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New Stratagems in the Quest for Hair

Rating

4 Star

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New Stratagems in the Quest for Hair

Our Review Summary

We appreciated that the story took the opportunity opened by new interest in an experimental hair-loss product, Latisse, to take a broader look at hair loss medicine. We especially liked the section on costs.

 

Why This Matters

Hair loss is one of the elusive golden eggs for drug companies. There are two main products on the market now, but both of them come with significant side effects and questions about long term efficacy.

Any new entrant in the hair loss field tends to generate excitement, and we think that reporters have a duty to see past effusive marketing and cut to the facts. This story did that, to a certain extent, and we hope that, as this product is further studied, more critical analysis is brought to bear on its harms and benefits.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story provided a more thorough discussion of costs than we have seen in many stories about cosmetic products. It says, “It is, however, expensive: a month’s supply of Latisse can cost up to $150, and that is in amounts appropriate for use merely on the eyelashes. Rogaine, which is also available over the counter now, costs about $25 a month, and a month’s supply of Propecia runs about $75.”

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did not quantify any of the benefits of Latisse or the other hair loss products.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned harms in passing but did not quantify them. We wish it would have. The problem here is that we are talking about off label use, but, at a minimum, some of the harms related to the other, more established products could have been quantified. Instead, the story gives the harms question short shrift, saying, “One advantage of Latisse is that it needs to be applied only once a day (Rogaine needs to be applied twice; Propecia is taken once daily), and does not seem to cause reactions in people who are allergic to minoxidil.”

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

Not Satisfactory

We wish that the story had provided some information about the effectiveness of hair loss products. We only get the one true believer’s comment “that (Latisse) has worked for about 70 percent of his patients.”

We also would have liked to have seen a comment about the need for continuing use of the products.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does a great job avoiding what may be better termed fear-mongering in a case like this. Often stories about cosmetic medicine make people feel like their aging selves are inadequate. This story actually has a little fun with the idea of men being paranoid about their hair loss without minimizing the very real anxiety that hair loss causes. We did think one comment from Dr. Bernstein seemed to medicalize baldness. He said, that “it’s important to remember that baldness is unlike other conditions where you can progress past the point of being helped. …Once we have a cure for hair loss, everyone will be able to benefit.”

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

Satisfactory

We think this one is a wobbler. The story did quote two hair loss specialists. We wish it had gone a little broader in scope and talked with someone who is not currently prescribing Latisse and could speak to the safety and efficacy of an uNPRoven product like this.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story discusses a number of alternatives, and even provides price information for some. It says, for example, “For those too impatient to wait, there is also the bold and fashionable solution of shaving one’s head.” We do wish, though, that some comparative effectiveness information had been given.

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

Satisfactory

The story makes it clear that Latisse is a prescription product sold for eyelashes but being used off label by some doctors for hair loss.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The product definitely appears to be novel, and the story does a good job placing it in the right context.

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

Satisfactory

The story went well beyond any news release. In fact, unlike other stories we have seen about emerging cosmetic therapies, this story may not be a big hit with the product’s manufacturer. The man in the lead anecdote, for example, says that he has stopped using the product because it is too expensive.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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