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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
The story does an excellent job of questioning whether the "disorder" the patch is designed to treat should be considered a medical condition.
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.
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.
The story makes plain that the female testosterone patch is not available in the United States but is on the market in Europe.
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.
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.