This is a story reporting on a study comparing oral dosing with chicken collagen (daily) to methotrexate (weekly) for symptom relief for people with rheumatoid arthritis. While doing a good job reporting about the study, the story did not clearly explain the nature (beyond mentioned that they were ‘standard measures’) or extent of the benefits observed. People with arthritis would want to know what was actually measured. Also, the story discussed availability of chicken collagen as a nutritional supplement but didn’t explain if that is similar to the stuff used in the study.
This is an important area for research because the standard treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are associated with substantial toxicity, and in the case of methotrexate, are unsafe in pregnancy. That is a particular problem because RA often is diagnosed in younger people and is more common in women.
The story provided information about the costs of both methotrexate and chicken collagen.
Although the story presented quantitative information about the benefit observed for the chicken collagen and methotrexate groups, it didn’t fully explain the nature of the ‘benefit’ it was reporting on. In this case, it was the percentage of individuals in each group who demonstrated 20% improvement in the American College of Rheumatology response criteria. Absolute improvements in scores for the two treatment could have been reported.
The story mentioned that the methotrexate group had more gastrointestinal discomfort. However there was no comment about possible observed specific harms with the chicken collagen.
The story included sufficient detail about that study it reported on.
The criticism about some of the benefit observed possibly being the results of a placebo effect is germane not only to that improvement seen for those taking chicken collagen but those taking methotrexate as well.
The story did not engage in overt disease mongering.
Perhaps a brief comment on the prevalence and morbidity associated with rheumatoid arthritis would have been useful for understanding why the study results may be of interest.
No comments from independent sources.
The story indicated that the study authors reported no conflicts of interest.
But it wasn’t evident that anyone was interviewed for this story.
The study itself compared chicken collagen with methotrexate, which is an older treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. But the story did not include mention of any of the disease modifying therapies that are increasingly popular.
The story provided availability information about both methotrexate and chicken collagen.
However -while mentioning that chicken collagen was available as nutritional supplement in the US, not a drug – the story could have mentioned that there is no oversight to ensure that such a "nutritional supplement" actually contains what is indicated on the label. It might have also indicated that the chicken collagen used in this study was prepared in the laboratory of the study investigators.
The idea of using oral dosing with collagen as a means of managing or treating rheumatoid arthritis is not quite as new and potentially exciting as the story seemed to suggest. There have been a scattering of research studies published over the past 8 or 9 years which have looked at this question.
We can’t be sure of the extent to which the story may have relied on a news release.