Tag Archives: Studies

4 tips for reporting on press releases
about new study results for drugs


Photo courtesy of Eisai Inc.

Many reporters on the health beat face tight deadlines to publish stories based on press releases from the pharmaceutical industry about new study results and regulatory approvals.

Companies understandably want to put the best spin on data in their releases. But it’s our job to put study results in context and inform our audiences about what key information has yet to be revealed.

For this reason, we offer four tips for helping your readers, listeners and viewers get a more complete understanding of cases where incomplete study data is released.

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Press release reporting is irresponsible — especially in a pandemic

coronavirusI received a text from a friend this week with a link to an article about a new drug for COVID-19 that led to “rapid recovery” of “critically ill” patients with COVID-19. “Houston Methodist Hospital is making national headlines after doctors used a new drug to help treat critically ill COVID-19 patients,” the breathless lead began. The last paragraph included this similarly dramatic quote from the drug manufacturer’s CEO in a press release: “No other antiviral agent has demonstrated rapid recovery from viral infection and demonstrated laboratory inhibition of viral replication.”

Along with the article link, my friend had texted, “Reads like a press release.” Continue reading

How a silly Facebook riddle can help you think more critically about medical studies


Photo: samuelrodgers752 via Flickr

At a certain point, you think you’ve seen all of those maddening, intentionally misleading Facebook math riddles. The first one I recall led to an unfriending on Facebook — and my first article for Slate. It discussed the history of “order of operations” and the ambiguities of math “language” (and amusingly led to just as much debate in the comments as on Facebook). Continue reading

Finding the latest COVID-19 studies — and covering them thoughtfully

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, most data came from news reports, clinical summaries and preprints. Now more and more peer-reviewed studies are coming out each day, and it’s challenging to keep up with them. Several journals have set up dedicated coronavirus sites that can help in keeping up with the research.

The Lancet’s COVID-19 Resource Centre, JAMA Network’s COVID-19 resource center and NEJM’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) page all include the newest studies, commentary and related data and information on the pandemic. Continue reading

Latest update to federal preventive services site benefits users

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has made changes to the way they present their recommendations in hopes of making them more user-friendly for physicians. The result also is clearer and easier to follow for journalists and consumers too.

The changes, outlined in the September issue of JAMA, include better use plain language, making the recommendations more easily scannable and emphasizing top-line recommendations without repetitive or marginally relevant information. You still can get the nitty-gritty details of a recommendation and supporting evidence from the site, but for those needing a quick summary, it’s now easier to find what you need. Continue reading