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Experimental Psoriasis Drug Bests Older Treatment

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3 Star

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Experimental Psoriasis Drug Bests Older Treatment

Our Review Summary

But neither story disclosed the conflicts of interest of the principal investigator.  It’s difficult sometimes for journalists to dig and find conflicts of interest in those making claims about health care interventions. But when the conflicts are disclosed and published for anyone to see, why would a news story fail to include that information in a story?

And neither story discussed the costs of biolgic drugs in the treatment of psoriasis. These drugs can cost $1,500-2,000/month. We think that any discussion about a new drug should include some comment about costs.

 

Why This Matters

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that, in its more aggressive forms, can produce a good deal of discomfort and disfigurement. Treatments to date have improved but a mainstay drug, methotrexate, is limited in its effectiveness and can have some nasty side effects. Biologic drugs such as Stelara, Humira and Enbrel are somewhat more effective but very expensive. So a story about a new drug that appears effective in very early clinical trials is important.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

We also would have liked to have seen some comment on the costs of biologic drugs in the treatment of psoriasis. These drugs can cost $1,500-2,000/month. We think that any discussion about a new drug should include some comment about costs

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

Satisfactory

Adequate explanation of what the study showed for potential benefits.

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

Satisfactory

Better than the competing WebMD story, this story quantified the serious infections and explained the two cancer cases seen in the briakinumab group.  It also explained that an earlier trial of the drug showed “some unexplained major adverse cardiac events.”  This was a more complete explanation than what WebMD provided.

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

Satisfactory

Adequate job explaining the study.

The ending – with quote from the National Psoriasis Foundation spokesman – was apt:  “For people living with psoriasis…the message from this study is that ‘dramatic progress has been made from where we were just five years ago.’ ”

We like that;  it was measured and responsible and didn’t go beyond the limits of what this study means.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering of psoriasis here.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story did state that Abbott Labs had funded the study and it did get an independent comment from the National Psoriasis Foundation.

But we judge this to be unsatisfactory because the story did not disclose what is clearly disclosed in the journal article – that the principal investigator:

  • has been employed by Abbott
  • has Abbott stock/stock options
  • is a paid member of Abbott’s scientific advisory board
  • is paid to be on Abbott’s speakers’ bureau
  • has been a paid Abbott consultant

It also didn’t disclose what the journal article disclosed, that Abbott personnel helped write the manuscript and helped with the statistical analyses.

The Statement of Principles of the Association of Health Care Journalists includes these clauses:

  • Be vigilant in selecting sources, asking about, weighing and disclosing relevant financial, advocacy, personal or other interests of those we interview as a routine part of story research and interviews.
  • Investigate and report possible links between sources of information (studies or experts) and those (such as the manufacturers) who promote a new idea or therapy.

 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

As with the “novelty” criterion above, on this point, WebMD’s version of the story was better because it at least reminded readers that “a similar drug, Stelara…was approved by the FDA in 2009.” Neither story wrapped this research into the broader context of other approaches to psoriasis – including non-drug therapies.

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

Satisfactory

The experimental nature of briakinumab was made clear in the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

On this point, WebMD’s version of the story was better because it at least reminded readers that “a similar drug, Stelara…was approved by the FDA in 2009.”

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

Satisfactory

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

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory

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