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MS therapy shows promise in test

Rating

4 Star

MS therapy shows promise in test

Our Review Summary

This news report does a solid job describing the findings of a Phase II study into the use of Rituxan for relapsing-remitting MS. It includes the necessary caveats about the study being preliminary and the need for bigger, longer-term studies to validate the findings.

The evidence is reported adequately, and the sourcing is sufficient.

The study itself is most important, however, because it appears to verify the important role of B-cells in the development of MS. Since most current MS drugs target T-cells, the implications of these findings for development of new treatments are significant.

By focusing on the clinical results of a small trial rather than the important discovery about the role of B cells, the article may invite people with relapsing-remitting MS to wonder whether they could, or should, try to use this drug, which is on the market and approved for other uses, off-label.

Other reporters asked sources whether this would be a good idea. Their stories included the useful caution that the drug should not be used off-label at this time. This story would have been better if it had too.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The article is silent on the price of Rituxan. Since the company is investing a significant sum to research an additional use, the price is worth mentioning.

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

Satisfactory

The article does a good job of sketching the benefits shown in this research. Focusing on the clinical endpoint of relapse, and using percentages of relapse with the drug and the placebo, makes it easy for readers to understand.

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

Satisfactory

The article explores the issue of whether Rituxan may suppress the immune response too much, making the patient vulnerable to other diseases. It also explains how this effect has been observed in the drug Tysabri, a different immune suppressant used for MS.

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

Satisfactory

This article is based on published results of a Phase II trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The news article does a decent job emphasizing the preliminary nature of the findings, and that larger trials are needed to ensure safety, efficacy and long-term benefits.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article does nothing to exaggerate the severity or consequences of MS.

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

Satisfactory

The reporter draws on the journal article and the accompanying editorial.

Sources interviewed include the primary author, one medical expert representing the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and one clinician who treated some patients in the study but was not an author.

This is sufficient sourcing.

It is worth pointing out here, however, that Genentech and Biogen Idec, makers of Rituxan, are “Corporate Star” supporters of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The article states that six other drugs, all with shortcomings, are available to treat relapsing-remitting MS.

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

Not Satisfactory

The article makes clear that the drug is currently on the market and approved for other uses. But it did not state whether Rituxan is, or may become, used off-label for relapsing-remitting MS. And, as noted in our summary comment below, there are issues surrounding off-label use that could have been addressed.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The article makes clear that the drug is on the market and used for related conditions, but its use in relapsing-remitting MS patients is being explored in this research.

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

Satisfactory

There is no evidence the article draws from a press release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory

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