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Philadelphia Inquirer story skirts discussion of evidence for experimental migraine drug


3 Star


Migraines plague millions, especially women. Now there's new hope

Our Review Summary

migraine drug

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The news peg of this Philadelphia Inquirer story (the “new hope” mentioned in the headline) is a clinical trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, for the monoclonal antibody drug, fremanezumab, which has shown promise in treating migraines.

But, the story spends so little time discussing the new drug that it appears to write “around” the news, rather than writing “about” it.


Why This Matters

Readers, especially those dealing with this kind of pain, deserve comprehensive and quality information about anything dubbed a “new hope,” as this story does.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The cost of the drug is not discussed. Other media coverage of this new proposed drug, fremanezumab, sets its price as high as $8,500, although it’s not clear if that is for a year’s treatment or a single administration.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story only states that, “fremanezumab, an immunotherapy drug, has been found to reduce the number of days that chronic migraine sufferers experienced headaches.”  This is not enough numerical information to help readers understand the scope of the benefits. By how much did it reduce the number of days? By 1? 5? 10?

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

Not Satisfactory

Similarly, this story doesn’t discuss harms.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story states that the study was a Phase III trial, but doesn’t explain what that is. Beyond that, there are no details–was it randomized? Controlled? How many people were enrolled? How long did it last? What were the key limitations?

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


Migraines are a common cause of headaches, and can be tough to treat.

However, we did want to note that the family anecdote in the story is an extreme case, and not necessarily representative of what most people with migraines experience.

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

Not Satisfactory

The story does include one statement by a physician not part of the research team. But it doesn’t point out that all of the researchers are either the employees of the pharmaceutical firm, Teva Pharmaceuticals, which makes the new drug, or they are consultants to dozens of other pharmaceutical firms. These ties should have been disclosed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story does mention other current drugs and alternate approaches to treating patients with migraines so it gets a satisfactory in this category.

However, most of these remedies are supported by poor or medium quality evidence and the article does not separate those that have more robust evidence and those that have been supported by tenuous or flawed evidence only.

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


The story does state that, “Based on the promising phase III clinical trials, the drug could be available later next year.”

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story makes it clear that this is the first drug (if approved) to be migraine-specific.

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


The story does not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory


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