This article, a considerably shortened version of a feature story that appeared in the New York Times, adequately describes the findings of an early study by Eli Lilly on a new drug treatment for schizophrenia. Although quite short, the Sentinel brief manages to indicate the drug’s potential significance while retaining important caveats.
The article would have been stronger if it had described the amount and nature of the relief the drug provided, and how that compared to existing treatments.
One additional small but significant error: The Sentinel version states the study appeared in the journal Nature. It appeared in Nature Medicine.
The Sentinel article does raise questions about whether findings from an early and tentative study should be published in such a short form.
The original Times piece is an excellent feature which explores the mechanism by which the new drug appears to work, the troubled history of another Eli Lilly drug for schizophrenia, the amount of money at stake in finding a novel treatment, and the story of this drug’s development. The Nature Medicine publication provided the news hook for that larger piece.
But absent that larger piece, are the findings of the early study significant enough to justify a brief stand-alone report? It is worth considering whether the Sentinel’s readers would be better served by a brief article about a treatment or phenomenon that’s either currently available or about to hit the market.
The shorter Sentinel story would have been strengthened by a caution about the proportion of "promising/breakthrough" treatments that make it from this stage of drug discovery to market availability. Is this drug as good in improving patients as current treaments? How big was the difference in adverse effects? How long was the trial – long enough to see adverse effects emerge? These details are lacking in the story.
Because the treatment is experimental and not on the market, there is no cost of treatment to report.
The article fails to describe the nature or size of the symptomatic relief the drug trial showed.
The article indicates that serious side effects were not observed in this small, early study of the drug. It mentions in the second paragraph that there may be side effects that were not revealed in this report.
The article makes clear that the reported studies are early-phase and insufficient to prove efficacy and safety.
The article does nothing to exaggerate the nature or severity of the disease.
The author summarizes the results of a study that appeared in a high-quality, peer-reviewed journal, and quotes one knowledgable observer with no ties to the company developing the drug or the current study. The editor did a good job by retaining this information.
The article makes clear that there are other drug treatments for schizophrenia whose effectiveness is limited by serious side effects.
The article makes clear by the second paragraph that the treatment is still being tested and is at least three or four years from approval under the best circumstances.
The article accurately states that the treatment is novel, and could potentially open the way to a new class of drug therapies.
This article is an edited version of an article that appeared in the New York Times on the same day.