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Experimental heart pump

Rating

1 Star

Experimental heart pump

Our Review Summary

This story is about research on a device that might be a long-term substitute for heart transplantation. 

But the story is long on hyperbole and short on (in fact, almost completely devoid of) any facts, data or evidence about how well the device in question works, how safe it is, etc. 

The hyperbole comes into play when the story calls this "a revolutionary new experimental technology (that) may be a lifesaver for thousands."  But the story never gives any indication of why this is revolutionary – and certainly no evidence to support the projection that it could save the lives of thousands.  

There was no discussion of potential harms from the implantation of the device or its longterm use.  Costs were not discussed.  

All we get is the rosy story of one patient (only 6 months post-implant) of one clinical investigator at one medical center.   The story needed independent perspectives, and a better review of the pitfalls of past devices, in order to come close to being a helpful or complete story.  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t mention anything about cost – likely to be a significant issue for any such implantation and device. 

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story called this "a revolutionary new experimental technology (that) may be a lifesaver for thousands" without ever giving any evidence of how well it works.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

In a story that contained no evidence whatsoever about the use of the device, the harms of this device and its implantation – the downfall of so many similar devices in the past – were never mentioned. In fact, the story minimizes potential drawbacks by simply saying:  …"allowed him to quickly resume (how quickly?) his normal life (normal life?) with just a few medications (?) and a few idiosyncrasies (?) to get used to." The story should give some detail on the meds and especially should define what is meant by "idiosyncrasies"  which seems like tremendous euphemism for the potentially important drawbacks to having this experimental heart pump.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

There was not one shred of evidence discussed to support use of the device – a glaring omission for a story that referred to the device as "a revolutionary new experimental technology (that) may be a lifesaver for thousands."

 

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease mongering.  Some attempt was made to characterize end-stage heart failure, noting that the profiled patient "was among the 90% of patients with chronic heart failure unlikely to get one of the 2,000 or so donor hearts available ever year."   

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

Only one investigator at only one medical center was quoted.  If this is "a revolutionary new experimental technology (that) may be a lifesaver for thousands," the story should have included the perspectives of someone not so involved in the clinical trial to give us that independent assessment.  A single source in a story like this makes it an incomplete effort.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of alternative treatment options for the "90% of patients with chronic heart failure unlikely to get one of the 2,000 or so donor hearts available every year."  Worse, the story quotes one patient saying, "The choices that were presented to me, I don’t have many left."  But we never hear anything about what those choices might be.  The story creates a false dichotomy of "new device" versus death.  Many patients with chronic heart failure manage with medications. 

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

Is the device approved by the FDA?  Is it available only in clinical trials?  How widespread is its use or are the clinical trial sites?  None of these questions were addressed in the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story made passing reference to past artificial heart or assist devices, the story never explained what was truly novel about this device, emphasizing only its size and its durability.  How does it work differently?  What would make it work better?  Safer?  These were not explained. 

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied largely or solely on a news release.  We do know that it featured only one investigator at only one medical center.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory

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