Ocular gene transfer in the spotlight: implications of newspaper content for clinical communications.
ABSTRACT: Ocular gene transfer clinical trials are raising hopes for blindness treatments and attracting media attention. News media provide an accessible health information source for patients and the public, but are often criticized for overemphasizing benefits and underplaying risks of novel biomedical interventions. Overly optimistic portrayals of unproven interventions may influence public and patient expectations; the latter may cause patients to downplay risks and over-emphasize benefits, with implications for informed consent for clinical trials. We analyze the news media communications landscape about ocular gene transfer and make recommendations for improving communications between clinicians and potential trial participants in light of media coverage.We analyzed leading newspaper articles about ocular gene transfer (1990-2012) from United States (n?=?55), Canada (n?=?26), and United Kingdom (n?=?77) from Factiva and Canadian Newsstand databases using pre-defined coding categories. We evaluated the content of newspaper articles about ocular gene transfer for hereditary retinopathies, exploring representations of framing techniques, research design, risks/benefits, and translational timelines.The dominant frame in 61% of stories was a celebration of progress, followed by human-interest in 30% of stories. Missing from the positive frames were explanations of research design; articles conflated clinical research with treatment. Conflicts-of-interest and funding sources were similarly omitted. Attention was directed to the benefits of gene transfer, while risks were only reported in 43% of articles. A range of visual outcomes was described from slowing vision loss to cure, but the latter was the most frequently represented even though it is clinically infeasible. Despite the prominence of visual benefit portrayals, 87% of the articles failed to provide timelines for the commencement of clinical trials or for clinical implementation.Our analysis confirms that despite many initiatives to improve media communications about experimental biotechnologies, media coverage remains overly optimistic and omits important information. In light of these findings, our recommendations focus on the need for clinicians account for media coverage in their communications with patients, especially in the context of clinical trial enrolment. The development of evidence-based communication strategies will facilitate informed consent and promote the ethical translation of this biotechnology.
Project description:PURPOSE:Ocular gene transfer clinical trials are raising patient hopes for the treatment of choroideremia--a blinding degenerative retinopathy. Phase I choroideremia gene transfer trials necessitate communicating about the risks of harm and potential benefits with patients while avoiding the sensationalism that has historically undermined this field of translational medicine. METHODS:We conducted interviews between June 2011 and June 2012 with 6 choroideremia patient advocates, 20 patients, and 15 clinicians about their hopes for benefits, perceived risks of harm, and hopes for the time frame of clinical implementation of choroideremia gene transfer. RESULTS:Despite the safety focus of phase I trials, participants hoped for direct visual benefits with evident discrepancies between stakeholder perspectives about the degree of visual benefit. Clinicians and patient advocates were concerned by limited patient attention to risks of harm. Interviews revealed confusion about the time frames for the clinical implementation of choroideremia gene transfer and patient urgency to access gene transfer within a limited therapeutic window. CONCLUSION:Differences in stakeholder perspectives about choroideremia gene transfer necessitate strategies that promote responsible communications about choroideremia gene transfer and aid in its translation. Strategies should counter historical sensationalism associated with gene transfer, promote informed consent, and honor patient hope while grounding communications in current clinical realities.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:There are multifaceted views on the use of ketamine, a potentially addictive substance, to treat mental health problems. The past 15 years have seen growing media coverage of ketamine for medical and other purposes. This study examined the print news media coverage of medical and other uses of ketamine in North America to determine orientations and trends over time. METHODS:Print newspaper coverage of ketamine from 2000 to 2015 was reviewed, resulting in 43 print news articles from 28 North American newspapers. A 55-item structured coding instrument was applied to assess news reports of ketamine. Items captured negative and positive aspects, therapeutic use of ketamine, and adverse side effects. Chi-squares tested for changes in trends over time. RESULTS:In the 15-year reviewed period, the three most frequent themes related to ketamine were: abuse (68.2%), legal status (34.1%), and clinical use in anesthesia (31.8%). There was significant change in trends during two periods (2000-2007 and 2008-2015). In 2008-2015, print news media articles were significantly more likely to encourage clinical use of ketamine to treat depression (p = 0.002), to treat treatment resistant depression (p = 0.043), and to claim that ketamine is more effective than conventional antidepressants (p = 0.043). CONCLUSIONS:Our review found consistent positive changes in the portrayals of ketamine by the print news media as a therapeutic antidepressant that mirror the recent scientific publications. These changes in news media reporting might influence the popularity of ketamine use to treat clinical depression. Guidance is required for journalists on objective reporting of medical research findings, including limitations of current research evidence and potential risks of ketamine.
Project description:The rapid developments in neuroscientific techniques raise high expectations among the general public and therefore warrant close monitoring of the translation to the media and daily-life applications. The need of empirical research into neuroscience communication is emphasized by its susceptibility to evoke misconceptions and polarized beliefs. As the mass media are the main sources of information about (neuro-)science for a majority of the general public, the objective of the current research is to quantify how critically and accurately newspapers report on neuroscience as a function of the timing of publication (within or outside of periods of heightened media attention to neuroscience, termed "news waves"), the topic of the research (e.g. development, health, law) and the newspaper type (quality, popular, free newspapers). The results show that articles published during neuroscience news waves were less neutral and more optimistic, but not different in accuracy. Furthermore, the overall tone and accuracy of articles depended on the topic; for example, articles on development often had an optimistic tone whereas articles on law were often skeptical or balanced, and articles on health care had highest accuracy. Average accuracy was rather low, but articles in quality newspapers were relatively more accurate than in popular and free newspapers. Our results provide specific recommendations for researchers and science communicators, to improve the translation of neuroscience findings through the media: 1) Caution is warranted during periods of heightened attention (news waves), as reporting tends to be more optimistic; 2) Caution is also warranted not to follow topic-related biases in optimism (e.g., development) or skepticism (e.g., law); 3) Researchers should keep in mind that overall accuracy of reporting is low, and especially articles in popular and free newspapers provide a minimal amount of details. This indicates that researchers themselves may need to be more active in preventing misconceptions to arise.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:Medical reviews and research comprise a key information source for news media stories on medical therapies and innovations as well as for physicians in updating their practice. The present study examined medical review journal articles, physician surveys and news media coverage of hormone replacement therapy (HT) to assess the relationship between the three information sources and whether/if they contributed to a state-of-the-science gap (a condition when the evaluation of a medical condition or therapy ascertained by the highest standards of investigation is incongruent with the science-in-practice such as physician recommendations and patient actions). METHODS:We content-analyzed 177 randomly sampled HT medical reviews between 2002 and 2014, and HT news valence in three major TV networks, newspapers and magazines/internet sites in 2002-2003, 2008-2009 and 2012-14. The focus in both analyses was whether HT benefits outweighed risks, risks outweighed benefits or both risks and benefits were presented. We also qualitatively content-analyzed all 19 surveys of US physicians' HT recommendations from 2002 to 2009, and 2012 to 2014. RESULTS:Medical reviews yielded a mixed picture about HT (40.1% benefits, 26.0% risks, and 33.9% both benefits and risks). While a majority of physician surveys were pro-HT 10/19), eight showed varied attitudes and one was negative. Newspaper and television coverage reflected a pro and con balance while magazine stories were more positive in the later reporting period. CONCLUSION:Medical journal review articles, physicians, and media reports all provide varying view points towards hormone therapy use thus leading to limited knowledge about the actual risks and benefits of HT among peri- and menopausal women and a state-of-the-science gap.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To examine the nature of media coverage of vitamin D in relation to its role in health and the need for supplements. DESIGN:Media content analysis. SETTING:Print articles from elite newspapers in the UK, the USA and Canada. PARTICIPANTS:294 print newspaper articles appearing over 5 years (2009-2014). RESULTS:Newspaper coverage of vitamin D generally supported supplementation. The most common framing of vitamin D in print articles was "adequate vitamin D is necessary for good health." Articles also framed vitamin D as difficult to obtain from food supply and framed vitamin D deficiency as a widespread concern. In discussions of supplementation, 80% articles suggested supplementation is or may be necessary for the general population, yet almost none of the articles discussed the potential harms of vitamin D supplementation in any detail. Print articles named 40 different health conditions in relationship to vitamin D. The most commonly cited conditions included bone health, cancer and cardiovascular health. Although print articles referred to a wide range of scholarly research on vitamin D with varying degrees of endorsement for supplementation, a general tone of support for vitamin D supplementation in media coverage persisted. CONCLUSIONS:Newspaper articles conveyed overall support for vitamin D supplementation. News articles linked vitamin D to a wide range of health conditions for which there is no conclusive scientific evidence. Media coverage downplayed the limitations of existing science and overlooked any potential risks associated with supplementation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Some drug safety issues communicated through direct healthcare professional communications (DHPCs) receive substantial media coverage, while others do not. OBJECTIVES:The objective of this study was to assess the extent of coverage of drug safety issues that have been communicated through DHPCs in newspapers and social media. A secondary aim was to explore which determinants may be associated with media coverage. METHODS:Newspaper articles covering drug safety issues communicated through 387 DHPCs published between 2001 and 2015 were retrieved from LexisNexis Academic™. Social media postings were retrieved from Coosto™ for drugs included in 220 DHPCs published between 2010 and 2015. Coverage of DHPCs by newspapers and social media was assessed during the 2-month and 14-day time periods following issuance of the DHPC, respectively. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess potential DHPC- and drug-related determinants of media coverage. RESULTS:41 (10.6%) DHPC safety issues were covered in newspaper articles. Newspaper coverage was associated with drugs without a specialist indication [adjusted odds ratio 5.32; 95% confidence interval (2.64-10.73)]. Negative associations were seen for time since market approval [3-5 years 0.30; (0.11-0.82), 6-11 years 0.18; (0.06-0.58)] and year of the DHPC [0.88; (0.81-0.96)]. In the social media, 180 (81.8%) drugs mentioned in 220 DHPCs were covered. Social media coverage was associated with drugs without a specialist indication [6.92; (1.56-30.64)], and for DHPCs communicating clinical safety issues [5.46; (2.03-14.66)]. CONCLUSIONS:Newspapers covered a small proportion of DHPC safety issues only. Most drugs mentioned in DHPCs were covered in social media. Coverage in both media were higher for drugs without a specialist indication.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Objectives were to characterize how scientific information about prenatal and postpartum marijuana use was presented in online media content, and to assess how media portrayed risks and benefits of such marijuana use. METHODS:We analyzed online media items (n = 316) from March 2015 to January 2017. A codebook was developed to measure media content in 4 domains: scientific studies, information about health and well-being, mode of ingestion, and portrayal of risks and benefits. Content analysis was performed by two authors, with high inter-rater reliability (mean ĸ = 0.82). Descriptive statistics were used to characterize content, and regression analyses were used to test for predictors of media portrayal of the risk-benefit ratio of prenatal and postpartum marijuana use. RESULTS:51% of the media items mentioned health risks of prenatal and postpartum marijuana use. Nearly one-third (28%) mentioned marijuana use for treatment of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Most media items mentioned a specific research study. More than half of media (59%) portrayed prenatal or postpartum marijuana risks > benefits, 10% portrayed benefits> risks, and the remainder were neutral. While mention of a scientific study was not predictive of the portrayal of the risk-benefit ratio of marijuana use in pregnancy or postpartum, discussion of health risks and health benefits predicted portrayals of the risk-benefit ratio. CONCLUSIONS:Online media content about prenatal and postpartum marijuana use presented health risks consistent with evidence, and discussed a health benefit of marijuana use for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Portrayal of risks and benefits was somewhat equivocal, consistent with current scientific debate.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:To examine how Canadian newspapers portrayed physicians' role and medical assistance in dying (MAiD). DESIGN:Qualitative textual analysis. SETTING:Online and print articles from Canadian French and English newspapers. PARTICIPANTS:813 newspaper articles published from 1972 to 2016. RESULTS:Key Canadian events defined five eras. From 1972 to 1990, newspapers portrayed physician's MAiD role as a social issue by reporting supportive public opinion polls and revealing it was already occurring in secret. From 1991 to 1995, newspapers discussed legal aspects of physicians' MAiD role including Rodriguez' Supreme Court of Canada appeal and Federal government Bills. From 1996 to 2004, journalists discussed professional aspects of physicians' MAiD role and the growing split between palliative care and physicians who supported MAiD. They also reported on court cases against Canadian physicians, Dr Kevorkian and suffering patients who could not receive MAiD. From 2005 to 2013, newspapers described political aspects including the tabling of MAiD legislation to change physicians' role. Lastly, from 2014 to 2016, newspapers again portrayed legal aspects of physicians' role as the Supreme Court of Canada was anticipated to legalise MAiD and the Québec government passed its own legislation. Remarkably, newspapers kept attention to MAiD over 44 years before it became legal. Articles generally reflected Canadians' acceptance of MAiD and physicians were typically portrayed as opposing it, but not all did. CONCLUSIONS:Newspaper portrayals of physicians' MAiD role discussed public opinion, politicians' activities and professional and legal aspects. Portrayals followed the issue-attention cycle through three of five stages: 1) preproblem, 2) alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm and 3) realising the cost of significant progress.
Project description:The news media facilitated the rapid dissemination of the findings from the estrogen plus progestin therapy arm of the Women's Health Initiative (EPT-WHI).To examine the relationship between the potential exposure to newspaper coverage and subsequent hormone therapy (HT) use. DESIGN/POPULATION: Population-based cohort of women receiving mammography at 7 sites (327,144 postmenopausal women).The outcome was the monthly prevalence of self-reported HT use. Circulation data for local, regional, and national newspapers was used to create zip-code level measures of the estimated average household exposure to newspaper coverage that reported the harmful effects of HT in July 2002.Women had an average potential household exposure of 1.4 articles. There was substantial variation in the level of average household exposure to newspaper coverage; women from rural sites received less than women from urban sites. Use of HT declined for all average potential exposure groups after the publication of the EPT-WHI. HT prevalence among women who lived in areas where there was an average household exposure of at least 3 articles declined significantly more (45 to 27%) compared to women who lived in areas with <1 article (43 to 31%) during each of the subsequent 5 months (relative risks 0.86-0.92; p < .006 for all).Greater average household exposure to newspaper coverage about the harms associated with HT was associated with a large population-based decline in HT use. Further studies should examine whether media coverage directly influences the health behavior of individual women.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Patients routinely cite the media, after physicians and pharmacists, as a key source of information on new drugs, but there has been little research on the quality of drug information presented. We assessed newspaper descriptions of drug benefits and harms, the nature of the effects described and the presence or absence of other important information that can add context and balance to a report about a new drug. METHODS: We looked at newspaper coverage in the year 2000 of 5 prescription drugs launched in Canada between 1996 and 2001 that received a high degree of media attention: atorvastatin, celecoxib, donepezil, oseltamivir and raloxifene. We searched 24 of Canada's largest daily newspapers for articles reporting at least one benefit or harm of any of these 5 drugs. We recorded the benefits and harms reported and analyzed how such information was presented; we also determined whether clinical or surrogate outcomes were mentioned; if and how drug effects were quantified; whether contraindications, other treatment options and costs were mentioned; and whether any information on affiliations of quoted interviewees and potential conflicts of interest was presented. RESULTS: Our search yielded 193 articles reporting at least one benefit or harm for 1 of the 5 drugs. All of the articles mentioned at least one benefit, but 68% (132/193) made no mention of possible side effects or harms. Only 24% (120/510) of mentions of drug benefits and harms presented quantitative information. In 26% (31/120) of cases in which drug benefits and harms were quantified, the magnitude was presented only in relative terms, which can be misleading. Overall, 62% (119/193) of the articles gave no quantification of the benefits or harms. Thirty-seven (19%) of the 193 articles reported only surrogate benefits. Other information needed for informed drug-related decisions was often lacking: only 7 (4%) of the articles mentioned contraindications, 61 (32%) mentioned drug costs, 89 (46%) mentioned drug alternatives, and 30 (16%) mentioned nondrug treatment options (such as exercise or diet). Sixty-two percent (120/193) of the articles quoted at least one interviewee. After exclusion of industry and government spokespeople, for only 3% (5/164) of interviewees was there any mention of potential financial conflicts of interest. Twenty-six percent (15/57) of the articles discussing a study included information on study funding. INTERPRETATION: Our results raise concerns about the completeness and quality of media reporting about new medications.