The story touts "a new cream that promises instant anti-impotence with no side effects."
We’re talking about a study in 10 rats.
Supposedly the cream "succeeded" in 9 of them, although how anti-impotence "success" was measured in rats was not described.
Even if this had been about 10 people we would have shrieked, as if we’d seen a mouse. But even the researchers said this could be two years away from human testing and ten years away from submission for marketing approval.
There was not one word about the heavily-populated graveyard of ideas that looked good in ten rats and were never heard from again. Stories about research in animals or about research in the laboratory but not yet in humans (sometimes called pre-clinical or in-vitro studies) should include warnings about how this research may not pan out in people. Stories that fail to include such information may paint a brighter picture for possible application in humans than is actually the case.
It’s understandable that a story might not be able to discuss the costs of something that’s 10 years away from availability. What is not so understandable, however, is why they did the story now.
The story simply stated, "The cream succeeded in 9 out of 10 cases with the rats." How is the "success" of an anti-impotence cream measured in rats? Inquiring minds want to know.
Again, at least a line is warranted about the leap from animal research to human application.
The first line of the story says that this cream "promises instant anti-impotence with no side effects." It also quoted a researcher: "Our initial studies show that it is safe to use multiple times."
What does that mean?
The story should have at least briefly mentioned that "safety" in ten rats does not automatically equate to safety in people.
All drugs have side effects.
The story explained the cream was tested in rats, and that human trials may not begin for another two years.
The story said "The cream succeeded in 9 out of 10 cases with the rats."
There was no discussion of:
The story mentions "the estimated 15 million American men suffering from erectile dysfunction." Whose estimate is that? What is it based on? Is this lumping together all men who have occasional problems with erections with those who have organic disease?
The lead researcher of this rat study was interviewed. And a urologist was quoted briefly – but only about the potential of the idea.
No independent expert opinion appeared to evaluate the research and to judge the story’s claims that this animal study "promises instant anti-impotence with no side effects."
The story mentioned three anti-impotence drugs now on the market and talked about how the new cream might be better. But there is simply no evidence base upon which to compare three approved drugs with a cream that has only been tested in 10 rats.
The story stated that "the new cream may not be widely available for 10 years," but that didn’t stop them from writing about it or touting its "promise."
We’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this one, since it quoted a researcher saying "This is the first time nanoparticles have been used to treat erectile dysfunction. Other topical treatments have been tried, but not one like this."
The story cites the London Daily Mail newspaper as its source. We can’t judge the extent to which the London story or the NY story may have been based on a news release.