This 207-word story must have made the Johnson & Johnson drug company happy because it conveyed everything the company probably wanted to convey about a study of its experimental drug ustekinumab for psoriasis.
But it didn’t tell readers anything about the quality of the evidence in that study, the harms found in the study, the precise benefits found (or how they were measured), or the cost of the experimental drug.
Yet the story did let the company project that it would seek FDA approval within the next two months.
For people living with psoriasis, the story raised more questions than it answered. The lack of full disclosure on the results of the trial might lead some to a misinterpretation of the importance of the findings and the relative market value of the product if it in fact achieves FDA approval.
The story didn’t project any ballpark of costs for the drug, yet it was able to project the company’s plans to file for approval within the next two months. You can be sure if they’re ready for that, they have a ballpark idea of how much they will charge for the drug.
The story only said that more than two-thirds of those taking the drug had at least a 75% reduction in psoriasis. That’s not clear. Does that mean 75% a reduction in the number of psoriatic plaques? Or does it mean a 75% reduction in the severity of existing plaques? And 75% of what baseline? Were these people wth extensive psoriasis? What precisely were the measurements?
There was no discussion of harms found in the studyu of ustekinumab.
There was no explanation of the nature of the study undertaken. In addition, there was no caveat given about the potential pitfalls in drawing conclusions from presentations at scientific meetings – which is the source of the news in this case.
There was no disease mongering but it would have been nice for the author to have provided some estimates concerning the size of the problem. Although psoriasis is a relatively common ailment, moderate to severe forms requiring systemic treatment are much less common. The article suggest the standard treatment is systemic ignoring the use of topical products for less severe forms of the disease.
Only non-peer-reviewed company-sponsored research was reported. No independent sources were cited.
Although competitors’ drugs were mentioned, the context in which they are used was neglected. The majority of people with psoriasis use topical products (never mentioned) to manage their skin disorder. The focus on very expensive biologic treatments without noting the drugs are used in patients with moderate to severe disease is a skewed picture.
It’s clear that the drug ustekinumab is an experimental drug still being studied.
The relative novelty of this class of "self-injectable biologic" drugs was discussed in the story.
It’s unclear if the story relied solely or largely on a news release, although only non-peer-reviewed company-sponsored research was discussed.