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More unusual, fewer usual breaks with bone drugs

Rating

5 Star

Categories

More unusual, fewer usual breaks with bone drugs

Our Review Summary

Strong points:

  • clear language, such as “slightly increased chance of suffering an unusual type of thigh fracture”
  • clear analysis provided to readers – at least through the words of the two sources cited
  • reflection on how past news reports may have overstated risks of the drugs

Room for improvement:

  • drugs were only described as “cheap” – what does that actually mean?

 

Why This Matters

An estimated 10 million people in the United States have the diagnosis of osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease. Most of those are women. While millions are taking the widely prescribed drugs for this condition, the medical community is still evaluating side effects. Consumers have to take responsibility for discussing risk vs. benefit balances with their treating physicians, and remain open to learning new medical discoveries as the years pass. Well-reported stories on risk are vitally important as consumers have to navigate uncertain medical territory.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The cost of a year’s treatment should have been included. The story only says the drug are “cheap.”  Cheap to one woman may be a financial burden to another.

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

Satisfactory

The story did a good job – starting with the headline – of portraying the tradeoffs between harms and benefits as found in the latest study.

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

Satisfactory

The story does a good job of telling the reader how few women suffered the unusual thigh fracture. They further give some context by explaining how those on the drugs reduced their harm from more-typical fractures by 24 percent.

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

Satisfactory

Reuters squeaks by on this one, by mentioning how many women were in the study – 205,000 – which is often a measure of quality. But they don’t explicitly say anything about the methods or quote independent sources about the quality of the evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

Good job of avoiding mongering.

If anything, the story could have given a line of context regardingwhat a hip fracture truly means as a life-changer for many elderly people. It is common for such a fracture to end independent living and force people into nursing homes for the remainder of their lives. The Centers for Disease Control estimate one in four hip fractures in the elderly results in a year or more in a nursing home.

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

Satisfactory

Reuters gives us two voices in this piece, including a study author and a treating physician. We are not told anything about whether the treating physician has any ties to the industry, but we couldn’t find any in a brief online search.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does briefly mention alternatives, including hormone therapy.

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

Satisfactory

The story makes it clear that these drugs are widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

There isn’t anything novel about the drugs and the story painted an appropriate picture of their use.

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

Satisfactory

It’s clear that the story did not rely solely or largely on a news release.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory

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