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Menopause Therapy Sparks Controversy

Rating

3 Star

Menopause Therapy Sparks Controversy

Our Review Summary

This broadcast piece does a reasonable job of framing the use of custom-mixed 'bioidentical' hormones as an alternative to commercially available hormone therapies for relieving menopausal symptoms.

However, it relies exclusively on interviews, and does not tell the whole story about the available evidence on these products. While it's true that botanical products are not regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many have been tested in clinical trials both in the United States and in Europe–and the evidence that they relieve menopausal symptoms is somewhat less positive than the story suggests. An interview with a woman who found they did not relieve her symptoms, or more information about the evidence, would have provided some important balance.

Similarly, concerns about their risks are primarily theoretical, because to date there have not been large-scale studies of their harms. Dr. Schwartz's statement that profit motives explain the lack of these studies goes unchallenged. What's more, it's a bit disingenuous, given that 'Dr. Erika' herself runs a website marketing both her books and her 'exclusive' supplements (www.DrErika.com).

Criteria

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

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn't provide any information about how many women are helped, or how much.

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

Satisfactory

Story quotes an expert who asserts that bioidentical hormones have same possible harms as other forms, as well as other possible downsides related to 'custom mixing' of these unregulated products.

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

Not Satisfactory

It's not possible to tell from the story whether bioidentical hormones have been studied in the same way as synthetic hormones or whether there is evidence that they can relieve menopause symptoms.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No overt disease-mongering, though the story was somewhat skewed toward a view that menopause is a time of universal and persistent suffering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story relies on interviews with experts without noting whether any attempt was made to verify their statements about the benefits and harms of bioidentical hormones. The story relied heavily on input from Dr. Erika Schwartz, book author, who runs a website marketing both her books and her 'exclusive' supplements (www.DrErika.com).

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story makes a reasonable attempt to put bioidentical hormone products in context with commercial or synthetic hormones.

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

Satisfactory

Story notes that bioidentical hormones, as defined in this piece (those derived from soy and yam extracts) are not FDA-approved.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

It's clear that the story is discussing an alternative approach to an existing treatment.

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

Not Applicable

We can't be sure if the story relied solely or largely on a news release, although it did lean heavily on the input from one book author. 

Total Score: 5 of 9 Satisfactory

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