancer for good. And the drug companies defend their glowing ads claiming it’s part of patient education, and — after all — the ultimate choice is “between you and your doctor.”

I suspect when 2017 comes to a close this article will be in my top ten. Read it!

Fighting the flu, with frog mucus | Jacqueline Howard (@JacqEHoward) | CNN Health

frog peptide flu virus

Credit: Sanil George + Jessica Shartouny

Jill Adams (a health columnist on our team) thinks this could be the first time we’ve given five stars to a basic science story. She’s very sure it’s our first frog mucus piece.

Our reviewers could forgive the sexy headline because they found it a very compelling look into the scientific process of trying to find viable strategies to combat the flu.

We don’t usually go in for rodent or amphibian stories, but reporter Jacqueline Howard made it very clear the study in question showed promising results in the laboratory only, and did not apply to humans. She also provided excellent context from a variety of independent sources. You needn’t be a fan of frogs, the flu or mucus to enjoy this fascinating read.

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