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Read Original Story

Adding To Aspirin’s Reputation

Rating

3 Star

Adding To Aspirin’s Reputation

Our Review Summary

This is a 230-word story done by the Los Angeles Times but picked up by the Hartford Courant. It is described as a "capsule."  There are often inherent problems with such brief stories, as we discuss elsewhere on this site

The story describes a study in which aspirin use was associated with a lower risk of developing adult asthma.  The story failed to explicitly describe the limitations of such observational studies.  The data provided obscure the fact that the absolute difference is really quite small (1.0% vs. 1.3% of aspirin and non-aspirin participants developed asthma–figures which were not provided but are calculable). See our primer on absolute vs. relative data.

The story also failed to describe potential harms of treatment. And it only provides information from the lead author and does not obtain independent input. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

The story does not mention the costs of daily aspirin treatment, but the relatively inexpensive over-the-counter cost is well known.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states the benefit was a 22% reduction, which is a relative vs. absolute risk.  However, the story then provides absolute numbers of people experiencing asthma.  Yet, the numbers that are provided still obscure the fact that the absolute difference is really quite small (1.0% vs. 1.3% of aspirin and non-aspirin participants developed asthma–figures which were not provided but calculable). See our primer on absolute vs. relative data.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any harms of aspirin treatment, particularly when one considers that a sizable proportion of patients with asthma can develop life-threatening exacerbations when exposed to aspirin (i.e., those with aspirin-sensitive nasal polyps). 

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

Satisfactory

The evidence is based on an observational study, which isn't explicitly mentioned.  And there is no explicit discussion of the limitations of this type of study.  But the story did include some cautions from the lead author about interpretations of the findings, so we'll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion.  

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

While there is no obvious embellishment about the nature of adult asthma, there is also virtually no information about it (no info given on how common this, who gets it, how much of a problem asthma is, etc.). 

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only provides information from the lead author and does not obtain independent input. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story does not describe alternative treatment options, but it does state that "aspirin alone is unlikely to trump" other powerful factors in asthma development, such as genetic inheritance and environmental exposures.  We'll give the story the benefit of the doubt on this criterion. 

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

Not Applicable

Although the story does not explicitly state aspirin is available over-the-counter, aspirin is so commonly known, that this is not necessary. 

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story describes that it's been 20 years since the protective heart effects of aspirin were discovered, implying that this is not a new drug, but rather, a potential new application of an existing drug. 

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 cite only one author of one journal study.

Total Score: 4 of 7 Satisfactory

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