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Patch boosts libido for some older women


4 Star

Patch boosts libido for some older women

Our Review Summary

This article about a treatment for low female sexual satisfaction does a first-rate job of putting generally positive study results in context. The reporter draws on deeper knowledge about the product and the study to avoid creating a misleading impression. No reader will come away thinking the patch has been proven safe or is likely to be approved any time soon.

Specifically, the article employs the following best practices when reporting results of a New England Journal of Medicine study on the testosterone patch:

  • The first paragraph says the positive results don’t mean a product will be on the market any time soon. 
  • It describes the results in sufficient detail, and immediately follows them with information about potential harms.
  • It questions whether the "disorder" the patch is designed to treat even exists.

Its main shortcoming is a failure to consult any sources other than company representatives. While this is a significant problem, the story ultimately delivers a clear and accurate message: a patch to treat low female sexual satisfaction isn’t likely to be on the market any time soon. 

For this reason, the story should have included information about other approaches to dealing with low sexual satisfaction in women.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not cite the cost of the patch sold in Europe, which could be a marker for possible pricing in the U.S.

In a story that discusses the competitive commercial environment of the treatment’s development, this is a serious shortcoming. 

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


The report adequately describes the methodology and outcomes of the study in question. It does a good job raising the question of potential harms, while indicating that data supporting those harms aren’t statistically significant.

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


The story reports the potential health risks linked to the patch, primarily breast cancer.

The story does a nice job presenting the actual number of events (breast cancer), 3/264 in patch group and none in the placebo group, and goes on to mention that, although not statistically significant, it does support concerns about breast cancer risk.

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


The news report is based on a blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial whose results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The report also clearly mentions that this is a "company-run study."

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story does an excellent job of questioning whether the "disorder" the patch is designed to treat should be considered a medical condition.

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

Not Satisfactory

The only sources contacted for this story are representatives of two companies involved with development of female sexual satisfaction products, including the one studied in the journal report.

The viewpoints of independent clincians and researchers would have been valuable. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention other approaches to dealing with female sexual satisfaction, which include treatment of underlying psychological and physical conditions, and individual or couples therapy.

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


The story makes plain that the female testosterone patch is not available in the United States but is on the market in Europe.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The report makes clear that the patch is not novel–it’s sold in Europe and has been under study and development in the U.S. for at least a decade.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure if the story relied largely on a news release.  We do know that the only sources quoted are drug company representatives.

Total Score: 6 of 9 Satisfactory


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