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Read Original Story

Researchers Make Progress With Insomnia

Rating

3 Star

Researchers Make Progress With Insomnia

Our Review Summary

This story covers a relatively new area of research into the biology of sleep.  The story would have been more valuable had it contained some more pertinent background and context.

It details the early stage development of a drug being studied as a treatment for insomnia that differs from the currently available drugs used as sleep aids. 

This story included little evidence other than a brief mention that the drug discussed blocked the receptors in the brain for a protein known as orexin.  The story did not accurately present the information in the research paper that it was reporting on.  For example, the article suggest that the drug induces sleep when it actually was found to reduce latency to sleep. 

The study found that at higher doses, the drug decreased time to sleep as compared to placebo.  This was not mentioned in the story. 

The story should have made clear that the early-phase studies were done in a total of 70 healthy adults.  There has not yet been any examination of whether this drug has any efficacy for people actually suffering with insomnia.

The story mentioned that cataplexy is a potential side effect that may be seen with use of this drug and that the studies to date have not eliminated the chance that it may be a problem.  However the story failed to present a sufficiently complete picture of the role of orexin in the human brain for the reader to understand the complexity.  Orexins are involved in appetite, regulation of growth hormone and leutinizing hormone as well as sleep.  It is a bit simplistic to assume that the blocking of the receptors would only produce sleep.  It is also important to note that the study used single doses of the drug in the human subjects.

The story did not give an idea how big the potential harms or benefits may be. 

Several experts in the field were quoted.  Though clear that this drug acts differently than those currently on the market they were also clear to point out that the potential for this drug must be viewed with some skepticism until the quality of the sleep induced and the extent to which side effects occur can be established.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There was no estimate for the cost of treatment, however as the drug is not available, this should be considered N/A.

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

Not Satisfactory

There was no quantification of benefits of treatment other than to explain that this drug may promote sleep and may have use for helping people deal with insomnia.  But the drug is at an early stage of its testing and so it is premature to assume that since it can promote sleep in a laboratory setting, that it will be a useful treatment for people affected by inadequate sleep.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned that cataplexy is a potential side effect that may be seen with use of this drug and that the studies to date have not eliminated the chance that it may be a problem.  However the story failed to present a sufficiently complete picture of the role of orexin in the human brain for the reader to understand the complexity.  Orexins are involved in appetite, regulation of growth hormone and leutinizing hormone as well as sleep.  It is a bit simplistic to assume that the blocking of the receptors would only produce sleep.  It is also important to note that the study used single doses of the drug in the human subjects.

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

Not Satisfactory

This story included little evidence other than a brief mention that the drug discussed blocked the receptors in the brain for a protein known as orexin.  The story did not accurately present the information in the research paper that it was reporting on.  For example, the article suggest that the drug induces sleep when it actually was found to reduce latency to sleep. 

The study found that at higher doses, the drug decreased time to sleep as compared to placebo.  This was not mentioned in the story. 

Lastly – the story should have made clear that the early-phase studies were done in a total of 70 healthy adults.  There has not yet been any examination of whether this drug has any efficacy for people actually suffering with insomnia.

 

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story did not include elements of disease mongering. 

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

Satisfactory

The story quoted two researchers without apparent ties to the company developing the drug or the authors of the paper.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although this was a story about a potential new approach to managing insomnia, it did not contain information on the data demonstrating how attention to sleep hygiene can reduce insomnia, nor did it mention any available treatments for insomnia – other than to say that the drug discussed in this story differed significantly from other sleep aids that are available.

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

Satisfactory

The story was clear that the drug discussed is only in testing phases.  The story was not explicit that the drug does not appear to currently be undergoing clinical evaluation in the US. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Not Satisfactory

There is growing evidence in the medical literature about the utility of blocking the orexin receptor as a means of promoting sleep.  This story reported on a drug in development that has shown the potential to act in this fashion.  However, rather than being new, the observation that there is a relationship between orexin and sleep has been known for at least five years and this drug is not unique in that there are several orexin blocking compounds that are in similar preclinical testing phases.

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

Satisfactory

Because the story used several sources, some of them injecting some cautionary comments, it does not appear that it relied solely or largely on a news release.  

Total Score: 4 of 9 Satisfactory

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