The media are awash with neatly packaged stories about headache medications, surgeries and treatments. These stories purportedly keep patients and the public abreast of relevant headache and health news, but often leave more questions than they answer. The website Health News Review helps the public evaluate the claims of medical news stories by rating the stories on their accuracy, balance and completeness.
Each story is given a satisfactory or unsatisfactory mark in each of the following categories:
- Novelty of treatment
- Availability of treatment
- Treatment options
- Disease mongering
- Quality of evidence
- Quantifying treatment benefits
- Treatment harms
- Treatment costs
- Sources of information
- Reliance on press release
These marks are translated into percentage scores and then into star ratings, which appear with every story. A story on Trexima, the not-so-novel migraine med, has been rated on the site. The story received 0 of 5 stars, as it was unsatisfactory in each of the review categories.
Even more helpful the the stars, there is a specific explanation for every category that is marked unsatisfactory. In the Trexima story, the unsatisfactory rated is explained as:
“The story gives no quantitative evidence from trials on Trexima or other migraine medication delivery methods. There is anecdotal evidence from two people whose migraine pain decreased (but didn’t stop completely) with the combination drug. In a trial of 50 mg sumatriptan and 500mg of naproxen sodium there was greater pain-relief for acute migraines than either drug alone or placebo (Smith, T.R., A. Sunshine, et al. (2005). ‘Sumatriptan and naproxen sodium for the acute treatment of migraine.’ Headache 45(8): 983-91.)
I’m impressed by what I’ve seen so far — and not just because I agree with every point they make about Trexima. As often as modern medicine is presented as magical, this tool is a reminder that fairy godmothers don’t wear white coats and stethoscopes.