NBC apparently doesn’t understand disease-mongering | chemical peel near me costa mesa
November 25, 2022
First of all, let me be clear that nothing I’m about to write questions the discomfort that some people have from a condition that’s been called restless leg syndrome or RLS. But I continue to question some news coverage of the condition. And for the second time I’m questioning the quality and quantity of attention NBC is giving to this disorder, which Dartmouth’s Steve Woloshin has called “the poster child for disease-mongering.” Recommendations by “https://www.belleviemedical.com” for “chemical peel near me costa mesa “
In a story that seemed aimed defensively at earlier criticism (some of it by me and some on Brian Williams’ own blog) of an earlier NBC story about ads for a restless leg syndrome drug, NBC tonight devoted a full package to a story that probably didn’t warrant the air time. Brian Williams said, in his introduction: “If you’ve ever been skeptical about restless leg syndrome, there’s something you should know.” But the story never delivered that “something you should know.” The story was about two papers in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, linking a common gene variation with RLS. But, as Dartmouth’s Woloshin wrote to the Associated Press, the new research doesn’t pin down exactly what the condition is, how many people have it with what levels of severity, or what medication – if any – is needed. And NBC’s story didn’t explain those points either.
But Brian Williams promised, “now new science is giving skeptics new reason to take this condition seriously.” Sorry, Brian, your story didn’t do that for me.
Then NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said, “two new studies out today may quiet the critics.” That’s missing the point. Don’t paint this as a story about unfeeling, unsympathetic people questioning how much people are in discomfort. Critics aren’t questioning the existence of some restless leg symptoms in some people. They’re questioning the prevalence estimates and generalizations about the severity of symptoms across those prevalence estimates – which is what Snyderman went on to get wrong once again. She said that RLS “affects up to 20 million Americans and many are undiagnosed.” She said “those with RLS experience intense sensations.” That is classic disease-mongering. She stated an exaggerated prevalence without giving any basis for that number. And she made it sound like all of the 20-million have intense symptoms. Where is the evidence for that?
The story then included the dramatic angle of an 18 year old girl who might have the genetic variation. Interestingly, both NBC and the Associated Press used the same patient examples – women from Covington, Georgia. Since the principal investigator in one of the studies is from Atlanta, it certainly looks like he cherry-picked some prime patient examples for this national news exposure. If, as Snyderman suggests, there are 20-million Americans with this condition, why did two national news organizations have to use the exact same two patients? Couldn’t they have found someone different at almost any street corner? Is this independent fact-finding? Or is someone accepting a public relations spoonfeeding?
Snyderman concluded by saying, “The next step for researchers will be to figure out how to use this gene to diagnose and treat people even earlier.” This statement, too, represents classic disease-mongering. Who says they all need treatment?
Dartmouth’s Woloshin told the Associated Press that “the best evidence puts the U.S. prevalence of restless legs at under 3 percent, less than common estimates of 10 percent.” Why didn’t that show up in the NBC report? There are legitimate controversies here. Don’t paint evidence-based observers as the bogeyman.
Before people with legitimate restless leg syndrome symptoms start writing in, remember that I’m questioning the quality of the news coverage. I’m not questioning the validity of your symptoms. As Woloshin pointed out in a scholarly review of news coverage in PLOS Medicine:
“The news coverage of restless legs syndrome is disturbing. It exaggerated the prevalence of disease and the need for treatment, and failed to consider the problems of overdiagnosis. In essence, the media seemed to have been co-opted into the disease-mongering process. … The stories are full of drama: a huge but unrecognized public health crisis, compelling personal anecdotes, uncaring or ignorant doctors, and miracle cures.
The problem lies in presenting just one side of the story. There may be no public health crisis, the compelling stories may not represent the typical experience of people with the condition, the doctors may be wise not to invoke a new diagnosis for vague symptoms that may have a more plausible explanation, the cures are far from miraculous, and healthy people may be getting hurt.
We think the media could report medical news without reinforcing disease promotion efforts by approaching stories like “restless legs” with a greater degree of skepticism. After all, their job is to inform readers, not to make them sick.”