NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

Fighting Alzheimer’s With Dimebon

Rating

1 Star

Categories

Fighting Alzheimer’s With Dimebon

Our Review Summary

This felt like a hurried attempt to cover a story appearing in the journal, The Lancet.  And journalists should not be rushed when reporting about Alzheimer’s Disease.  Yet ABC did rush to these conclusions:

  • On the air, they referred to the drug Dimebon as “a drug which might, and we stress might, give some hope to the millions of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.”
  • On its website they referred to the drug as “A Miracle Drug for Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Their story:

  • Didn’t explain how limited the conclusions should be about a drug studied in 120 patients in a Phase 2 trial;
  • Didn’t interview anyone involved in the research;
  • Didn’t explain how “significant improvement” was measured;
  • Didn’t discuss any potential harms.

Therefore, ABC didn’t establish any justification for calling this a miracle.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t mention anything about costs.

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

Not Satisfactory

Using the phrase “showed significant improvement in mental tests” does not meet our standard for quantifying benefits.   What does this mean?

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

Not Satisfactory

All drugs have side effects; this story mentioned none.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only states that those taking the drug “showed significant improvement in mental tests.”  What does that mean?  Which tests?  How reliable are they? The scales used in such studies – and their significance to activities of daily living – always not in synch.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story doesn’t commit any overt disease-mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

Odd sourcing on this story.  We don’t hear from any of the investigators.  We only hear from Dr. Sam Gandy of the Alzheimer’s Association.  A woman with early Alzheimer’s Disease is interviewed but we can assume that she was not in the trial.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story only states, “Medicines on the market now do little more than delay the mental decline.”  But this study was only a Phase 2 study.  It did not compare Dimebon with any of the existing drugs.  So no comparison can be made.  And that one line was insufficient explanation of what is available and what the harms/benefits of the existing approaches are.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t tell us much about Dimebon – not whether it’s already FDA approved for anything else.  Not the fact that it’s also being studied for use in Huntington’s Disease.  The accompanying editorial in the Lancet states, “This drug began life as a non-selective antihistamine but was withdrawn when more selective agents became available.”

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

We aren’t given any sense of the novelty of this approach.  Why might an antihistamine work in Alzheimer’s disease?  Why didn’t the story mention the drug company’s parallel Huntington Disease studies?  Is there a mechanism worth explaining?

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.