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Drug May Reduce Plaque in Brains of Alzheimer’s Patients


4 Star


Drug May Reduce Plaque in Brains of Alzheimer’s Patients

Our Review Summary

We applaud the restraint the WebMD headline writer employed with “Drug May Reduce Plaque in Brains of Alzheimer’s Patients.”  That’s about all you can say at this point, and the body text of the story explains why.  In that regard, this story got off to a better start than its HealthDay competitor.


Why This Matters

This story was better in quantifying harms, but the HealthDay competition was better in explaining the history of this area of research and what else is now being investigated.

It would not have required much more effort or space for either news organization to pick up on the better parts of its competitor’s effort.  Maybe they will compare and learn from this example.  We hope so.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

Not applicable.  It’s understandable that costs wouldn’t be discussed at this early stage of research.

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


Adequate explanation of results observed in study participants at different dosing levels.

More importantly, the story simply explained: “Since it’s not completely clear what reductions in brain plaques mean for Alzheimer’s patients, the researchers are unable to say whether treatment with gantenerumab will bring improvement to patients with Alzheimer’s. They are currently involved in a new study that they hope will answer that question.”

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


Better than its HealthDay competition in that WebMD actually told us how many people experienced harms in the study.

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


The story allowed a Roche senior VP to say the results “went beyond our expectations” but countered that with “What is not entirely known is if these plaques cause Alzheimer’s…Therefore, it’s not known if reducing the amount of them will slow or stop the disease.”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


No disease mongering at play here.

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


The story added an important independent perspective and identified the study co-author as being a senior VP of the drug company making the drug.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

We preferred how HealthDay explained:  “There are approximately one dozen therapies, including vaccines, that are currently in the pipeline….none are ready for prime time.”

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


The story ends with an appropriate send-off:  “We need more studies to know if it is safe or effective.”  The early, experimental nature of the research is clear.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

The HealthDay competitor did a better job of explaining where this study fits in the history of research into beta-amyloid.

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


There was clear evidence of independent reporting.

Total Score: 7 of 9 Satisfactory


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