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Diabetes Drug Shown to Slow Plaque Buildup

Rating

2 Star

Diabetes Drug Shown to Slow Plaque Buildup

Our Review Summary

The Wall Street Journal often does such fine work; it is hard to understand why it sometimes turns to "briefs" like this 237-word story that falls short on many of our criteria.  This story reports on a study presented at this week’s American College of Cardiology meeting showing that Actos stopped the progression of plague build up in diabetics with heart disease. These results are intriguing because diabetics are at very high risk of cardiovascular complications.

This short story does not provide much in the way of useful information to the reader. The story does not quantify the benefits of Actos, nor does the story mention any harms or costs of treatment.

The story does not quote any experts who could have provided some valuable perspective on the importance of the new findings. Although the study mentions glimepiride as an alternative to Actos, it does not mention other options nor does it discuss the pros and cons of the alternatives.

The story could have emphasized that the study looked at surrogate outcomes, not actual cases of heart disease, which limits the conclusions that can be made from the study. Furthermore, the story does not comment on the fact that the story was presented at a meeting and not published in a peer-reviewed journal and appears to have been funded by the drug company that produces Actos.  Not peer-reviewed and industry-funded should have been two red flags that the story should have pointed out to readers. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the costs of Actos or other diabetes drugs.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quantify the benefits of treatment. Nor does the story mention that the clinical implications of plaque regression are unknown.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any harms of the drug.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story gives some description of the design of the current study. However the story could have emphasized that the study looked at surrogate outcomes (or intermediate endpoints), not actual cases of heart disease, which limits the conclusions that can be made from the study. Furthermore, the story does not comment on the fact that the story was presented at a meeting and not published in a peer-reviewed journal and appears to have been funded by the drug company that produces Actos. We expect stories to explain the pitfalls of reporting on such conference presentations and offer a primer on this topic.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not exagerrate the seriousness or prevalence of diabetes or atherosclerosis. The story could have done more to distinguish the surrogate outcome of plague buildup from actual cardiovascular outcomes.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quote any experts who could have provided some valuable perspective on the importance of the new findings. This is particularly important for industry sponsored trials. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the study mentions glimepiride as an alternative to Actos, it does not mention other options nor does it discuss the pros and cons of the alternatives. In particular, it would have been nice to know if any of the other classes of medications used to control glycemia are associated with reductions in plaque formation. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not describe the availability of Actos.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story accurately represents the novelty of Actos, although this is not the only drug in this class of drugs.

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

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 2 of 9 Satisfactory

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