The headline, “Experimental treatment may help food allergies,” promises more than what the story delivers.
There wasn’t any estimate given of the cost of oral immunotherapy, nor of the drug mentioned at the end of the article that is being studied for use against food allergies.
The story reported benefits in this way:
The results suggested that children who went through a year of sublingual therapy followed by one to two years of oral immunotherapy were less likely to have significant allergic reactions when undergoing the oral immunotherapy. Still, it did not eliminate all symptoms.
Why not quantify/specify what terms like these really mean:
The story didn’t quantify/explain the extent of “significant reactions during the treatments that make the therapy unfeasible” in the new sublingual approach.
There were appropriate caveats about the limitations of the research:
One thing that could have been improved: The story mentioned that the study was “published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology” but didn’t link to it as we do here. Basing the story on the talk at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and not linking to the journal article might mislead people if they take that to mean it hasn’t undergone the same rigorous peer review as a journal article.
NO disease mongering at play here.
There wasn’t any independent voice in the story.
The story at least ended with mention of one other approach being studied:
Researchers are separately looking at a drug called omalizumab (Xolair), approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of severe asthma, to see if it could help people with food allergies, too.
As noted, the story made it clear that this is preliminary research and that the approach “may one day” be available.
Then the story quoted the researcher estimating that “the treatment could be brought to the public within six to eight years.”
This is not entirely accurate, as oral immunotherapy for food allergies (including milk allergy) is currently being administered clinically by a handful of physicians. The concept behind the treatment (basically, exposing patients to food proteins) is not FDA regulated, and so there is theoretically no barrier to physicians offering this type of therapy to their patients. Citing the potential for adverse reactions and other concerns, however, most experts say that it is much too soon to use oral immunotherapy outside of a research setting. And so the story’s bottom line message about availability is correct for the vast majority of patients. Still, the estimate of availability “within 6 to 8 years” may cause confusion to parents who have heard, via allergy blogs or other media sources, that it is already available.
The story noted other immunotherapy research that’s been done, but stated “This is the first time the sublingual therapy has been studied in terms of its benefit as a precursor to the oral immunotherapy.”
It does not appear that the story relied solely on a news release.