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Alternative to Statins Shows Promise

Rating

2 Star

Alternative to Statins Shows Promise

Our Review Summary

Headlines matter.  When a story begins under the banner, "Alternative to Statin Shows Promise," it leads readers to immediately believe that an alternative exists.  This drug isn’t even on the market yet.  Does it hold promise? How much promise can be established in a small, 12-week trial? Why is the hyperbolic language necessary?  At the same time, important data – such as how big was the effect size – was missing. 

 

Why This Matters

It’s way too early to draw any conclusions about the drug eprotirome.  The strong cautionary comments from an independent expert at the end of the story are important, but will readers be swayed by the "promise" before they get to those comments?

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of costs – not even a projection.  If you can label something as an "alternative to statins" in the headline, then you can certainly at least project for readers what this "alternative" might cost. 

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

Not Satisfactory

A major weakness of the story:  it did not quantify the effects seen in the study in any way.

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

Satisfactory

The story says that the drug " did not cause the feared side effects on the heart and other organs that have plagued similar thyroid-based treatments." But can these side effects be expected to show up in a small, short-term trial?

Nonetheless, because of the strength of the concluding comments by the independent expert – "But if there is one thing we’ve learned about drugs in this arena, it’s that we need large trials to see how they measure up in terms of risk and benefit…I’m not sure I’d want to sign up for that one before I had longer-term results. Being impotent is no fun."- we’ll give this story the benefit of the doubt. 

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

Not Satisfactory

Overall, while there was some discussion of the need for more study to track possible long-term effects, there still was not enough emphasis on how limited are the conclusions that can be drawn from such a small, short-term (12 weeks) study.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There was no overt disease mongering in the story.

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

Satisfactory

Important caveats were included in the independent expert’s views at the end of the story.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Since results were not quantified in the story, we really don’t even learn how the drug compared with statins alone.

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

Not Satisfactory

We really never learn the status of the drug eprotirome.  Is it approved?  Is it used for anything else now?  Readers may assume that it is because the headline already labels it as an "alternative to statins." 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t put this study into the context  of other research on alternatives to statins.

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

Satisfactory

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

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory

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