Stories like this feel like shovelware – filling space with stuff coming from journals or news releases.
It always makes sense to seek independent perspective when writing about a study, but it is especially important when nearly everyone involved in a study works for the company selling the product being studied. Is this solid scientific research or simply research aimed at gaining a market advantage? If there’s not enough time to fully report a story like this, perhaps it’s not worth doing.
No mention of the cost of the gel. We quickly found online estimates of $699 for one tube at .05% dosage.
The story delivers information on how the gel compared with placebo.
In an odd line, the story states “Because the new gel is only used for a few days, any irritation is usually short-lived.” But it doesn’t describe the irritation in any detail – nor how often it occurs. This isn’t telling readers much of anything useful.
In providing information on how the gel performed versus placebo, the story failed to note anything about how this evidence stacks up against other available topical treatments. We did appreciate that the story provided some quantification of the purported benefits of the gel. But without context about the study’s design and limitations, those numbers can be very misleading to readers. Is two months an adequate time to measure the effects of a treatment like this? How was the trial controlled? With the consultation of even one independent expert, the story could have filled in many of these gaps.
No disease mongering seen in the story.
The story explained that “The new study was funded by Picato manufacturer LEO Pharma.”
But it didn’t offer any independent perspective.
And it didn’t report that several authors disclosed a variety of ties to the drug maker, including consultant fees, serving on advisory board, fees for being on a speakers bureau – and that two of the authors are employees of the drug company.
As noted above, no data were provided comparing the performance of the new gel and previously available topical treatments.
The story repeatedly refers to the drug as a “new gel” but never explains if it is available. It was recently approved by the FDA.
The story uses a quote from a news release that this is “a breakthrough in the treatment of actinic keratosis.” But there is no independent perspective, nor comparative data provided, to back up that breakthrough claim.
The quote mentioned above comes from a news release and there is nothing in the story that does not appear in very similar wording in the news release.