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Read Original Story

Beta Carotene Pills May Not Save Vision

Rating

4 Star

Beta Carotene Pills May Not Save Vision

Our Review Summary

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a signficant problem in the elderly. It is a slow, progressive disease that can ultimately lead to blindness over time. Unfortunately, there are few options available for prevention or treatment and this story discusses new evidence showing no benefit in terms of prevent AMD from one option, beta carotene supplements.

This story manages to provide the reader with adequate information on the problem of treating AMD and the strength of the available evidence to support the use of supplements. The story adequately describes the strength of the current study and points out some of the limitations. The story also mentions that there is some evidence that beta-carotene raises the risk of lung cancer in smokers, an important harm. The story adequately quantifies the benefit of supplements by providing the actual number of cases of AMD observed in the supplement group compared to the "dummy pill" group.

The story does mention that there is no cure for AMD (the "dry" form) and that supplements are really the only option currently available. However, the story misses the main point of the scientific paper, which was that beta carotene supplementation does not appear to prevent AMD in people at usual risk for the disease.  In contrast, there is evidence that antioxidant supplements (those tested contain beta carotene as a component) can be used to slow progression of AMD in those who have it.

Overall, a good job, and in less than 500 words (496).  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not describe the cost of the supplements.

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

Satisfactory

The story does provide the actual number of cases of AMD observed in the supplement group compared to the "dummy pill" group.

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

Satisfactory

The story does mention that there is some evidence that beta-carotene raises the risk of lung cancer in smokers.

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

Satisfactory

The story adequately describes the strength of the current study and points out some of the limitations.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story avoids disease mongering by not exaggerating the seriousness or prevalence of AMD. However, the story should have made the distinction between the different types of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The supplements in question are only used in people with the "dry" form of the condition, not the "wet" form. By not making this distinction, the story implies that the supplements can be used in everyone with the disease.

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

Satisfactory

The story does quote one independent expert and notes the funding sources for the investigators.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story does mention that there is no cure for AMD (the "dry" form) and that supplements are really the only option currently available. However, the story misses the main point of the scientific paper, which was that beta carotene supplementation does not appear to PREVENT AMD in people at usual risk for the disease.  In contrast, there is evidence that antioxidant supplements (those tested contain beta carotene as a component) can be used to slow progression of AMD in those who have it.

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions that the supplements are available over the counter.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that using beta-carotene for eye conditions is not a new idea.

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

Satisfactory

Because the story quotes an independent expert, the reader can assume that the story did not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 8 of 10 Satisfactory

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