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Read Original Story

Cervical Cancer

Rating

2 Star

Cervical Cancer

Our Review Summary

The recent recommendation of an FDA panel to approve an HPV vaccine has made big news in many media outlets. However, this NBC news story has many flaws. The story treats the FDA approval of the vaccine as a fait accompli. Just because a panel recommended its approval does not mean it will be automatic. For example,the ‘morning after pill’ Plan B was recommended for over the counter status in Dec. 2003 by an advisory panel, but is not yet approved. The story also does not mention costs, which are likely to be substantial. The total cost of multiple injections is estimated at around $500. Implementing a national screening program would potentially cost billions of dollars.

The story does not adequately quantify the benefits of the vaccine. Furthermore, the story exaggerates the benefits of the vaccine by saying that the vaccine could “reduce the number of new cases worldwide from half a million to just 150,000” because it is unlikely that developing countries could afford to implement a vaccination program. The story does not describe the strength of the available evidence, does not mention any potential harms of the vaccine and does not mention the obvious alternative, pap smears.

By describing the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer, the story does not engage in disease mongering. Because the story quotes multiple sources, the viewer can assume that the story did not rely on a press release as the sole source of information. However, one source is a Merck employee and another is a representative of an interest group.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention costs, which are likely to be substantial. The total cost of multiple injections is estimated at around $500. Implementing a national screening program would potentially cost billions of dollars.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not adequately quantify the benefits of the vaccine. Furthermore, the story exaggerates the benefits of the vaccine by saying that the vaccine could “reduce the number of new cases worldwide from half a million to just 150,000” because it is unlikely that developing countries could afford to implement a vaccination program.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention harms.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not describe the strength of the available evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

By accurately describing the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer, the story does not engage in disease mongering.

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

Satisfactory

The story quotes multiple sources with different perspectives, however, one source is a Merck employee and another is a representative of an interest group.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the obvious alternative, pap smears.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story treats the FDA approval of the vaccine as a fait accompli. Although the FDA usually goes along with what the panel recommends, the approval is not automatic. For example, ‘morning after pill’ Plan B was recommended for over the counter status in Dec 2003 by the panel, but has yet to be approved.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that this is a new vaccine.

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

Satisfactory

Because the story quotes multiple sources, the viewer can assume that the story did not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 4 of 10 Satisfactory

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