Lots of challenges have faced medical publishing as the Internet has evolved. From predatory journals to the rise of open access journals to the simple fact that the stacks and stacks of physical paper journals are depleting, removing a long-time key funding source.
In one recent article – ironically enough in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes – Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., describes nine “deficiencies in the current model that fuel the sense that journals as we have known them are approaching their final act.” Continue reading
No other country in the world pays as much for drugs as the United States — not even other wealthy countries such as Canada, Germany, Japan or France. Using studies, published analyses, news stories and expert interviews, journalist Roxanne Nelson dug into the reasons for the big disparities in drug pricing between the U.S. and other countries in her Medscape story “Why Are Drug Costs So High in the United States?” (registration required).
In a recent Q&A with her, Nelson explained her reporting and writing process for the piece, which earned second place in the Trade Publications/Newsletters category of the 2014 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.
Nelson is a Seattle-based writer specializing in health and medical subjects. She also has a strong clinical background, having worked as a registered nurse for ten years, primarily in maternal-child health. She also has worked with HIV/AIDS patients and in pediatric ICU.
Read our conversation with Nelson about how she went about pulling together her award-winning piece.
With the recent announcement of the American Cancer Society’s change in mammography and breast cancer screening guidelines, the question of when women should get screened is back in the spotlight. The issue is far from simple, as I learned when reporting on it last month for Cure Magazine, before the society’s change was announced.
As one researcher told me then, the goal of screening is to find a tumor that otherwise would not have been found – and find it early enough to undertake treatment that will save the patient’s life. Yet many other outcomes can also result from screening, ranging from false positives that can cause an intense (but hopefully brief) period of anxiety to identifying a non-invasive cancer that is treated with mastectomy, radiation or chemotherapy even if it never would have caused the woman harm. Continue reading
For much of modern medical history, the elusive holy grail of medical research has been a “cure for cancer.” Today, scientists have a better understanding of cancer, the diversity of cancer types and the fact that “cure” probably is not the correct word – ever – to use in discussing cancer treatment.
Yet not all journalists appear to have gotten that memo. A study posted Oct. 29 in the Research Letter section of JAMA Oncology explored how often “cure” and nine other similarly exaggerated terms were used by the media when describing new cancer medications. What they found is nothing to brag about. Continue reading
Photo: Rama via Wikimedia Commons
A common type of bias that plagues medical research across all journals is publication bias: studies that find positive results are considered more interesting and therefore more likely to be published.
Positive findings about drugs in particular tend have a higher chance of ending up in a journal than those that didn’t – especially among industry-funded studies – but publication bias tends to appear across the board.
That’s what makes the open-access Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine so interesting, and helpful for journalists. The most common word you’ll find in the titles of these studies is “not.” Continue reading
“When you pry the bacon from my cold, dead, cancerous hands …”
Some days it seems the press loves nothing more than a new agent that causes cancer. The more common or beloved that agent is, the better. And so the only way I can think to describe the way the media reported on the news that processed meats cause cancer is “gleefully.” The force of hyperbole was strong on Monday as the bytes and airwaves filled with horror at the prospect that bacon … might not actually be good for us. Continue reading
Siobhan O’Connor recently explored in a Time magazine piece an issue that has been gaining traction in both the medical world and the media reporting on it: the overtreatment of breast cancer.
Her story, “Why Doctors Are Rethinking Breast-Cancer Treatment,” opens with an anecdote from now-60-year-old Desiree Basila, who several years ago decided to do … nothing after receiving a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a stage 0 cancer in the breast ducts that was not invasive – and may never become so. What makes this opening anecdote striking was not simply Basila’s decision – one that has been discussed more often in recent years – but when it occurred: Continue reading
Photo: National Cancer Institute
The public radio show “On the Media” recently devoted its entire hour to an insightful and poignant episode on cancer and how we talk about it, simply and appropriately named “The Cancer Show.”
It actually first aired in March as the first of a two-part series (part two is here), but I missed it, so I’m grateful for the October rerun.
Unlike most episodes, this one did not focus on a particular recent story or even on several recent stories in the news. Rather, producers took a big picture approach that every journalist who might ever write about cancer should listen to. Continue reading
There seems to be no end of news reports about promising therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
With the aging of the population having become one of the more serious and complicated aspects of modern American health care, these typically age-associated conditions are driving a lot of research into new drug and other treatment approaches.
Despite high excitement and hope surrounding the latest treatments, journalists need to report responsibly on these drugs to avoid delivering false hope and ensure their stories are leavened with balanced, quality information. There is always a risk that reporters may too easily accept what drug manufacturers, geriatricians and others tell them about new therapies and not demand to see the research backing up their claims.
Alan Cassels (@AKECassels), a writer and drug policy researcher affiliated with the School of Health Information Sciences at the University of Victoria, has some tips for reporters covering treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
When the headline on a news release begins with “landmark” and includes the words “lifesaving,” “greatly,” and “milestone,” a good health reporter’s Spidey sense should tingle.
That holds true even when the announcement comes from the National Institutes of Health. The NIH’s release about their Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) in September set so many red flags waving that they could have held a parade. Continue reading