NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

Scientists claim to be close to anti-impotence cream more powerful than viagra

Rating

2 Star

Scientists claim to be close to anti-impotence cream more powerful than viagra

Our Review Summary

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.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

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.

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

Not Satisfactory

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.  

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

Not Satisfactory

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.   

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

Not Satisfactory

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 limitations of drawing conclusions about human efficacy or safety from rat studies
  • the limitations of drawing conclusions from studies in just 10 rats
  • how was "success" measured?

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

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? 

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

Not Satisfactory

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."

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

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. 

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

Satisfactory

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."

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

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."

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

Not Applicable

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.  

Total Score: 2 of 8 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.