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Read Original Story

Experimental drug cuts rare, lethal cholesterol levels in patients

Rating

4 Star

Experimental drug cuts rare, lethal cholesterol levels in patients

Our Review Summary

The story describes very preliminary research on an experimental drug that may reduce cholesterol levels in people with a familial form of high cholesterol, which affects very few people in the U.S.  While the story adequately addressed many of our criteria, it could have been improved by reporting absolute benefits vs. relative benefits of the new drug and describing the type of study the findings are based on and the strength of that evidence. 

Since the story mentioned the high cost of alternative treatment (weekly "dialysis" type of process costing $3,000/week and "most health plans won't cover"), it could have at least commented on the potential cost of this new approach, even if to simply say that the cost is not yet known.  The implicit suggestion is that this new drug will be cheaper than the "dialysis" process, which, of course, is not known. 

The story states that fatty liver is a potential serious harm of treatment and provides proportions of people in the very small study that experienced some form of this complication.  Of course, given how small the study was, it's not possible to know what this may mean clinically.  However, the story points that out, stating that more studies are needed to better understand how serious this complication may be.  Plus, the story also discloses that the manufacturer shelved this particular drug because of safety concerns over this side effect.  While the potential harms are not fully understood scientifically, this is discussed in the story and the potential safety issues around this are not minimized by the reporting.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Since the story mentioned the high cost of alternative treatment (weekly "dialysis" type of process costing $3,000/week and "most health plans won't cover"), it could have at least commented on the potential cost of this new approach, even if to simply say that the cost is not yet known.  The implicit suggestion is that this new drug will be cheaper than the "dialysis" process, which, of course, is not known.

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

Not Satisfactory

Benefits are reported in relative vs. absolute terms. See our primer on this topic. 

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

Satisfactory

The story states that fatty liver is a potential serious harm of treatment and provides proportions of people in the very small study that experienced some form of this complication.  Of course, given how small the study was, it's not possible to know what this may mean clinically.  However, the story points that out, stating that more studies are needed to better understand how serious this complication may be.  Plus, the story also discloses that the manufacturer shelved this particular drug because of safety concerns over this side effect.  While the potential harms are not fully understood scientifically, this is discussed in the story and the potential safety issues around this are not minimized by the reporting. 

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

Not Satisfactory

The type of study is not mentioned, and although some limitations in study design are pointed out, these are not discussed so that an average person would not know that these results are very preliminary and should be interpreted with great caution. 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering. Familial hypercholesterolemia is described as a condition in which very few people who have it live beyond 30 years and that this condition affects very few people in the U.S.  

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

Satisfactory

One researcher not affiliated with the research is quoted in the story.  Of course, her statements are conditional on whether or not the treatment does what researchers claim it does (since she is not involved and the research is very preliminary), but given the very early nature of the research, it may not be reasonable to find an independent expert who knows any more about the findings. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The article does describe the only other option for treating (or slowing progression of) this condition, which was some form of dialysis to remove fats.  The story also describes the cost information for this alternate treatment. 

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

Satisfactory

The article states the drug is "experimental," which implies this is not available outside of research. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story states the drug is experimental, implying this is new.

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

Satisfactory

The story quotes an independent source, so it appears the story did not rely solely or largely on a press release. 

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

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