We all have pet peeves. My particular bete noire is fed constantly by LinkedIn. I work in health economics and policy within the context of medical decision making. As a journalist, I am pulled in by the title of a breaking story. I target Google Alerts for content I am developing, specific talks I am preparing, or just to keep the expertise in top order.
Herein lies the problem. The headline is not a credible source of information. Hitting "share" on a story you have not read or do not understand is problematic and reflects poorly on your judgement. If you are a medical writer, journalist, or pharmaceutical stakeholder--that is your brand. If you are a consumer of medical information--it could be your health.
To prove a point, let's look at an abstract presented June 10, 2016 at European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Congress 2016. Abstract OP0225.
The article circulating on LinkedIn reporting on this very abstract had the headline "Inflammatory Arthritis Stable After Switch to Biosimilar".
If we are indeed communicators with a single objective of improving outcomes in patients seeking care within an evolving healthcare ecosystem we need to do a better job.
Suggested news stories of relevance and immediate importance should include:
Is there a difference between a biosimilar and a biologic?
You will notice in news stories that the distinction between biosimilar and interchangeable is not made clearly. Interchangeable refers to a biosimilar that meets and additional standards as defined below.
I have also noticed sloppy reporting where biosimilars are compared to generics. This is not the case --even if we consider the policy changes that help drive the distinction.
So back to our vague and misleading headline--"Inflammatory Arthritis Stable After Switch to Biosimilar".
Mention the specific marker for stability (CRP is an inflammatory marker indicative of disease activity)--CRP has actually increased--what is the significance of this finding? Should HAQ be able to detect a difference in 3 months?
This is a non-medical switch meaning the patients were stable on Remicade. Do we really want physicians to switch their patients that are responding to their current therapies? The reason provided for switching was purely economical. Where is the cost data? Did it reflect the downstream implications and cost for the 42 patients that had to stop the treatment early? What were their outcomes?
DAS28 stable in patients with inflammatory arthritis after 3 month switch to inflixumab biosimilar would be small nudge but a big shift in the accuracy of what was actually investigated.
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In a world of "evidence-based" medicine I am a bigger fan of practice-based evidence.
Remember the quote by Upton Sinclair...
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
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