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Peanuts, Anyone? Researchers Expose Kids to Risky Foods In Order to Cure Them

Rating

5 Star

Peanuts, Anyone? Researchers Expose Kids to Risky Foods In Order to Cure Them

Our Review Summary

Nice job on a story about desensitization for milk and peanut allergies.  

Strengths:

  • Included absolute risk reduction data
  • Emphasized that the work was being done in small numbers of children, that there’s "a long way to go," and that researchers "caution that much more research is needed to prove and perfect the approach and that it is far from ready for widespread use."
  • Interviewed a broad range of experts in the field for perspective.
  • It devoted 1,600 words to a topic that concerns many families.

Room for improvement:

  • Discuss costs – even projected costs.
  • Avoid alarmist and unrepresentative anecdotes. A comment indicating that the majority of food allergies are not life-threatening would have been a welcome addition to the story.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The story didn’t mention any potential costs, but it did make clear that these were small, early studies.  So it’s understandable that costs aren’t yet known.  Nonetheless, we wish the story would just say that – and make the safe prediction that since this treatment will involve multiple visits over a protracted period the costs will likely not be inconsequential. 

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

Satisfactory

 The story included absolute risk reduction data from the milk and peanut studies.  

 

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

Satisfactory

The story mentioned that 4 individuals in a study of 33 had to withdraw from the study due to allergic reaction. 

There was also a strong word of caution to readers NOT to try desensitization on their own.  

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

Satisfactory

The story made clear that the work was being done in small numbers of children, that there’s "a long way to go," and that researchers "caution that much more research is needed to prove and perfect the approach and that it is far from ready for widespread use."

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story bordered on the edge of disease mongering because the parental anecdotes about their children’s allergies were extreme and a bit alarming.  A comment indicating that the majority of food allergies are not life-threatening would have been a welcome addition to the story. Nonetheless we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion. 

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

Satisfactory

A broad range of experts in the field and a funding agency spokesperson were all quoted as sources of information for this story. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story touched on avoidance of allergens and the use of desensitization shots as two alternatives to the treatment under study as well as the use of rescue medication such as epinephrine after unintended exposure for the management of allergic reactions.

 

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

Satisfactory

The story described positive results from a couple of studies and indicated that desensitization in this manner is the realm of research and not widely available clinically.  

That said – it could have provided readers with some ideas for where they could go to learn about studies in their area. (www.clinicaltrials.gov) 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

Although presented as a novel approach to treatment, desensitization is a long-practiced tool and has been an active field of investigation for a number of years.

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

Satisfactory

Does not appear to rely on a press release. 

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory

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