Tag Archives: treatment

Reporting on hype, hope around treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Alan Cassels

Alan Cassels

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 disease charities partner with drug companies, where does that leave patients (and reporters)?

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a disease charity for comment on a story I was working on. Disease charities are nonprofits like the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, etc., that raise money to support the research, care and awareness of people who live with a given condition.

The story was about a rare but very dangerous side effect that was tied to new drug. The side effect is considered so serious that other drugs that cause it have been yanked off the market because of the risk.

I expected the scientific officer I spoke with to react to this news, which was published in a top-tier medical journal, with alarm and concern for patients who were taking the medication, which is poised to become a blockbuster. Instead, though, he was largely dismissive of the reports. He extolled the potential benefits of the newly approved medication for patients.

As reporters, we all have those moments when our spider senses tingle. You may not be able to put your finger on exactly why, but something just doesn’t feel right. Continue reading

Addiction treatment options expand under health law – but will needs be met?

Affordable Care Act could transform addiction care and make it go much more mainstream.

Photo by Thomas Marthinsen via Flickr

Here’s a great piece by Carla Johnson, an Associated Press medical writer and AHCJ board member. She highlights a little-known element of the Affordable Care Act and pulls together many strands of policy, hard numbers and real people’s needs. 

The story addresses how the health law will expand access to treatment for addiction and substance abuse – but that the system may not be up to meeting a backlog of unmet human need.

Her vivid opening sentence sets the stage:

 It has been six decades since doctors concluded that addiction was a disease that could be treated, but today the condition still dwells on the fringes of the medical community.

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