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Safer Method Found to Treat Heart Failure


2 Star

Safer Method Found to Treat Heart Failure

Our Review Summary

This article discusses the use of a dialysis-like process for the treatment of decompensated heart failure. It is a misleading piece because it reports that the use of this medical device is safer and more effective than ‘water pills’ when it is really being assessed as a substitute for intravenous(IV) diuretic administration. The article fails to mention that the results reported on are preliminary as they have not yet undergone peer-review and have only appeared in an abstract and a presentation at a conference – and that they are the result of a single study. The article did mention that the study was company sponsored.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story explains that “The filtration device costs hospitals $10,000 and each treatment requires an $800 filter – expenses that should be more than offset by lower hospital bills because of shorter stays.”

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


The results of treatment as compared with IV diurectic are clearly laid out in terms of differences in fluid and weight loss; the difference in the number of days spent in the hospital and how less likely patients were to have a return visit to the emergency room (although no time frame for this observation was provided).

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

Not Satisfactory

No harms associated with this treatment were mentioned; only that it was “safer’ than “water pills” (as opposed to the IV diuretic to which it was compared.) While no harms were mentioned, the article did mention that patients did not report feeling any better.

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

Not Satisfactory

The article fails to mention that the results reported on are preliminary as they have not yet undergone peer-review and have only appeared in an abstract and a presentation; and that they are the result of a single study. The article did mention that the study was company sponsored.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

Does not provide a natural history of heart failure; article mentions an estimate for the number of Americans that have heart failure (5 million) and the number who will be hospitalized for decompensation appear reasonable. But the tyranny of the anecdote comes into play with the patient testimonials used (“I actually could breathe again” and “It gave me my life back.”). How were these patients selected? Were there any negative experiences?

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

Not Satisfactory

Research was discussed at an American College of Cardiology meeting. No abstract was available on-line. A quote from an American Heart Association spokesman, reported to have no role in the study, was included as part of the story. However, it does report on the use of a proprietary software and machine, and the story gave no details regarding the author’s relationship to the company.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The reporting in this article is problematic with regards to treatment options. Notwithstanding mention of pills ( a little vague) for which this device may substitute, the title “Safer method found to treat heart failure” is drawing conclusions prematurely. In addition, this treatment is not currently being suggested as a replacement to the daily “water pills” that many patients with heart failure take but rather as a substitute for the diuretics administered IV for decompensated heart failure patients. This point is not made clear in the article. Use of the term “pill” is inappropriate as the filtration was compared with medication administered IV, not by mouth.

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

Not Satisfactory

There is no mention of whether this device is still in testing or whether it has garnered FDA device approval. (In fact, the FDA has determined that the device may be marketed as of August 18, 2005; the company was FDA approved to market it for “failed diuretic therapy” not as an alternative for heart failure patients – FDA Feb 2, 2006 .)

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


Described within this story as ‘a new device’ and that ‘about 100 hospitals around the country already are using the treatment’ which suggest that this is a relatively new approach.

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


No obvious use of text from the company’s press release in the article.

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory


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