Why Don’t You Have More Medical News on Your Site?

One of our readers asked the question…

Why don’t you have more medical news on your site?

Is Today’s News Report Medical News or Not?  This is a Hot Topic in Medicine

We live in an age of media sensationalism.  And, everybody has to be first, to beat the competition.  This desperate desire to be a media superstar and in the spotlight has captured some research institutions and medical researchers.  A few have become addicted to wanting the glory of fame, the hot news item on the morning news.  Practicing physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners know that the big, flashy, supposedly-medical-news story on the morning major network shows is often not relevant to the practice of medicine.  And, even more awful, the information in the news might not even be true.  We hate to use the term “Fake News”, but there you have it.

The Rush to Publish

Those institutions and individuals who want to burst forth on the morning news show might have a propensity to rush to publication or to a press release.  But here’s the problem.  That first look at a study’s results, often called the “top line results”, can be inaccurate when compared to a later understanding of the results after more thorough data review, analysis, and thought.  “Oh, gee, we hadn’t realized that…”

True Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow

Think back over the many medical news stories you have heard.  First, big news, coffee is bad for you.  Then, a few months later, wow, coffee is good for you.  We have all heard this same yes, then no, then yes again with dark chocolate.  And tea.  I mean, really now.  Tea!  What could possibly be wrong with tea?  (Especially if it’s or Twinings or Yorkshire!)  The flashy results of that newest, supposedly-big, recent study, when the study is repeated a few times by other researchers to try to replicate the results, might not hold up.  It’s this whole scientific method thing.  Remember how it works?

Where Was the Study Done?

For example, are the results of a study done in Paris relevant to the people in Tokyo?  Or Oklahoma?  Maybe so, maybe not.  The big news sites gloss over this dilemma.  Until the study is repeated in the different geographic areas and new ethnic populations it is not known whether or not the results translate from one location or heritage to another.  But if a study has sensational results, our popular news media would not want to ruin the story impact with good information.  Heaven forbid!

Who Were the Study Subjects?

Obviously, a study done with patients with Parkinson’s disease does not tell you about Alzheimer’s.  In fact, a study done in severe Alzheimer’s disease probably does not tell you what the same study’s results would have been if done in people with very early Alzheimer’s disease, or with pre-Alzheimer’s, called “Mild Cognitive Impairment.”  But, again, if the study has magnetic star sparkle, the news media will report it and blur their error.

Even more egregious, animal research.  How often have you heard a piece of interesting medical news, then at the end, when your attention might be less focused on that story, the reporter says, “Of course, we’ll need to wait for the study to be done in people to confirm the findings.  This study was done in mice.”

The Legal System Messes with Medicine

Well, excuse us, but now we’re on our soapbox.  Because here is another bending and twisting of the truth in the telling.  Lawyers wanting to win a case will find a kind-of-relevant study and devise a way to spin the information to support their court case.  Then, the legal firm puts an ad together, buys TV or radio time, and blasts the marketplace with their spin.  The way it is presented in the ad might have nothing to do with the true study results but it can help to bias the jury pool from which the jury for their case will be chosen.

Silicone Breast Implants

For example, remember when silicone breast implants were taken off the market because they made people sick.  The FDA halted sales of silicone-filled implants in 1992 pending further study and then let them back on the market in 2006.  Silicone implants do not cause the disorders for which they were condemned, and never did.  It was all false information, legal spin and distorted statistics, or worse yet, testimonials, to win a legal battle.  Now silicone implants are again available to women.  There’s been no change in the data to now support that they’re safe.  They were always safe.  (There is this new wrinkle about macro-textured implants from one manufacturer and a rare type of cancer, breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma [BIA-ALCL].  This one might be real.  It’s too soon to tell.)

The Erin Brockovich Embarrassment

Then there’s the story about Hinkley, California.  There are several books and they made a movie about it.  But the books and movie tell a false story, but one that won $333 million in the court settlement.  A huge win for the lawyers.  It was also supposed to be a win for the plaintiffs but they’re still wondering where all the money went.  Because, you see, the hexavalent chromium in Hinkley’s drinking water did not cause the cancer cases it was accused of causing.  Erin Brockovich herself became rich, made $2.5 million, and gained world-wide fame as a world-saving environmental activist, and her law firm made $133 million as their legal fees for the settlement, but the analysis was bogus and the people supposedly poisoned and hurt never saw much of the settlement.  The wrong statistics were presented in court.  The attorneys fooled the jury.  Figures don’t lie but liars figure.  The correct analysis supports that the association between the toxic chemical and the illnesses was no better than random.

Good Medicine

Good medicine looks at study results over time, comparing several studies.  Solid, reputable health care providers talk with other researchers at medical meetings to learn what’s true and what’s not.  Your personal physician keeps you well and treats you when you get sick based on solid information from many studies examined over years, not based on last week’s sensational story.  It’s today’s data-driven better medicine, called Evidence-based Medcine.

So, Back to the Question on the NeuroSci R&D Consultancy Website 

We provide solid medical information based on evidence, based on the science, in our areas of expertise, the neuroscience areas of medicine.  We don’t do medical news as it is defined and used by the major news media outlets, and we say that with pride.  We may well provide new information, and if we do, we will label it as such.  We’ll note any uncertainty as to whether it might eventually be relied upon or not.  You can count on us to let you know, to get it right.

Helpful links:

False Hopes, Unwarranted Fears: The Trouble with Medical News Stories

Sensationalism in the Media: When Scientists and Journalists May Be Complicit Collaborators

Medical Scientists and Health News Reporting: A Case of Miscommunication

The Ongoing Problem with Medical Journals   

How sensationalism compounds the opioid crisis

‘Breakthrough’ to Reality of Medical Headlines  

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