Friday, January 2, 2009

"Health reporters should have higher standards" (Sci.Am.)

Scientific American has a good new post, Health reporters should have 'higher standards,' commentary says. It's about a piece in today's New England Journal of Medicine on the "Pitfalls of Health Care Journalism" by NPR's Susan Dentzer.

Well folks, you heard it here first. :)

11/15/08: Making Sense of Health Statistics

11/17/08: Part 2

12/1/08: a great learning resource

Just between us, I can't tell you how pleased I am that having just started this exploration in February, I've gotten to the point where I'm noticing (and writing about) issues when (or even before) the big cats do.

1 comment:

  1. Press Release: A Well Designed Sales Pitch?

    Those who release and create press releases, that are intended to offer information that is authentic and newsworthy, are possibly in collusion with various sources of the mass media who receive these announcements from others with commercial interests in mind, and instruct such media outlets with mandated authoritarian nuances, such as the press release that they created will be void of alteration of any kind of their press release as directed to the receiver by the creator and sponsor of such press releases. The sponsoring organization that composes press releases does so in order to promote their organization and its products, and this much is rather clear. These well- constructed statements are meticulously composed and customized before they are issued to targeted editors for mass media publication at select locations and times of release by this sponsor. As this is done, the mass media outlets are again instructed on how to present their completed statements, as well as are given instructions once again not to alter these press releases in any way, others have said.
    Press releases are a form of public relations often utilized for those companies who create what is supposed to be an attempt to express their products that they wish to convince readers that such products are innovative or newsworthy. Press releases, historically, have been created and released to inform the readers by adding insight and related information for them regarding a particular topic that was typically complete and balanced. Today, they seem to be more or less an annotative commercial with press releases generated by corporations in particular, so it seems.
    Unfortunately, and presently, press releases are often embellished, biased, and incomplete with deliberate intent in order to benefit the creator of these documents, who again develops them solely to increase awareness and usage of their products that they promote with their business, which they want to be viewed as favorable with a positive image to the public. One could suggest that the mass media who receives these press releases are transformed into mass front groups who perhaps coercively offer third party legitimacy for the content of the press release as they release this information to their readers. The often notable if not intentional flaws at times are numerous within such press releases that reflect reckless disregard for the readers, the American Public, who believe that what they are reading is honest and complete. This, however, is not the case is certain situations.
    An example is an anonymous and anonymous press release posted on the Medical News Today website ( that is dated in March of 2006. The title: "Cymbalta Safely and Effectively Treats core anxiety symptoms associated with generalized anxiety disorder." Clearly, this title itself includes words associated with relief or elation, which are subjective and not objective elements which would clearly be more appropriate, according to some, if the press release was created to inform the reader, one could say.
    The first paragraph of this press release repeats the results mentioned in the title of this article, but also states Cymbalta offers relief of painful symptoms associated with anxiety, as well as improved functional impairment- also claimed to be associated with anxiety in this press release. These conclusions are speculative at best, as these inferences appear to be unexamined by others regarding the benefits claimed to exist with Cymbalta as illustrated in this press release.
    Cymbalta was not approved by the FDA for anxiety or any of the symptoms associated with this condition at the time of this press release. In fact, Cymbalta was not filed with the FDA for this speculated new indication for anxiety that was desired by Eli Lilly until May of 2006. By definition, this press release may possibly be off-label promotion as well as misbranding of Cymbalta that was performed overtly in this manner of the press release, one may speculate.
    As one continues to read this press release, testimonials were intentionally created and inserted into this press release that illustrated results they hope are impactful to the reader regarding Cymbalta. This testimonial was from the lead author, who expanded the claims made initially with utilizing various medical terms, which was followed by this person’s passionate optimism about the great potential of Cymbalta based on this remarkable study. This study, by the way, was to be addressed in further detail at a National Anxiety meeting some weeks after this press release was announced to the public on this website. The second testimonial was Eli Lilly's Medical Advisor expressing his elation about what the lead author just stated, followed by how much he was encouraged by these results that will benefit so many others that have these debilitating medical conditions. Of course, profit forecasts regarding Cymbalta remarkably were not stated in this press release.
    What is not included in this particular press release was any clear statements regarding the disadvantages and adverse if not toxic events associated those who take Cymbalta. Reactions from Cymbalta users include discontinuation syndrome at times, when the user stops taking this medication, which I understand can be quite devastating for the one experiencing this syndrome. Furthermore acts of suicide and suicidal ideation have been frequently associated with those who take Cymbalta as well. There have been apparent lack of efficacy suggestions by others who have taken Cymbalta. Basically, anything that may be considered negative aspects about this drug were not annotated in this particular press release as it should have been for fair balance that is standard in the pharmaceutical industry and health care journalism. The staff involved with the release and publication of such press releases as this one described should perhaps be more informed on what not to accept and what to present regarding these issues addressed.
    As with any reporting by the media, objectivity and thorough completeness of the topic discussed in a press release is a necessary requirement with any publishing that is potentially exposed to so many others- more so with such medical issues in particular. Because these so many of these potential readers are in fact us- public citizens who deserve much more than half truths and possible fabrications created by those whose instead of sharing with the public authentic and unbiased information should be demanded by us from those who provide such media to us.

    Dan Abshear


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