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Oral multiple sclerosis drug shows promise


2 Star

Oral multiple sclerosis drug shows promise

Our Review Summary

LA Times blog headline:  "Oral multiple sclerosis drug shows promise."

AP story headline:  "MS pills show promise and risk."

Two huge differences should jump out at you.  AP mentioned pills – plural – because two drugs were reported on in this week’s NEJM.  And AP mentioned risks right along with harms. 

The blog entry ran only 305 words, compared with more than 700 for the AP story.  We needed the extra words because they provided needed context and balance.


Why This Matters

Studies on two MS drugs were published in NEJM this week.  Why did the LA Times blog feature only one?


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

No costs were mentioned.  The story could have at least mentioned what is the cost of the drug when now used to treat hairy cell leukemia.

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

Not Satisfactory

Again, only one drug was mentioned and benefits given in only relative terms.

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

Not Satisfactory

This was a major shortcoming of this piece:  harms were never mentioned.  They were emphasized – even headlined – in the AP story.

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

Not Satisfactory

For whatever reason, the LA Times chose to write about only one of the two oral MS drugs described in studies in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.  AP reported on both.  For this reason, we grade this unsatisfactory.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease-mongering in this story.

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


The story used at least one independent source.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Inadequate job on this – in that it didn’t even mention another drug reported on in the same issue of the NEJM.

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


One strength of this story, in comparison with the AP and NPR story we reviewed, is that it stated:  "The drug company MD Serono, an affiliate of Merck, has requested approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market the tablet. However it recently received a "refuse to file" letter from the FDA, which means the agency is requiring additional information or data. MD Serono said it is pursuing the matter with the FDA and hopes to re-submit its application."

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

Given that this story reported on only of the two oral drugs being tested for MS that were described in the NEJM this week, we think the paper overemphasized the novelty of the one it chose to highlight.

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


It’s clear that the story did not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory


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