How journalism has changed – when a journalist gets a byline and a paycheck for a meager rewrite of a news release.
In the daily drumbeat of news like this – a study of 15 people – we drown the audience with a firehose of incomplete information. And HealthDay’s client, BusinessWeek, picked up the story as is and republished it. It’s just shovelware.
No discussion of costs.
Again, because the scope of the benefits (how improved smell function was measured) was not explained, it’s almost meaningless to say that there was improvement in 8 people in the acupuncture group. How much improvement? How significant was the improvement? And how limited is the conclusion one can draw from improvement in 8 people?
No discussion of potential harms. Even if few or none, it should be mentioned. Why would only benefits be mentioned?
Not applicable, however the story gives no estimate of the number of people with post-viral olfactory dysfunction.
No independent source was quoted.
We’re told that "In the literature, systemic and topical steroids as well as vitamin B supplements, caroverine, alpha lipoic acid, and other drugs were used to treat patients" – but we’re not told anything about what that literature reveals about these approaches. So no meaningful comparison was made. And, again, not much comparison could be made anyway after a study in 15 people.
Not applicable. The availability of acupuncture is not in question.
We are not given any sense of whether this approach has been tested before.
The story admits it was based on a news release. Worse, it appears to be only a meager re-write of the news release. For example:
"There is no validated drug treatment for PVOD. Current treatments include systemic and topical steroids, vitamin B supplements, caroverine, and alpha lipoic acid. In addition to these treatments, many patients use complementary and alternative medicines, the researchers noted."
"..there is no validated pharmacotherapy for PVOD, but attempts have been made to establish a standardized treatment. In the literature, systemic and topical steroids as well as vitamin B supplements, caroverine, alpha lipoic acid, and other drugs were used to treat patients. The researchers point out that in addition to these treatments, complementary and alternative medicines are currently being employed by many patients on their own."
And somebody gets a byline and a paycheck for this?