Saturday, 21 November 2009

More Express 'miracle cure' nonsense

Today's Daily Express has its second 'miracle cure' front page of the week. There's been two others about the Royal Family (but not - shock - Diana) and three anti-Europe ones, but none (shock) on immigration or Islam.

Monday's cover looked like this:

The main story was based on a new ten-point list from the World Cancer Research Fund, explaining that eating less salt and fatty foods, drinking less alcohol and doing exercise is good for your health. Which may be all entirely expected from an organisation dedicated to fighting cancer.

But is any of that really for the front page of a newspaper?

And look what other exciting stuff is on there - the true identity of Belle de Jour and the chance to get a free tree. Great.

As for the Strictly story, that has been written by someone who's been looking at a BBC messageboard, which is what is regarded as the legitimate basis for a story at far too many newspapers these days.

In fact, although the story claims 'hundreds' of Strictly fans were calling on Bruce to stand down, it only quotes, err, two. There are more on the messageboards - although lots of pro-Brucie ones too - but it's hard to imagine a half-decent newspaper putting a teaser for such a thin story on the front page.

Back to today's cover which, rather surprisingly, hasn't led with the bad weather although still finds space for it under the shopping vouchers and free radio. The main focus is a 'miracle cure' story on blindness:

It's a 'cure' and a 'holy grail', they say. Is it? Here's the first line of the story:

Millions could be saved from incurable blindness by an injection of human stem cells.

Ah. 'Could be'. So once again the headline is making something sound definite that isn't.

Also, does journalist Jo Willey know what 'incurable' means? The headline and story are all about a cure. If true, that means it's not incurable.

Then there's the fact that Willey's article focusses in on the disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which, she explains, is:

Britain’s leading cause of blindness, affecting 500,000 people in this country alone. It usually strikes after the age of 50 and about 90 per cent of cases are untreatable.

So it's not a holy grail for the blind. From the story, it's a possible treatment for people with AMD.

Except, it's not even that.

The press release from Advanced Cell Technology, who are behind this research, explains that is has:

filed an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate a Phase I/II multicenter study using embryonic stem cell derived retinal cells to treat patients with Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy (SMD).

It's immediately noticeable that they use 'treat' rather than 'cure', which the Express favours.

But more importantly, the company are talking about SMD, which affects far fewer people than AMD. So despite the fact this is the disease these potential trials will actually be about, the Express article doesn't mention SMD at all.

The LA Times explains that supposing the FDA allow the trials (which, because of the use of stem-cells, are highly controversial in America), and they go well, only then would the researchers turn to AMD.

These ludicrous, misleading, premature stories/headlines about 'miracle cures', often based on very preliminary research, is not only poor journalism, it can easily lead to falsely raising the hopes of people affected with such diseases.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.