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Read Original Story

Singulair linked to suicide?

Rating

2 Star

Singulair linked to suicide?

Our Review Summary

This segment, which follows the FDA’s announcement of an investigation into a possible link between the asthma/allergy drug Singulair and suicide, falls short of health journalism best practices in two important  ways:

  • It dwells on a single tragic anecdote about a teen taking Singulair who committed suicide, inviting viewers to assume cause and effect has been proven. It hasn’t.
  • It does not ask an independent clincian to explain what people with asthma/allergies, or who take Singulair, need to know or do.

It’s worth pointing out that the segment ends with a useful reference to more information at abcnews.com. That article is much more thorough and balanced than this broadcast report. 

 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The price of the medication is not mentioned.

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

Not Satisfactory

The segment cites the number of people who participated in Singulair’s clinical trails. But it also states that there are "a handful" of reports of suicides and mood changes, and "hundreds" of complaints about serious side effects of Singulair on Internet message boards. This lack of specificity is not satisfactory.

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

Satisfactory

The story is about the alleged harmful side effects of Singulair, so this criterion was clearly established.

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

Not Satisfactory

Evidence is drawn from the FDA’s investigation announcement and the drugmaker’s statement in response. Both cite clinical trials and anecdotal reports. 

The segment also includes an observation about discussions on the Internet. These discussion boards can be valuable or worthless sources of information. There’s not enough information here to know what value they bring to the story. 

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

The story is built around a teenager’s tragic suicide, which followed use of the medication. This plays on viewers’ emotions, inviting them to assume, prematurely, that the drug and suicides are linked.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story interviews the parents of the young suicide victim and one of the program’s "medical contributors." It also uses an observation about online discussion boards. This is not satisfactory sourcing for a story of this importance. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The segment fails to indicate that there are many other effective treatments available for 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 and available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Applicable

Because Singulair is so widely used, there is no claim made for its novelty.

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

Satisfactory

The segment was triggered by the FDA action, not a company press release.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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