Michael Joyce produces multimedia for HealthNewsReview.org and tweets as @mlmjoyce
Every day we scrutinize media messages about health on this website.
We encounter evidence — presumed by many to be logical and impartial — that is packaged, spun, and even altered by forces such as investors, egos, politics, and career concerns. Claims and promises are made. Often with much fanfare.
Those most affected by the evidence — hoping it will address the frustration, pain, anger, vulnerability, confusion or other emotions they feel — are often crushed when these promises are not kept. Not infrequently, the highly touted treatments either don’t work as promised, or are actually harmful.
Good reporters — like the ones featured below — understand this. They not only scrutinize the evidence, but recognize it is inextricably linked to human emotions and lives.
In part one, Charles Piller paints a chilling portrait of the “approve-first, monitor-later” pressure placed on the FDA drug approval process. It’s made clear our drug pipeline is large bore and greased with financial incentives. In the words of Dr. Vinay Prasad, an oncologist at Oregon Health and Science University: “The system is broken, and all the financial incentives are lined up to keep it broken.” The consequences portrayed are staggering.
In part two, Sheila Kaplan takes a closer look at the FDA Sentinel System. This decade-old program was designed to scrutinize the safety of drugs after they’ve already been approved. Kaplan describes an expensive system that was heralded as “a quantum leap forward” but has only been used to revise the warning labels of two drugs … not a great return on over $200 million in development costs.
This investigative piece clearly illustrates just how powerful a tool patient anecdotes have become for patient advocacy groups. Fortunately, we’ve noticed an increasing number of well-written articles like this one taking a critical look at the potential conflicts of interest, far-reaching influence, and manipulative strategies of some (not all) patient advocacy groups.
Apparently, emotions can do more than sway the FDA … they can also raise stock prices.
Employing balanced anecdotes, powerful statistics, interesting history, and an incredible mix of quality sources, this highly readable article is one of the most cogent takes on one of the hottest news topics of our time.
The chewy center here is an elusive question: why do dieting results vary so much from person to person? Sifferlin wisely provides no answer, but let’s us know where scientists are looking for that answer.
It seems the quality of writing about weight loss goes up and down like the diet fads themselves. This informative read is evidence-based and rock solid.
Anyone who cares about rampant overdiagnosis and overtreatment in this country ought to read this article, if only to become familiar with Dr. Gilbert Welch’s barnyard analogy for understanding cancer screening.
Or, at the very least, if you want to feel better equipped to understand and clearly discuss the pros and cons of screening for thyroid, breast, and prostate cancers.
Dr. Offit is a pediatrician and an author. He makes the case against over-screening so clearly, I can only imagine how convincing he is when telling kids to stop drinking soda and start eating vegetables.
Scutti used a variety of sources to provide important context about a very small study focused on a very rare type of epilepsy.
There are two virtual certainties when it comes to marijuana-derived therapies. First, stories about them are sure click-bait. Second, we don’t have enough high quality studies on therapeutic cannabis yet, to make many definitive conclusions.
That makes detailed writing like this all the more commendable.
This is particularly true when applied to a disease like depression where those affected are hungry for hope, and a multi-million dollar industry — like the burgeoning neurofeedback industry — is hungry for new clients.
Just because it sounds scientific, doesn’t mean it’s based in science.
We gave them high marks for accurately “reporting the costs, harms and perhaps negligible benefit of the new treatment which combines a newer drug (Perjeta) with an older drug (Herceptin).”
As we reported in our ASCO coverage of this combination therapy, monitoring relapse rates and side effects will be critical in following up on this ongoing research.
5-star Friday is a regular feature on HealthNewsReview.org. You can find a list of previous installments HERE.