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Common Heart Attack Treatment Reconsidered

Rating

3 Star

Common Heart Attack Treatment Reconsidered

Our Review Summary

 

Balloon angioplasty surgery 3-28 days after a heart attack in combination with drug therapy does not improve the risk of future cardiac problems compared with drug therapy alone.  While the story mentions these two treatments for reducing the chance of a subsequent heart attack following an initial heart attack and increasing survival, it does not mention just how much benefit a patient would get from either treatment option post-heart attack. While it was not part of the study, the story also does not mention that lifestyle changes (including diet, exercise and smoking cessation) still play a role in decreasing risk of future heart attacks.  

The story notes that the results of this study should change the way cardiologists practice, which is a nod to evidence-based medicine vs. conventional wisdom. The story accurately describes the study design, but summarizes the results narratively and provides no quantitative evidence. The story mentions that data from the study was presented at a conference, but it has also been peer-reviewed in a reputable medical journal.

 

The story does not mention the harms of angioplasty following a heart attack, nor is there any discussion of potential harms of a multiple drug regimen, including ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, statins and aspirin, all of which have side effects. The story also does not mention that researchers noticed a trend of early heart attacks in the angioplasty group, but that further research was necessary to see if this was a result of the procedure or simply due to chance. 

 

The story does not mention the cost of each treatment reviewed in the study. The cost of lifelong drug therapy would be particularly expensive for patients without health insurance.  The journal article mentions, but the story does not, that many of the authors of the study receive funding from makers of heart drugs. 
 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the cost of each treatment reviewed in the study. The cost of lifelong drug therapy could be particularly expensive for patients without health insurance.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention how much benefit a patient would get from either treatment option post-heart attack. No absolute data were given – only that "there was no difference between the two groups in death rate, second heart attacks, or heart failure."  

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention the harms of angioplasty following a heart attack, nor is there any discussion of potential harms of a multiple drug regimen, including ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, statins and aspirin, all of which have side effects. The story does not mention that researchers noticed a trend of early heart attacks in the angioplasty group, but that further research was necessary to see if this was a result of the procedure or due to chance.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does describe the study design and results narratively. However, the story does not provide any quantitative data. The story mentions that the results of the study were presented at a conference, but they have also been peer-reviewed in a reputable medical journal.

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not engage in disease mongering.  The story only focuses on information relevant to patients who have had a heart attack. 

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

Satisfactory

The lead author of the study is interviewed, as is a practicing cardiologist. Both provide perspective on the results of the recently published data and how this challenges current treatment. The journal article mentions, but the story doesn't, that many of the lead authors receive funding from makers of heart medications. Pharmaceutical and device (stent manufacturers) donated medications for the study, but the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute was the main funder.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story mentions two treatments for increasing survival and reducing the chance of a subsequent heart attack following an initial heart attack. While it was not part of the study, the story does not mention that lifestyle changes (including diet, exercise and smoking cessation) still play a role in decreasing risk of future heart attacks. There is evidence that lifestyle modifications that result in weight loss, improved blood pressure, and improved diabetic control result in better cardiovascular outcomes. 

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

Satisfactory

Drug therapy and angioplasty have been standard practice for patients who have had a heart attack. The story reports on the results of a large multi-site study and does mention that physicians should change this practice, based on new evidence. 

 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story mentions that the results of this study should change the way cardiologists practice. Balloon angioplasty surgery 3-28 days after a heart attack in combination with drug therapy does not improve the risk of future cardiac problems compared with drug therapy alone.

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

Satisfactory

The information in the story in not taken directly from a press release. There is independent reporting and a cardiac specialist not affiliated with the study is interviewed (briefly!) for perspective on the findings.

Total Score: 6 of 10 Satisfactory

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