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Is Singulair linked to suicide?

Rating

4 Star

Is Singulair linked to suicide?

Our Review Summary

This report, triggered by the FDA’s investigation into a possible link between the allergy/asthma drug Singulair and suicide, is a good example of how a news operation can take a potentially explosive, emotional medical news story and keep it focused on what viewers need to know to make more informed decisions.

From the top the segment is framed by the question, "So what should you do?" The medical editor responds well by making clear the connection isn’t proven and that the number of reports at this point is very small.

She also takes advantage of the "teachable moment" to explain the differences between clinical trial data and post-marketing surveillance reports of side effects, without diminishing the importance of either. 

The segment’s biggest shortcoming is that it fails to report that many other drugs are available for asthma and allergies, and that people taking Singulair should discuss those options with their doctors.  We also wish journalists would leave their personal lives out of health stories.  The medical editor’s comment – "I have a teenage daughter on it who has done quite well" – is not vital information and has potentially biasing influence on the overall message of the piece. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The price of the drug is not reported.

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

Satisfactory

The piece cites specific figures from the clinical studies and post-surveillance reports. It also does a good job of explaining the differences between the two without favoring either.

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

Satisfactory

The story is focused on potential harmful side effects of the drug, so this criterion was clearly established.

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

Satisfactory

The report is based on news of the FDA opening an investigation and information from pre-approval clinical trials and post-marketing data. This is adequate evidence to justify a story.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The article does not exaggerate the severity or frequency of the side effects that may be linked to the drug.

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

Satisfactory

Sources include the FDA’s announcment of its investigation, and information about pre-approval clinical trials and post-approval reporting.  

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The medical editor’s and host’s suggestions that people using the drug should look carefully for these potential side effects and talk to their physicians are useful. But the report should have mentioned that there are many other drugs available to treat asthma and allergies.

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

Satisfactory

The segment makes clear that Singulair is widely used.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

Singulair is widely used, and its novelty is not in question.

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

Satisfactory

The report was triggered by the FDA’s announcement of its investigation, not a company press release.

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory

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