Interesting article on the importance of accuracy and fair balance when reporting promising, but very early stage developments in clinical research. When picked up and shared by social media channels an interesting finding can quickly become a cry for access - even when the drug has only been tested in a handful of individuals.
Using the experimental Parkinson's Disease drug nilotinib as an example the author relates how the reporting around a 6-month trial with 11 PD patients positioned the drug as a miracle - driving an immediate social media spike and leading many to ask their doctors for it.
Communicating the findings from scientific research is essential but as more and more individuals have access to, and are looking for medical silver bullets, the reporting of such early findings must also highlight the gaps that still exist in our knowledge of the drug before they can be recommended for wider use.
A downside to the awesome power of this platform comes from not knowing or perhaps not caring about the source of information shared on social media. Just as “fake news” has flourished in an environment where speed, rather than accuracy, is what counts, patients—who are understandably vulnerable to hopeful reports about their disease—must recognize that not everything they read is equally credible.