Disease-awareness campaigns merit extra scrutiny, experts say

About Kerry Dooley Young and Liz Seegert

Kerry Dooley Young is an independent journalist and AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. Liz Seegert, based in New York City, is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging.

Image by Alvin Gogineni, Genentech via NIH Image Gallery on Flickr

Image by Alvin Gogineni, Genentech via NIH Image Gallery on Flickr

This is part 2 of a package on sponsored disease awareness campaigns and other controversial drug marketing practices, focusing on Biogen’s efforts to build a market for its recently approved drug for Alzheimer’s disease. Check out part 1, which posted on August 4.

Biogen’s marketing campaigns about mild cognitive impairment drew protests from several physicians, but don’t expect federal regulators to more strictly regulate such ads and similar disease-awareness promotions.

Neither the FDA nor the FTC actively monitors claims made in pharmaceutical marketing about medical conditions if the name of a medicine isn’t mentioned. Continue reading

Explaining Biogen’s controversial ‘MCI’ advertising to your audience

About Kerry Dooley Young and Liz Seegert

Kerry Dooley Young is an independent journalist and AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. Liz Seegert, based in New York City, is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging.

New marketing campaigns about forgetfulness and distraction could lead people to seek the costly Aduhelm drug for Alzheimer’s disease even if they haven’t been diagnosed with the condition, several experts have warned.

By working to expand the market of people seeking treatment for mild cognitive impairment,  Biogen could needlessly expose many people to a drug with known risk but as yet unproven potential benefit, some researchers said. (See “Do we all have Alzheimer’s? Drug makers might want you to think so,” Adriane Fugh-Berman and Patricia Bencivenga of Georgetown University, Baltimore Sun, July 16, and “‘When Memory Fades’: Misinformation about Alzheimer’s disease and Aduhelm must be limited,” Madhav Thambisetty of Johns Hopkins University, STAT, July 21.) Continue reading

38% of those screened for depression reported suicidal thoughts amid COVID-19

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

Photo by Ross Sneddon via Unsplash.

Photo by Ross Sneddon via Unsplash.

The first of four briefs Mental Health America will release in 2021 has concluded that 38% of 725,949 people who completed the organization’s clinically validated mental health screening had suicidal thoughts in 2020.

The “Suicide and COVID-19: Communities in Need Across America” brief is based on an analysis of those individuals’ answers to questions in the organization’s online screening tool. In total, 2.6 million users did that voluntary screening in 2020, the highest number since Mental Health America in 2014 launched the screening, which allows deep analysis zip code by zip code of who’s in mental distress. Continue reading

Longtime AHCJ member Judi Kanne combined knowledge and compassion in her work

About John Andrew "Andy'' Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News, a nonprofit health news organization. He has been a health care journalist for 29 years and is a longtime AHCJ member.

Judi Kanne

Judi Kanne

Judi Kanne regularly gathered compelling story ideas from her many conversations, travels and meetings, then dug into subjects with the knowledge of a nurse and the passion of a journalist.

Combining both careers, her articles covered a fascinating range of topics: health literacy, essential oils, hospital laundry, paramedics and eating disorders. Some of her stories covered surprising medical breakthroughs, while others revealed the human side of healing.

Always, Judi dealt with editors and interviewees with a cheerfulness and warmth that came naturally to her. She made instant friends of the people she met.

Health care journalist, nurse, beloved wife and mother, Judith Leah Leonard Kanne died last week of Lewy body dementia at her metro Atlanta home. She was 78. Continue reading

Put risk in context in covering latest on Delta variant and CDC mask guidance

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: Petra Wessman ia Flickr

I am sure many of you are scrambling to cover the latest about the Delta variant and the leak of data that informed the CDC’s change in mask guidance this week.

The data – leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post Thursday evening (July 29) – showed those vaccinated can still be contagious, and there are more vaccinated people becoming infected than expected: 35,000 a week of 162 million vaccinated.

It sounds scary, but the key thing to remember in your reporting is to put risks in context: “Vaccinated people can transmit Delta if infected, however the majority of transmission is still by UNVACCINATED – that is where the focus should be,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and an excellent health communicator, on Twitter Friday, July 30. Continue reading