5-Star Friday: thoroughness & thoughtfulness

Michael Joyce produces multimedia at HealthNewsReview.org and tweets as @mlmjoyce.

5 star fridayThis is a unique Five Star Friday in that we have examples of great reporting from both the breaking news end of the spectrum, as well as a long-term and in-depth investigative project.

We also have two stories that scored very highly with our reviewers. This is important because the two diseases covered — Alzheimer’s disease and ulcerative colitis — are clearly in need of effective therapies.

This usually means people affected are hungry for good news. And this places a premium on covering emerging therapies for these conditions thoroughly and thoughtfully. There are readers hanging on every word.

And that is the theme running through this edition of Five Star Friday: thoroughness & thoughtfulness.

Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades • by Lena H. Sun • Washington Post


Here in Minnesota we are on the front end of what could become a major measles outbreak. But it’s not your average outbreak. It’s a dramatic story involving a tightly knit immigrant community targeted by anti-vaccine activists.

Reporter Lena Sun deftly captures the drama without being melodramatic or insensitive to those affected. There are a lot of moving parts to this story: children, fear, committed doctors frustrated by misinformation and a fraudulent doctor whose license has been revoked. It’s a compelling and informative read that digs far deeper than our local papers did.

Locked on the Psych Ward • by Rosalind Adams • BuzzFeed


Think investigative journalism is dead? Apparently Rosalind Adams didn’t get the memo.

After hundreds of interviews and reviewing a slew of documents, Adams paints the picture of a major chain of psychiatric hospitals filling their beds with allegedly suicidal patients — for just the right amount of time — to collect the maximum insurance payments.

Making matters worse are under-staffed facilities with inadequately trained personnel, as well as allegations of fraud and harming patients.

There is one graphic in this essay you can’t miss. It will send chills through your body.

Arthritis Drug Shows Promise for Ulcerative Colitis • Steven Reinberg • HealthDay


ulcerative colitis drugOther than neglecting to mention the cost of this arthritis drug used to treat ulcerative colitis, health reporter Steven Reinberg does well in balancing the risks and harms of this off-label treatment. He also clearly explains the research, and even points out an important conflict of interest.

Reinberg makes it clear that this drug, tofacitinib (Xeljanz), has not been FDA-approved for treatment of ulcerative colitis.

If you know anyone who has experience with this off-label application, let us know. We’d be interested to hear about their experience.

In small Alzheimer’s study, hints of modest benefit from unusual drug • Sharon Begley • Stat


Writing about promising new treatments for Alzheimer’s is a delicate art; especially — as in this case — when it involves a study that hasn’t even been published or presented at a scientific conference.

But Sharon Begley has the touch and — without falling into the traps of over-hyping or promising a cure-all — she writes an appropriately cautious article with this beautiful first sentence:

“A little-known drug company announced modestly encouraging results for its experimental Alzheimer’s drug on Monday, a rare but still preliminary glimmer of hope in a field that has been battered by failure after failure.”

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