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Read Original Story

A bone breakthrough

Rating

2 Star

A bone breakthrough

Our Review Summary

Adherence to medication is a major hurdle in the management of osteoporosis. Because the oral medications are difficult to tolerate, many women stop taking them. However, there are now several different options that do not require a daily dose. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine describes the use of a once-a-year intravenous treatment. This story reports on the results of that study.

The story adequately describes the harms of treatment and accurately represents the novelty of the treatment.

However, the story does not mention the availability of the treatment, does not describe the costs, does not adequately represent the strength of the available evidence, does not quote an independent source, and does not adequately cover the treatment alternatives.

Most importantly, the story quantifies benefits in relative terms only. The story should have provided context for these numbers by showing the actual rates of fracture in the treatment group compared to the placebo group. Furthermore, the story only presents one outcome, vertebral fractures. These are fractures found on x-rays that only sometimes cause symptoms. Treatment reduced the chance of vertebral fractures from 10.9% to 3.3%. Equally important would be risk of hip fracture, which can substantially impact an individual's quality of life. In this study, the risk of hip fracture was reduced from 2.5% over 3 years in the placebo group to 1.4% in the treatment group.

The story only ran 176 words.  If they'd given the reporter a little more space, perhaps these important missing elements would have been addressed.  But they didn't, and they weren't.

  

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention costs of the treatment.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story quantifies benefits in relative terms only. The story should have provided context for these numbers by showing the actual rates of fracture in the treatment group compared to the placebo group. Furthermore, the story only presents one outcome, vertebral fractures. These are fractures found on x-rays that only sometimes cause symptoms. Treatment reduced the chance of vertebral fractures from 10.9% to 3.3%. Equally important would be risk of hip fracture, which can substantially impact an individual's quality of life. In this study, the risk of hip fracture was reduced from 2.5% over 3 years in the placebo group to 1.4% in the treatment group.

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

Satisfactory

The story mentions the most serious harm of the treatment, an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Other risks include post-infusion reactions, including fever, headache, flu-like symptoms and joint pain.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions the recent trial, it does not adequately describe the strength of the available evidence to support the use of the IV drug.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to engage in disease mongering.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not quote any independent researchers or clinicians who could comment on the impact of this new development on the management of osteoporosis.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story does mention Fosomax and Actonel, this is not sufficient information on the alternatives and the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches. The story should have also mentioned calcium supplements, physical activity, estrogens, and smoking and alcohol cessation as alternatives.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention if the intravenous (IV) zoledronic acid (Reclast) has been FDA approved or whether it is available or not.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story does point out that this treatment represents a novel way of treating osteoporosis.

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

Not Applicable

There is no way to know if the story relied on a press release as the sole source of information, although the only source is the author of a study in a journal. 

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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