Tag Archives: medical research

How a debate over patient consent rules led to a book on vaccine history

The story of how cancer cells belonging to Henrietta Lacks were used, without her consent, became one of the most important foundations of research was told in the 2010 book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. But less-known is the story of how another key set of cells was developed from fetal tissue and used in vaccine testing on patients without their consent.

Meredith Wadman tells this story of controversy in her 2017 book, “The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease.” She found the story just by reading a letter-to-the-editor about patient consent in the publication Science. Continue reading

Tip sheet suggests self-guided tutorial on understanding medical research

Photo: ibbl via Flickr

Photo: ibbl via Flickr

If you’re relatively new to reporting on medical studies or looking for a refresher as you dive back in after a long hiatus, Sharon Begley’s blog piece earlier this year and this quick-and-dirty refresher at AHCJ’s Medical Studies core topic area are great places to start.

But as you spend more time reporting on research, you need to learn more of the nuts and bolts and drill down into specifics of study design, drug approval, and related topics.

You need a Medical Research 201 rather than a 101. This new tip sheet explains one way to conduct a self-guided tutorial if you already feel comfortable with the basics. See the tip sheet.

Comparative Effectiveness Research Fellows named for 2016

Ten journalists have been chosen for the second class of the AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research. The fellowship program was created with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to help reporters and editors produce more accurate in-depth stories on medical research and how medical decisions are made.

The fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., the week of Sept. 11 for a series of presentations, roundtables, how-to database sessions and interactions with researchers.

Read more and find out who was selected.

Tools help reporters follow tax dollars that fund medical research

Image by Pia Christensen

Image by Pia Christensen

Why did the chicken cross the road? We’ve never known, but we may soon find out thanks to a United Kingdom project that aims to study human-chicken interactions.

It’s no joke, and it’s caused quite a flap across the pond because it’s costing taxpayers there £1.95 million, or roughly $3.1 million. Not everybody thinks it’s a crazy idea. Nature recently ran an editorial defending the research. The journal editors write:

We know surprisingly little about the history of human–chicken relations, such as how chickens first came to Britain.

Reading about that project got me thinking … in this era of sequestration cuts, what research projects have wrangled scarce public dollars in this country, and how much are we paying for them?

You can search government grants for research in a few places. Grants awarded by the federal department of Health and Human Services can be searched using the TAGGS tool, for Tracking Accountability in Government Grants.

A quick advanced search on the keyword “chicken” turned up four studies of chickens, but no foul play. Two studies deal with chicken genes, one is using chickens as a model for human disease, and the last is researching how chickens become colonized with bacteria that gives humans food poisoning.

You can also search grants by state, institution, and the name of the investigator.

The NIH has a different grant searching tool called RePORTER (Research Online Grant Reporting Tools). Using the advanced search there, the term “chicken” turned up 132 results, mostly because it also pulled up studies of chickenpox.

In addition to the keyword search you can search by funding category, location, and the names of investigators.

Have you used these tools to enterprise stories? Tell us about it in the comments section below. Don’t forget to include a link to your story.

Reporters fall prey to back pain study’s shady PR push

Photo by planetc1

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed several 140-character conniptions I had last week over coverage of a Danish study that used antibiotics to treat low back pain.

I generally feel pretty protective of health reporters. I’m in the trenches with you. I have good days and bad days, too. Deadline reporting on medical studies is tough and sometimes undervalued for the work serious, balanced coverage requires. I’m with you.

Even so, I was dismayed by most of the stories I was reading.

Reporters were trumpeting the results of two studies published in the European Spine Journal, a less influential medical journal. Continue reading