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Read Original Story

Cervical cancer vaccine gets OK

Rating

2 Star

Cervical cancer vaccine gets OK

Our Review Summary

The recent FDA approval of an HPV vaccine has made headlines all over the world not only because it will be the first vaccine marketed to prevent cancer, but also because of the intense political and social debates that it has inspired. This story reports on the FDA’s decision, but has many flaws, providing little context and perhaps leading readers to many incorrect assumptions.

Although the story mentions some clinical trials, the story does not adequately describe the strength of the available evidence. Most importantly, the story does not explain that the clinical trials did not include actual cases of cervical cancer, but rather a pre-cancerous condition. The story does not mention harms, provides quantification of benefits in relative terms only, and does not mention the obvious alternative – pap smears. Nor does the story mention the use of condoms to prevent HPV or other communicable diseases. The story also only quotes one expert, the president of the American Cancer Society. The story should have provided additional perspectives.

Although the story describes the number of deaths per year from cervical cancer along with the lifetime risk of HPV infection, by mentioning the 240,000 women worldwide who die of cervical cancer, the story exaggerates the benefits of the vaccine. Cervical cancer is much more common in the developing world, where women are the least likely to have access to or be able to pay for the vaccine.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story mentions that the cost of the three-injection series is $360. The story should have provided more context. For example, implementing a full-scale immunization program for all females age 9 to 26 in the U.S. would cost billions of dollars.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story provides quantification of benefits in relative terms only. Failing to give context may lead readers to incorrect assumptions.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any potential harms.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions some clinical trials, the story does not adequately describe the strength of the available evidence. Most importantly, the story does not explain that the clinical trials did not include actual cases of cervical cancer, but rather a pre-cancerous condition.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions the number of deaths per year from cervical cancer along with the lifetime risk of HPV infection, by mentioning the 240,000 women worldwide who die of cervical cancer, the story exaggerates the benefits of the vaccine. Cervical cancer is much more common in the developing world, where women are the least likely to have access to or be able to pay for the vaccine.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only quotes one expert, the president of the American Cancer Society. The story should have provided additional perspectives.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does mention the obvious alternative – pap smears. Nor does the story mention the use of condoms to prevent HPV or other communicable diseases.

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

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the vaccine was recently approved by the FDA.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the vaccine is a novel approach.

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

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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