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Read Original Story

MS Drug Treatment Shows Promise

Rating

2 Star

MS Drug Treatment Shows Promise

Our Review Summary

This story reports on a potentially important development in the treatment of symptomatic multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a devastating condition and although many different treatments are available, they have side effects and must be injected, leading to non-compliance. The six-month results of the first randomized trial of this drug were published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, since then, the drug company has released newer data that has not yet been published or presented at a meeting. This story reports on the new data released by the drug company.

The story fails to mention treatment alternatives (of which there are several), does not quote any independent sources, and does not mention harms of the drug (including infection, headache, diarrhea, and nausea) or costs. The story also does not adequately describe the design of the study on which the story is based. In reality, this was a randomized trial in 281 patients. But it’s the first of its kind to study this drug, and further study is necessary before it will be used in clinical settings. Furthermore, the story appears to have relied on a drug company press release as its sole source of information. Not only does the story quote the same statistics, but it presents data that is not available from any other source (i.e. has not yet been published or presented at a meeting).

The story was given an “Unsatisfactory” rating on the Quantification of Benefits criteria for two reasons. First, the story presents unpublished data. The September 14, 2006 New England Journal article presents data at six months, which was the end of the controlled trial, whereas this story presents data out to two years. In the study, after six months, those assigned to placebo were placed on the drug, so comparisons to the placebo could no longer be made and the results for the drug would appear to be more favorable. Second, the story provides a main outcome measure, percentage of patients free of relapse at the end of the study, for the drug treatment group only. It does not compare this percentage to the control group. The story should have stated that 65% of patients in the drug group were free of relapse at six months, compared to 23% of patients in the control group.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the cost of the drug.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story deserves an “Unsatisfactory” rating on this criteria for two reasons. First, the story presents unpublished data. The September 14, 2006 New England Journal article presents data at six months, which was the end of the controlled trial, whereas this story presents data out to two years. In the study, after six months, those assigned to placebo were placed on the drug, so comparisons to the placebo could no longer be made and the results for the drug would appear to be more favorable. Second, the story provides a main outcome measure, percentage of patients free of relapse at the end of the study, for the drug treatment group only. It does not compare this percentage to the control group. The story should have stated that 65% of patients in the drug group were free of relapse at six months, compared to 23% of patients in the control group.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention harms of the drug, which include upper respiratory tract infection, headache, diarrhea, and nausea.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not adequately describe the design of the study on which the story is based. In reality, this was a randomized trial in 281 patients, but is the first of its kind to study this drug, and further study is necessary before it will be used in clinical settings.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

By accurately describing the prevalence and seriousness of MS, the story avoids disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quote any researchers or clinicians who could have provided some perspective.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not comment on any alternative treatment options, of which there are several.

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

Satisfactory

The story states that the therapy is “experimental” and in “late-stage clinical trials,” suggesting that it is not yet available. The story could have been more explicit.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the drug is new.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story appears to have relied on a drug company press release as its sole source of information. Not only does the story quote the same statistics, but it presents data that is not available from any other source (i.e. has not yet been published or presented at a meeting).

Total Score: 3 of 10 Satisfactory

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