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MS pills show promise and risk, studies say


4 Star

MS pills show promise and risk, studies say

Our Review Summary

Nice job explaining harms and benefits – including putting the potential risks/harms right in the headline. 


Why This Matters

 The appeal of an oral drug for MS is clear.  The risks emphasized in this story, though, raise important questions


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of cost. The story could have at least reported what the drug costs in its current use against blood cancer.

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


The story did a good job of explaining both the potential benefits and harms of the drugs.

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


This was a particular strength of this story – and made it stand out in comparison with the LA Times blog story that we also reviewed.
Harms were emphasized from the outset – even in the headline – in the AP story but were never mentioned in the LA Times story.  And this story reminded readers of the side effects encountered with another MS drug, Tysabri.  Outstanding job on this issue by the AP.

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


The story did a very good job of explaining the studies.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


There is no sign of disease-mongering in this story.

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


Two apparently independent sources were quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story did a good job comparing the new drugs with existing approaches to treat MS.

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

Not Satisfactory

Story explains that the drug is already sold to treat a rare blood cancer and stated that "it’s too soon to know if the pills will be approved by the government or widely adopted by physicians."  It does not report, however, as the LA TImes blog did, that "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."  We think that’s a crucial piece of information that affects availability, although, of course, doctors can still prescribe it for off-label use even before the FDA acts on the new request.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The novelty of "tests of the first two oral drugs developed for treating MS" was clear in the story.

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


It is clear that this story did not rely on a news release.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory


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