Tag Archives: journal of the american medical association

Was a study of chelation fatally flawed or just countercultural?

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

This is the second of two posts about a study of whether chelation therapy might benefit some patients who have suffered a heart attack. In the first post, I gave health reporters high marks for their coverage.

Early in my career, I covered a story on chelation therapy. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the alternative treatment. I was a broadcast producer, and we needed video, so we visited a chelation clinic. Looking back, I can’t recall what our story was about, but I do remember what it was like to talk to the patients as they sat in recliners that lined the walls of the narrow storefront.

They were all hooked up to IV bags filled with a vivid yellow liquid that was a mixture of B-vitamins and the chemical EDTA that they believed was flushing heavy metals, minerals, and toxins from their bodies.

Many spoke of chelation with fervor. One man, a diabetic, credited the regular three-hour infusions with saving his legs, which were riddled with sores.

Chelation has been around for decades. It is accepted treatment for lead poisoning and other kinds of heavy metal toxicity. But alternative practitioners have greatly expanded its use, with claims that it can treat myriad ills, everything from autism to Alzheimer’s to problems caused by metal hip implants.  There’s almost no scientific evidence to back up these claims.

It was against this backdrop – lots of claims, enthusiastic patients, evangelistic providers – that the NIH set out to test the practice.

The Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy, or TACT, has again ignited a heated debate among doctors.

Here’s another voice to add to the discussion. He is lead study author Gervasio A. Lamas, M.D., chairman of medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Fla., and professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University Division of Cardiology. I asked him to talk about the process of publishing TACT and asked him to respond to a few of the main criticisms of the trial. These are lightly edited questions and answers from our interview: Continue reading

JAMA editor predicts embargoes will be up for discussion

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

This is a guest post by AHCJ board member and AP medical writer Carla K. Johnson, who leads AHCJ’s Chicago chapter.

Howard Bauchner, M.D., is editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association

Howard Bauchner, M.D., editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association discussed health care reform in light of the elections. (Photo: Carla K. Johnson)

Howard Bauchner, M.D., editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association, spoke to about 25 journalists and students at a recent AHCJ Chicago chapter event hosted by JAMA at its Chicago office.

“I don’t think we’ve settled the debate in the United States about whether health care is a fundamental right or a fundamental privilege,” Bauchner said in response to a question about doctors’ views on the Affordable Care Act. “And it’s been striking to me that the president has avoided that issue.”

Bauchner added: “That goes to the heart about why physicians are very divided about it.”

Bauchner talked about embargoes, the debate over open access to medical research and the online integration of the 10 medical journals in the JAMA Network.

He said he expects embargoes to be discussed at the May retreat of the JAMA editorial board. He’ll bring the board information on what other journals are doing, he said, and he’ll pose the question, “How does audio and video change any notion that embargoes should exist?” He said he’ll seek opinions from journalists, too.

Chicago-area journalists gathered to hear from JAMA's editor. (Photo: Carla K. Johnson)

Chicago-area journalists gathered to hear from JAMA’s editor. (Photo: Carla K. Johnson)

Bauchner speculated: “We will continue to have embargoes. The exact, precise timing of it is a little less clear to me.”

During his discussion of embargoes, Bauchner wondered whether a certain blogger would get word of his comments.

“Who’s the embargo person who blogs all the time?” he asked.

Several voices in the audience chorused: “IVAN ORANSKY.”

Oransky is an AHCJ board member whose Embargo Watch blog keeps an eye on embargoes and how they affect news coverage.

The Chicago chapter thanks Jann Ingmire of the JAMA Network for her help organizing the event.

Four AHCJ members power JAMA’s new blog

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

We’re proud to note that AHCJ members Bridget M. Kuehn, Mike Mitka, Joan Stephenson and Rebecca Voelker are writing for JAMA‘s new health news blog.

In the first month, the bloggers have used their relationship with the Journal of the American Medical Association as a tool, taking advantage of access to JAMA sources while still covering a wide range of news found in other journals and sources.

To keep up with the new blog, just point your favorite RSS reader to http://newsatjama.jama.com/feed/.

Journals pay for cracking down on industry funding

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Paul Basken reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education that major medical journals, whose financial viability often depends heavily upon industry support, are faced with an “inherent conflict of interest” when it comes to filtering possible industry bias from their articles.

Basken’s report relies on an analysis of industry-funded studies presented at the International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication in Vancouver. Once the Journal of the American Medical Association introduced an independent verification requirement for industry-funded studies in 2005, Basken reported, it “saw the percentage of industry-supported studies in its pages drop 21 percent, from more than 60 percent of its published trials to 47 percent. Lancet, however, saw a growth of 17 percent, and The New England Journal of Medicine had an increase of 11 percent, the group reported.”