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Prostate drug shows safer side

Rating

2 Star

Prostate drug shows safer side

Our Review Summary

The article describes two new studies that suggest that the drug finasteride may not be linked with a higher chance of developing dangerous types of prostate cancer, as was previously thought.  The article fails to address several of our criteria including costs, the strength of the evidence, quantifiable benefits, whether this is a new treatment, treatment options, and a source of information who is not the lead author.  (But what can you expect a reporter to cover in 163 words? See our recent Publisher’s Note about the harms of such "briefs.") While a key potential harm is described–the chance that this drug may lead to developing dangerous types of prostate cancer–the story fails to adequately describe other potential harms, other than to name them.  Readers don’t know if these other harms are frequent or troublesome. 

The story also missed a key point.  Since the results came from a cancer prevention trial, the onus is clearly on the research to find more benefit than harm – since, by definition, the individual has no symptoms.  But the story of finasteride for the prevention of prostate cancer still lacks strong evidence.  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not mention any costs. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The article does not provide any quantifiable benefits. 

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

Not Satisfactory

Harms of treatment are mentioned, including the possibility of an increased risk of dangerous types of prostate cancer with this drug.  While this is one potential harm, the story doesn’t adequately describe other potential harms, other than to name them (e.g. impotence and decreased libido).  Readers don’t know how frequent these other side effects may be or how troublesome. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The article states the latest study re-analyzed previous trial data (from a 2003 study).  But, readers still don’t know much, if anything, about how to evaluate the strength of the findings.  For instance, it’s not stated whether the original trial was a randomized trial or something less robust. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

Although there is very little information given about prostate cancer as a disease, what is mentioned is not exaggerated or incorrect. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The article only provides one source of information and that source is a lead author (although the article does reveal potential conflicts of interest of this author). 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not describe other treatment options. 

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

Satisfactory

The article does not explicitly state whether this drug is available currently or is still in research. However, one statement implies it is currently available because it states doctors have been hesitant to prescribe it for prevention purposes. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The article does not tell readers whether this is a new drug or not. 

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release.  With its sparse 163 words, the story only quotes the lead researcher and offers no independent perspectives.  We don’t know for sure what enterprise reporting may have taken place to produce these 163 words. 

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory

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