Tuesday, February 26, 2008

So the drugs don't work

Waking up this morning you're likely to find the headlines screaming that anti-depressants don't work. However as 5cc has often pointed out headline and story don't always tally.

I'll add in the missing word to all the headlines - New. So altered headlines (as online) as follows

[New] Depression drugs don't work, finds data review - Times Online
[New] Antidepressant drugs don't work - official study - Independent
Study doubts effectiveness of [new] antidepressant drugs - Guardian Unlimited
[New] Anti-depressants 'of little use' - BBC online

In the reports that follow the headlines the Times mentions, "the new generation of antidepressant drugs" in the second paragraph.

The Independent calls them "modern antidepressant drugs" in the second paragraph.

The Guardian doesn't mention these are new at all.

The BBC comes tops with "New generation anti-depressants" being the first line of the first paragraph.

This is an important result in so many ways, why did a drug that only had a 1.8 scale improvement get so overly prescribed when the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has defined a drug-placebo difference of 3 being significant?

What doesn't help is blatantly misleading headlines. How many people who are benefiting will just stop taking their medication as a result of seeing these headlines?

The press release is available here and the actual report here because only the BBC provides any links at all and those only indirectly.


Invisible said...

Hmm, blatently misleading headlines? Is that legal?

Should that be legal?

While we're on the subject, is it illegal for a newspaper to print a story that's not actually true? I presume it is, but I don't actually know that for a fact… hmm. (!!)

Dan H said...

Not unless it's libellous, no. I mean, if it were, all the newspapers would have been shut down by now.

FlipC said...

From the Press Complaints Commission website.

"The PCC received 3,325 complaints in 2006. Of the complaints that were specified under the terms of the Code of Practice approximately two in three were about accuracy in reporting and approximately one in five related to intrusion into privacy of some sort." Oh and just for kicks the Code of Practice mentioned was drawn up the editor's themselves.

But as Dan says the illegality of such things only shows up if someone sues for libel otherwise you have to go through the PCC.

Here have a read of the 5 chinese crackers site.

Invisible said...

I see…

So there is basically no reason what so ever for any media organisation to even attempt to be factually correct? Neat.

I must remember this fact next time I read a newspaper…

FlipC said...

That's about right. If errors are found (out) then the paper may have to print a retraction. it used to have to appear on the same page as the error I'm not sure if that's still the case; may be a reason why front-page stories continue on pages 8-9 though :-) Here's the type of thing the PCC deal with.

BTW Ofcom that deals with broadcasts are a lot tougher.

FlipC said...

Just crunching the data from the PCC for resolved cases for reports 74-76 (approx 18 months) and the top 10 contenders are:

Daily Mail 49
The Sun 31
Daily Mirror 24
Evening Standard 16
Daily Express 13
The Mail on Sunday 10
The Times 9
The Daily Telegraph 9
News of the World 8
The Sunday Times 7

Note this is purely the number of resolved complaints and no indication as to who was deemed at fault should be taken from it.