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A lift for faces — and moods?

Rating

4 Star

A lift for faces — and moods?

Our Review Summary

Botox injections are available for treatment of frown lines; they are not approved for the treatment of depression, which is mentioned in the story. The theory behind this small study is that Botox reduces frown lines, which helps people appear happier and, in turn, purportedly improves their depression. The notion that Botox could be a possible treatment for depression is novel, but rather a stretch, and results discussed in the story are anecdotal. The story mentions evidence-based treatments for depression, including psychotherapy and anti-depressant medications; however, discussion of cognitive therapy for depression is rather glib (i.e.” . . . it involves teaching people to cut the hangdog look”).

The critique that there are “numerous flaws in the study” is very appropriate. The story provides anecdotal evidence of the effect of Botox injections on depression from one of 10 patients. A critic of the study accurately notes in her quote that further studies of this treatment should include more patients and a control group of people who get placebo injections.

The study does not discuss potential side effects of Botox injections, which may include: temporary bruising, headaches, and in some patients, temporary eyelid drooping. The story does provide the average cost of Botox injections for frown lines; however, Botox injections must be repeated every 3-4 months to maintain results, so the annual cost would be closer to $1200. On this point, the lead author of the study would benefit financially from patients using Botox for depression, so it is important that sources other than the study authors are cited for balance and perspective on the findings. The story didn’t disclose if this study was funded by the makers of Botox.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides the national average cost of Botox injections for frown lines, however, Botox must be repeated every 3-4 months to maintain reduced frown lines (not mentioned), so the annual cost would be closer to $1200. Comparative costs with other treatments for depression would be useful.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story provides anecdotal evidence of the effect of Botox on one (of 10) patients, though there is a comment that 9 of the 10 patients’ symptoms of depression were eliminated. But there is no discussion of the severity of patients’ depression at entry in the study and no quantification of the benefits of treatment, that is, what portions of the post-Botox depression instrument were improved. We also do not know how long these patients were followed.

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

Not Satisfactory

No information on the potential side effects of Botox injections for reducing frown lines. Side effects of Botox injections may include: temporary bruising, headaches, and in some patients, temporary eyelid drooping. More severe, but rarer side effects can include anaphylaxis – or a severe, potentially fatal immunologic reaction.

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

Satisfactory

There is little quantitative evidence presented in this story, however, there are appropriate caveats that this study is anecdotal and results from 10 women are not generalizable to a larger population. There is discussion that further study of this treatment should be compared with a placebo in a larger, randomized study to evaluate evidence supporting this treatment of depression. The critique that there are numerous design flaws in the study is appropriate. Good job without being too technical.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to be disease mongering. The story cites American Psychiatric Association prevalence data for depression.

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

Satisfactory

The lead author of a study is interviewed – someone who would benefit financially from patients using Botox for depression, so it is important that sources other than the study authors are cited. It was not disclosed whether the study was funded by the makers of Botox.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions proven treatments for depression, inlcuding psychotherapy and anti-depressant medications, however, discussion of cognitive therapy for depression is rather glib.

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

Satisfactory

Botox is available for treatment of frown lines for up to 120 days; it is not approved for the treatment of depression, which is mentioned in the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

Botox is used to decrease frown lines, which purportedly would help people appear happier and improve their depression. The theory that Botox could be a possible treatment for depression is novel, and at this time, results from a small group of patients are purely anecdotal.

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

Satisfactory

There is no evidence this story is from a press release. A critic of the study and a psychologist who specializes in facial feedback are interviewed to provide some perspective on the study and place the results in the larger context of neurological depression research.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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