Read Original Story

Deaths Halt Part of Diabetes Study


4 Star

Deaths Halt Part of Diabetes Study

Our Review Summary

This story covered a randomized clinical trial which was stopped because of excess deaths seen in a group of high risk diabetics receiving more intensive blood sugar management as compared to a group of high risk diabetics whose blood sugar was not as tightly managed. Several experts interviewed for the story commented that this outcome was unexpected.

An important message for readers is that the importance of a clinical endpoint (such as death, in this case) is more meaningful than an intermediary or surrogate endpoint (such as blood sugar level or glycosylated hemoglobin).  It’s also a good example of the importance of  randomized clinical trials. 

The story provided:

  • good details on the trial;
  • death rates between the two groups in absolute terms, which is helpful for reader understanding.
  • good balance with multiple sources interviewed.  


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no cost information provided; it is both relevant and available.  The medications used to more tightly control sugar levels are expensive.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story differentiated the two groups as having been treated to have blood sugar levels like ‘the average person with diabetes’ and ‘closer to those of someone without diabetes.’  We would wish for more specific information about what those blood sugar levels were.

The point of the story was not that blood sugar levels ought not be treated, but rather what the goal ought to be in order to maximize the benefit of treatment.



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


This story was about the new finding that more intensive management of sugar levels in high risk patients increases mortality risk. Differences in death rates were given in absolute terms.

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


The story did a good job of providing sufficient detail to help readers understand the magnitude of the difference in deaths between the two groups. Although the story didn’t specify that this was a randomized clnical trial – and why that’s important – it can be inferred from the otherwise detailed description of how the study was done.



Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.

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


Comments from interviews with several individuals knowledgeable about the trial (i.e. cardiologist, people at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) were included in this story. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

While the story stated that the blood sugar levels of those in the group attempting more intensive management were lower than those of typical patients, the story did not provide context for readers to know how their treatment actually would compare to those in the study. 

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


The story stated that the medications used in this study where those that are commonly used for lowering blood sugar. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story is about the results from a newly released study.

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


Does not appear to rely on a press release.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory


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