This story lacked many of the vital ingredients of any health news story.
A story like this turns the website (in this case) over to researchers to talk about their work without any challenge from any other expert independent source. News consumers should be cautious whenever they see a story like this. And given the desperation of many people with MS, an incomplete story like this is particularly unfortunate.
If the marijuana extracts are experimental, we could understand why costs might not be mentioned – which they weren’t. But since the story never explained whether these are available products or not, we have no idea of availability nor of cost.
Absolutely no numbers were provided to give a sense of the scope of the suggested benefit. How many people who took the extracts benefited? You’d never know from the story.
Absolutely no numbers were provided to give a sense of the scope of the potential harms of taking the extracts. All the story said was, "Side effects vary greatly." What were they? How many people had them?
The story included this curious quote from the researchers:
But subjective assessment of relief of spasticity suggested significant improvement after treatment, they write.
But science is all about objective measurement, and the story never did anything to address this questionable assertion.
There was no exaggeration of the muscle spasm symptoms of MS.
A HealthDay story reported:
But this WebMD story included no independent perspective – a major shortcoming.
The story stated that "many existing therapies for this condition are difficult to obtain, ineffective, or associated with intolerable side effects. But we are not told anything about what these therapies are – nor are we given any details about all of these suggested shortcomings. So readers are not able to make any meaningful comparison based on the story.
The story described "marijuana extracts" but never clarified whether they were now available or still experimental. Also, many people would want to know how these extracts – taken by mouth – differ from smoking marijuana – which the story never explained.
A HealthDay story quoted a Mayo Clinic neurologist saying, "the idea of using cannabis to treat MS has been around for a long time." No such context appeared in this story.
The story discloses that it lifted a quote from a news release. We appreciate that admission. But we judge the story unsatisfactory on this criterion because it clearly relied on a news release without putting any independent perspective in the story – something other stories managed to do easily (See "Source" criterion below.) It’s difficult to see how/if any independent reporting went into this story.