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Drug Reverses Diabetes-Related Vision Loss

Rating

4 Star

Drug Reverses Diabetes-Related Vision Loss

Our Review Summary

The key difference between this and the NYT story was that WebMD didn’t reflect on the question of why Genentech didn’t test its cheaper Avastin against the much more expensive Lucentis. The important issue of corporate sponsorship of a clinical trial was overlooked.

 

Why This Matters

You want to talk about comparative effectiveness research?  This would have been a good place for it.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story covers cost in the very last two lines.

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

Satisfactory

Adequate quantification of benefits seen in the study.

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

Not Satisfactory

Story says "few eye-related complications" were reported in the Lucentis group, but didn’t say what few means or what they were.  We don’t think that’s quite adequate.

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

Satisfactory

Adequate job explaining how the study was done and what it means.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering in the story.

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

Not Satisfactory

One quote from the head of the National Eye Institute.  But he didn’t really evaluate evidence – only talked about hope.

Meantime, no mention that Genentech funded  the trial (a strength of the NYT story was its discussion of the "pay for play" aspect of the research) – and no mention that Dr. Bressler disclosed financial ties to Genentech.  From the Times:

  • Some doctors criticized the organizers of the trial for testing Lucentis rather than another Genentech drug, Avastin, which works in the same way as Lucentis.

    Although it is a cancer drug, Avastin is often used off-label for eye diseases because it is far cheaper than Lucentis, costing only $20 to $100 a dose, compared with $2,000 for Lucentis.

    Avastin is undercutting sales of Lucentis, which totaled $1.1 billion in the United States last year.

    Organizers of the trial conceded that a major reason Lucentis was chosen was that Genentech, which is now owned by Roche, agreed to provide the drug free of charge and to contribute $9 million in additional financing — but only if Lucentis were used.

    “Obviously you can’t underplay $9 million,” said Dr. Ferris of the eye institute, which is part of the part of the National Institutes of Health. But he said there were other factors as well, like a belief that Lucentis might have been the better drug.

    Dr. Philip J. Rosenfeld, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Miami, said the decision was “clearly a case of pay to play” since Genentech’s money dictated the choice of drugs.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

At least the story mentioned the uncertainty about whether Lucentis is any better  than the cheaper Avastin, and mentioned an upcoming trial comparing the two in age-related macular degeneration.

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

Satisfactory

The story explains that Lucentis was approved 4 years ago for another cause.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

Story explains the drug is already approved for another use, and it also – at the very end – mentions that an older and much cheaper drug is also effective. 

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

Satisfactory

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

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory

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