NOTE TO READERS: When this project lost substantial funding at the end of 2018, I lost the ability to continue publishing criteria-driven news story reviews and PR news release reviews - once the bread-and-butter of the site going back to 2006. The 3,200 archived reviews, while still educational, are getting old and difficult for me to technically maintain on the back end of the website. So I am announcing that I plan to remove these reviews from the site by April 1, 2021. The blog and the toolkit - two of the most popular features on the site - will remain. If you wish to peruse the reviews before they disappear, please do so by the end of March 2021. After that date you may still be able to access them via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine - https://archive.org/web/.
Read Original Story

New fix for bad backs

Rating

2 Star

New fix for bad backs

Our Review Summary

The Daskor disk system joins a long list of devices purporting to treat back pain. The device is still in its infancy, having only enrolled 20 patients in an ongoing clinical trial. This story does little to provide the reader with quality information on the value of this new technology. Of note, while the story accurately represents the availability and novelty of the technology, it crosses the line into disease mongering, provides no information on the possible harms, fails to quantify benefits, and provides scant information on the alternatives.

There are several instances where the story crosses the line into disease mongering. First, by estimating that "70 to 80 percent of Americans will experince back pain", the story implies that all of these people will be candidates for some kind of intervention. The vast majority of these cases are acute episodes that will resolve.  Second, by talking about various different kinds of back problems, first herniated disk and later deteriorating disks, it is not clear what the indication is for this system. The story seems to imply that all patients with back pain would be a candidate. Finally, it is not clear what the story means by "diseased nucleus."

Although the story mentions a "clinical trial" with 20 patients, this is not enough information about the strength of the available evidence. The story does not mention any harms of the procedure and by emphasizing that it is "minimally invasive" seems to imply that it has very few risks. Furthermore, the story implies that the results are "promising" without demonstrating that with any quantitative information.

Finally, although the story mentions physical therapy, medication and surgery, it does not do enough to describe the pros and cons of the options and never mentions that most patients will not need some kind of surgical intervention.

This story ran in a business section, and its information may be of more value to investors than to people with back pain.  We argue that the editorial standards should be the same for either readership segment. And just because it’s the product of a local company, that doesn’t give the product a ticket for free glowing coverage.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention costs of the system or of the alternatives.  The story could have projected what the costs will be, especially since this is touted as a $4 billion industry that is growing at 20% per year. e

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

Not Satisfactory

The story implies that the results are "promising" without demonstrating that with any quantitative information.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any harms of the procedure and by emphasizing that it is "minimally invasive" seems to imply that it has very few risks.

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

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions a "clinical trial" with 20 patients, this is not enough information about the strength of the available evidence.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Not Satisfactory

There are several instances where the story crosses the line into disease mongering. First, by estimating that "70 to 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain", the story implies that all of these people will be candidates for some kind of intervention. The vast majority of these cases are acute episodes that will resolve.  Second, by talking about various different kinds of back problems, first herniated disk and later deteriorating disks, it is not clear what the indication is for this system. The story seems to imply that all patients with back pain would be a candidate. Finally, it is not clear what the story means by "diseased nucleus."

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

Satisfactory

The story does quote two surgeons, one of whom is identified as not involved with the study. However, the story could have done more to present opposing points of view on the value of such a new technology.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

Although the story mentions physical therapy, medication and surgery, it does not do enough to describe the pros and cons of the options. Furthermore the story never mentions that most patients will not need some kind of surgical intervention.

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

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that the disc implant system has not yet been approved in the U.S. and has not yet been extensively tested.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story clearly states that this is a novel approach.

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.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

Comments

Please note, comments are no longer published through this website. All previously made comments are still archived and available for viewing through select posts.