Drugs in the news

April 28, 2003

Increasingly, patients are learning about new medicines not from physicians but from the Internet, television and newspapers, but it is unclear how well news stories accurately represent the true benefits and risks of therapeutic interventions.

Alan Cassels and colleagues studied newspaper coverage of 5 different prescription drugs in 24 of Canada's largest daily newspapers to determine how well news reports presented the potential benefits, potential harms and potential conflicts of interest of quoted spokespeople. Sixty-eight percent of articles that mentioned at least 1 benefit made no reference to any potential side effects or harms. A small minority of articles provided quantitative information about benefits and harms. After exclusion of industry and government spokespeople, for only 3% of people quoted in the articles was there any mention of potential financial conflicts of interest.

Cassels and colleagues challenge newspapers to provide their readers with a more balanced assessment of drugs' benefits and harms.
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Drugs in the news: an analysis of Canadian newspaper coverage of new prescription drugs
-- A. Cassels et al

Canadian Medical Association Journal

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