This news report does a solid job of describing study findings that show Alzheimer’s patients taking anti-psychotic drugs face an increased risk of death. It does several things particularly well:
The reader takeaway is clear: These drugs are dangerous and, if used, should be done so very carefully.
The story fails to mention the price of the anti-psychotic medications.
While this information is not crucial here, as a matter of course the cost of drug regimens under study should be mentioned. In this case, some of the anti-psychotic medications are expensive when taken long-term.
The story made a modest attempt to explain the possible benefits of the anti-psychotic drugs for Alzheimer’s patients – effectively painting a picture of doubt about their value. It states that the drugs may help control aggression and hallucinations "for a few months." And the story included the damning comment from the Alzheimer’s Association spokesman: "At some point, some people will be better off with no medication."
The story does a commendable job of describing the harms of the drugs in a variety of ways:
It also mentions other side effects linked to the drugs, including respiratory problems and stroke.
The news report does an excellent job of describing how the study was conducted and what outcomes it measured.
It would have been valuable to mention that, as a randomized controlled trial, this is a well-designed, high-quality study.
The story does not sensationalize the condition or its treatment.
The reporter interviewed three people: the study’s lead author, the head of an advocacy group with no connection to the study, and an independent psychiatrist.
The report properly discloses that the study’s author has received grants from companies that make Alzheimer’s drugs.
The article uses two quotes suggesting that taking no medication is an option.
It also usefully quotes a source who says environmental and behavioral treatments can be used to control some symptoms of dementia.
The first sentence states the drugs are "commonly used." Later on, the story says that up to 60 percent of patients with dementia in the US and UK are given the drugs for one to two years. [This latter detail, unfortunately, is unsourced.]
Since the treatment is common, novelty is not an issue.
The story does not appear to draw from the medical journal’s press release.