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‘O-Shot’ incontinence fix: Inquirer sets out lack of scientific support for procedure

Rating

5 Star

The O-Shot: Incontinence fix or empty promise?

Our Review Summary

This story about the use of an unproven treatment–called “O-shot”–to stop urinary leakage in women does a lot of things well. Specifically, it:

  • describes a clearly newsworthy (if frustrating) consumer demand for the procedure,
  • sets out the lack of scientific support or rationale for its effects,
  • notes the clear conflicts of interest inherent in the claims of benefit,
  • points out the uninsurable costs of the procedure, and
  • makes clear that the claims of benefit are based solely on anecdote and patient testimonial.

Two ways the story could have been stronger? If it had included a patient anecdote that wasn’t quite so positive, and if it had better laid out the risks and potential harms of the procedure.

 

Why This Matters

As the story makes clear, urinary “stress” incontinence is a significant clinical problem for millions of women, interfering with active lifestyles and quality of life. Current surgical, medical and lifestyle treatments work but not always reliably, and in some cases carry risks and unwanted side effects.  It’s not unusual, therefore, that unproven therapies may appeal to many.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does a good job of not only giving the price of the O-shots, but leaving the reader with the clear understanding that they may be spending money on a therapy for which there is no scientific evidence of benefit. The story could have been strengthened by noting the costs of alternatives to the O-shot.

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

Satisfactory

The story explicitly notes more than once that there are no clinical trials or peer reviewed publications to support the claims–and therefore no quantifiable data.

In the absence of medical evidence, the story uses a doctor’s claims and a patient’s experience to discuss what the benefits might be. The doctor’s enthusiastic claims are balanced well by an independent expert who discusses the potential drawbacks.

To help better balance the piece, we do wish the story also had presented a range of patient opinions, instead of only a favorable one.

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

Not Satisfactory

Drawing blood and injecting blood components into the vagina and clitoris are not without potential risk of pain, infection or other unknown complications. This should have been made clear.

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

Satisfactory

The story does a good job of establishing the quality of evidence for the treatment (that is, none).

“There’s no peer-reviewed scientific evidence that any of this works.”

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No mongering here.

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

Satisfactory

The story includes important backstopping from an independent source. We did not detect any conflicts of interest that should have been disclosed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

The story briefly discusses treatments that are supported by clinical studies and professional societies.

We do wish the evidence for and success rates of the alternatives were described much more thoroughly.

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

Satisfactory

The story provides a website link and features one practitioner in the Philadelphia Inquirers’s readership area. Readers will get the hint that there aren’t a lot of front-line gynecologists and urologists offering this therapy, especially since the story explains that insurance will not pay for it.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story establishes why this treatment is novel–in that it’s something of a “trendy” concept being used without any evidence for it, and patients have to pay out-of-pocket if they want to try it.

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

Not Applicable

We did not find a news release.

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory

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