NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine -
Read Original Story

Pill could erase painful memories, study shows


1 Star



Pill could erase painful memories, study shows

Our Review Summary

This story reviews research that one day (years in the future) might have direct applicability to PTSD. But at this point, any benefits for PTSD are pure speculation.


Why This Matters

PTSD is an important problem for research.  But news stories about tiny, short-term studies need to evaluate the evidence as much as they project what researchers say about the potential for their own work.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

We’re never told what the drug is, much less anything about cost, either.

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

Not Satisfactory

We’re only told “those who were given the cortisol-damping drug had a harder time recalling the more wrenching details. The higher the dose, the harder it was for them to remember.”  We’re not told if that effect was seen in every one in the active arm, nor the degree of the effect, nor any data about the actual comparison with the control group.

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

Not Satisfactory

We know nothing about the drug (never named) or its potential harms.  Only its potential benefits.

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no discussion of the limitations of a tiny, short-term study done in 33 college students. Instead, the story leaped ahead to what this could mean in the future.

In addition, the author describes effects “…memories aren’t quite as indelible as we like to think….” that aren’t described in the story and no data are presented to support the assertion. It would be helpful if the story described the potential for a lab experiment to fail when translated to real world application.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering about PTSD, but also no discussion of the potential leap from a test in college students to what is experienced by those with PTSD.

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

Not Satisfactory

No independent perspective is given.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

No other comparison is given of what’s done for people with PTSD.

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

Not Satisfactory

We’re never told what the drug is, much less anything about its availability.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

How could we know how novel this is?  The drug is never identified.

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

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure of the extent to which the story relied on a news release. We do know that only the doctoral student/author of the paper is quoted.

Total Score: 1 of 9 Satisfactory


Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.