This story medicalizes a normal state of health – a few additional pounds or inches. If the "treatment" doesn’t provide any health benefit, why is it consistently referred to as a "treatment"? The story lacked:
This is astoundingly poor use of air time – something to which we’ve grown accustomed on network TV morning programs.
It was stated that the cost of treatment could be estimated to range from $400 – $1000. Pretty broad range, but we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt.
There was no evidence given to support the claims made about treatment benefits. While providing commentary about the reduction in ‘genetically’ hard to lose fat, there were no questions raised about whether the treatment worked equally well on various body parts; whether the age of the patient made any differences; or how long the reported benefits last.
Several times in this piece, it was mentioned that there are no harms associated with this treatment.
Studies found at the company web site mentioned several adverse events that occurred following single treatment such as redness, blisters and skin discoloration. In one case, the blistering progressed to what was described as ‘dermal erosion’ which was treated with antibiotics.
Although the piece mentioned that over 50,000 people have received this treatment, there was absolutely no critical assessment about the claims made by clinicians who sell this service or device. It was stated that there were no long term studies associated with this product; but what about short term evidence? If 50,000 people have had it, certainly there must be some evidence to talk about???? While there was mention of a 4-6 cm loss in circumference there was no background about the study or studies used to generate it.
Lastly – the report concludes by mentioning that someone on the news staff has volunteered to go to Canada to try this out and that they will monitor her results. This sends the inaccurate message that the experience of a single individual is a reasonable substitute for rigorous, scientific research on a topic.
Although not clearly articulated in the story, the two clinicians interviewed for this story both have websites where links to this story appear and appear to benefit commercially from this device. No impartial authorities appear to have been interviewed for this story.
The story mentioned liposuction, and that benefits from the device should be seen as merely in addition to what a person would gain through diet and exercise.
An estimate of when this ‘treatment’ would be available was made in this piece on the basis of a ‘phase III clinical trial’ currently underway. At www.clinicaltrials.gov, rather than a phase III study, the descriptor used is Withheld and it states that ‘the trial identified as associated with a clinical device that has not been approved or cleared by the FDA’. The estimate of availability is not based on readily accessible information.
The story accurately indicated that this treatment has been available for a short while and is not yet approved for use in the US.
Is it responsible for ABC to glorify/advocate a trip outside of the US in order to obtain this treatment when it is not approved for use in the US? Instead, it would be interesting to investigate the reasons why it is not approved in the US.
We can’t be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release. As there were no hard data provided in the report that actually qualifies as ‘news’, it raises the question of whether a public relations firm planted the seed for this infomercial disguised as "news".