Tipsheet: For Reporting on Drugs, Devices and Medical Technologies

September 15, 2004

Authors: Ray Moynihan

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Overview

Some simple questions to consider and discuss. Many of these questions will already be familiar to reporters covering health and medicine. They are not intended as a guide to writing or producing stories, but simply as a list of some key issues to think about and, if possible, discuss with a range of sources, including independent researchers. Nor are these questions necessarily meant to be used in formal interviews. Instead, they are questions to consider and discuss when researching stories. Consideration of these questions may lead a reporter's research in unexpected directions.

  • What is the size of the potential benefit offered by the therapy, and for what types of patients is it beneficial?
  • What are the potential harms associated with the therapy?
  • What are the links between your sources of information about the therapy and those promoting it?
  • How strong is the evidence to support the claims being made about the therapy, and how does it relate to other available evidence?
  • What is the natural history of the condition for which the therapy is being offered, and is there potential for what some have called "disease mongering"?
  • What are the alternatives to the therapy being offered (e.g., no action or watchful waiting, generic drugs, non-drug options, complementary therapies)?
  • What are the costs of the therapy and are the potential benefits worth the cost?

Citation

Tipsheet for Reporting on Drugs, Devices and Medical Technologies, Ray Moynihan, The Commonwealth Fund, September 2004