Reporting medical news is too important to mess up

Reporting medical news is too important to mess up

'News stories regarding the latest in the world of medicine are often popular. After all, most people are interested in their own health and that of their family and friends.

But sometimes reports can be confusing. For example, one minute coffee seems good for you, and the next it’s bad for your health.'

Patrizia Furlan, Program Director, Journalism and Professional Writing, University of South Australia, explains the common problems in medical reporting and how the true meaning of medical research may get lost in translation:

Included in the article is a useful definition of clinical trial phases:

Phase I clinical trial

Phase I trials test a new biomedical intervention for the first time in a small group of people (around 20-80) to evaluate safety.

Phase II clinical trial

Phase II trials study an intervention in a larger group of people (several hundred) to determine whether it works as intended, and to further evaluate safety.

Phase III clinical trial

Phase III studies examine the efficacy of an intervention in large groups of trial participants (from several hundred to several thousand) by comparing the intervention to other treatments (or to standard care), and to collect additional safety information.


Photo: Greater Crested Terns

3 Replies

  • You may be interested in this documentary from the BBC which aired a couple of days ago:

    It describes a phase 1 trial in London in 2006 (for a potential treatment for leukaemia, as it happens) which went disastrously wrong.

    We are grateful to those who take these risks on our behalf, and that the protocols to be followed during clinical trials have been rewritten and tightened up as a result of this unfortunate event.

  • Here is link to the study... an unmitigated disaster

    Dr. Hamblin's comments on the trial


  • WOW! That is some scary stuff.

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