The story provides little information about the benefits or harms of the compound, only that the company making the compound intends to submit it for approval to the FDA in the next 6 months. Even if the WSJ reported on scanning research back in April, readers needed a little more meat in this updated story.
Although there are no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease, the ability to diagnose the disorder early and prior to the development of symptoms opens doors to new research. An early diagnosis would allow researchers to test new approaches to slowing the inevitable decline of the disease and would allow those who otherwise would be inaccurately diagnosed to rule the disorder out. However – the story did not provide readers with sufficient context for evaluating the actual benefit from early diagnosis.
Although the test is still under study, the costs of a diagnostic test is an important consideration even in reporting on a drug under study. PET scans are extraordinarily expensive, so much so that the business implications are noted but the costs are not. Noting the expected size of the market for this test without discussing projected or estimated cost of use even in vague terms seems inconsistent.
There was no real discussion about the potential benefits to be derived from early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Ideally, a diagnostic test should reliably distinguish between those with and those without the disease. In addition the test should have a low incidence of side effects. The potential benefits of the use of florbetavir are noted as a strong association. The strength of the association is not provided leaving the average reader (amplified in the headline) with the impression that the test works and can distinguish between those with and without Alzheimers.
The story did explain that "Another study presented at the conference looked at people with mild cognitive impairment, which can precede Alzheimer’s. It found that 22% of patients with plaques identified using florbetapir (vs. 3% of those without plaques) progressed to full-blown Alzheimer’s within a year.’ But it didn’t comment on the quality of that evidence.
There was no discussion of potential harms beyond mention that the tracer was radioactive. What is the radiation burden?
The story mentioned it was reporting about results of a study released in an abstract that was presented at a meeting. Although this is an apt description, the headline of the story is misleading in that it indicates that the dye "can detect Alzheimers. " While this may turn out to be true, the results of the research have yet to be published and have not been subjected to peer review nor has the test agent been approved by the FDA. Suggesting that the test works is an overstatement.
The story did not engage in disease mongering.
There are no experts or independent sources that were quoted as part of this story.
This story mentions that this compound is among a group of compounds being studied for their ability to accurately identify Alzheimer’s disease prior to post mortem examination of the brain. It is unfortunate that this story (not whatever was reported in April) failed to discuss how the compound in the study, florbetavir differs from the other compounds under study.
Because PET tracers must be produced in a cyclotron and used quickly. This limits the use of PET scans to those center that have a cyclotron or are located near a commercial supplier. Florbetavir has a longer interval that other tracers under study and may well be the most notable attribute of the drug.
We’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.
This story mentioned that the company producing the labeling compound would be applying for FDA approval this year.
The story reported accurately about the novelty of the material reported on.
It is not clear whether this information comes directly from a news release and/or entirely from Bloomberg News.