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New Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Early Promise


5 Star


New Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Early Promise

Our Review Summary

Overall, a solid job of reporting.

Several criticisms:

  • The headline “drug shows early promise” is more awestruck than the story dictates. Compare with WebMD’s cautious headline, “Drug May Reduce Plaque in Brains of Alzheimer’s Patients.”  Period.  May reduce plaque.  That’s about all that can be said at this point.
  • The story discussed potential harms but didn’t report on the harms actually observed in the study.


Why This Matters

There is always the risk of fostering false hope in reporting on Alzheimer’s drug stories.  Except for its headline, this story did a very good job of putting the research results into an appropriately cautious context for readers.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  It’s understandable that costs wouldn’t be discussed in such early research.

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


The story adequately described the responses of study participants at different dose levels. And it clearly established that “it’s by no means certain that reducing levels of amyloid plaque would stave off memory loss and other mental declines.”

Other important caveats included:

  • “many are awaiting these drugs…but none are ready for prime time”
  • questions about “its applicablility as a treatment for a larger patient population”

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

Not Satisfactory

A strict application of this criterion warrants an unsatisfactory score.  HealthDay only discussed “potential for serious side effects” but didn’t report how often they occured.

WebMD, by comparison, gave specifics that two of six patients receiving the highest dose “developed possible findings of vasogenic edema, or fluid collecting in the brain tissue, as well as micro-hemorrhages.”

To its partial credit, HealthDay did discuss several potential side effects, but why not report what was actually observed in the study you’re reporting on?

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


We applaud how HealthDay placed caveats very high, very early in the story.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering of Alzheimer’s disease.

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


Independent experts perspectives were helpful.  Funding by the drug’s manufacturer was disclosed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story explained that “There are approximately one dozen therapies, including vaccines, for Alzheimer’s disease that are currently in the pipeline” …and “none are ready for prime time.”

Nice touch.

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


The early, experimental stage of the research was clear in the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story explains that the study was “among the first to show the effects” of the drug in people. Actually, another anti-amyloid drug (bapineuzumab) showed similar findings in a study published in Lancet in 2010. Although there was a 25% reduction in beta amyloid there was no corresponding improvement in function.

The story explains that there are a dozen or so other therapies being investigated.

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


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

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory


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