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DNA allergy vaccine shows promise

Rating

5 Star

DNA allergy vaccine shows promise

Our Review Summary

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to pollen-producing plants, most commonly ragweed. It’s a common condition, inducing such symptoms as coughing, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and wheezing. Treatments include avoiding exposure to allergens, over the counter and prescription medications, nasal sprays, and standard immunotherapy or “allergy desensitization”. This story reports on the results of a new study published in the New Enland Journal of Medicine on a new approach to treating hay fever – a ragweed vaccine.

The story adequately describes the design of the current study, rightly pointing out that it was small and preliminary and that the study did not demonstrate effectiveness in an important outcome. The story accurately describes what is known about the harms of the vaccine at this time. However, the story should have mentioned that more research is needed to determine how safe the vaccine is. The story quotes two experts – the author of the current study and an allergy expert with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The story does mention alternatives, such as medications, nasal sprays and standard immunotherapy.

The story did state that “a commercial product is still years away.” The story also states that further studies could “eventually lead to drug approval by the FDA.” That’s true, but they could also lead to FDA rejection. It’s almost a meaningless line and could have been deleted without losing anything from the story.

The story states that the therapy could cost “thousands of dollars.” However, that’s a broad range and we wish the story had told readers whether that means two or three thousand or ten or twenty. We know it’s an early idea and cost projections are somewhat speculative.

Overall, a well-balanced story.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story states that the therapy could cost “thousands of dollars,” so we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. However, that’s a broad range and we wish the story had told readers whether that means two or three thousand or ten or twenty. We know it’s an early idea and cost projections are somewhat speculative.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story discussed benefits of the vaccine in relative terms only. It quotes a researcher saying “The magnitude of the effects are really impressive,” but never really quantified the magnitude of the effects.

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

Satisfactory

The story accurately describes what is known about the harms of the vaccine at this time. The story should have mentioned that more research is needed to determine how safe the vaccine is.

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

Satisfactory

The story adequately describes the design of the current study, rightly pointing out that it was small and preliminary and did not demonstrate effectiveness of the vaccine in an important outcome.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to engage in disease mongering.

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

Satisfactory

The story quotes two experts – the author of the current study and an allergy expert at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The latter is not exactly an impartial source since NIAID helped fund the study, but he did caution about the signficance of the study, “limited by its small size and the vaccine’s failure to affect the primary immune system response it was designed to look for.”

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does mention alternatives, such as medications, nasal sprays and allergen immunotherapy.

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

Satisfactory

The story did state that “a commercial product is still years away.” The story also states that further studies could “eventually lead to drug approval by the FDA.” That’s true, but they could also lead to FDA rejection. It’s almost a meaningless line and could have been deleted without losing anything from the story.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that vaccination is a new approach for treating hay fever.

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, although much of the information apparently came from the principal investigator at Johns Hopkins and from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which was one of the funders of the study.

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory

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