This report describes the trend of some patients going overseas to get medical procedures that are not approved in the U.S. The articles focuses on one such treatment: adult stem cell treatment for advanced heart failure.
With that one exception, the article delivers a high level of public service by inviting readers’ skepticism throughout.
It notes how the clinic’s operator made outcome claims but won’t release data, how available data on U.S. clinical trials is inconclusive, and it quotes a spokesman for a research association who recommends specific factors patients considering an oversees procedure should consider.
The story reports that overseas stem cell treatment for heart failure cost one patient $13,000.
The article briefly summarizes a major journal report on stem cell treatment for heart failure that finds little risk and only a "modest benefit." Since the story is premised on the fact that little evidence supports the treatment, this is sufficient. However, given all of this, it may have been better for the story to put more emphasis on the fallacy in the statements by the company’s medical director that 75 to 80 percent of patients improve significantly, and that "We are their last resort."
The story does not describe the potential harms of getting the treatment overseas. It implies the waste of money and potential safety issues but should have included more detail.
The article makes clear that there is no high-quality scientific evidence demonstrating the treatment’s efficacy.
The article does nothing to exaggerate the danger of heart failure or the promise of the stem cell treatment.
The reporter drew on a variety of sources:
The article does not report on other treatment options for heart failure patients.
Combined with the unsubstantiated claim of 75 to 80 percent efficacy–and the comment that the overseas treatment is a "last resort"–this creates the impression that other treatments for heart failure don’t exist or are futile.
This is the article’s most serious flaw.
The story does an excellent job of describing the conditions under which adult stem cell treatments for heart failure are available both overseas and domestically.
The article reports that the treatment is in clinical trials here and about 300 people have had the procedure overseas.
There is no evidence that the story is based on a press release.