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Giving the injured (false) hope

imagesA recent News & Observer article hyped the benefits of something called “plasma rich platelet therapy”. The “fairly simple” treatment, we were told, is giving hope to “weekend warriors, arthritis sufferers and surgery patients” who want the same pain relief available to professional athletes.

Here is what the article says about the evidence for plasma rich platelet therapy:

Dr. David Berkoff, a Duke sports medicine expert who began offering PRP last summer, said the approach shows promise, although, beyond anecdotal evidence, few studies have been done to validate its effects. Of the early findings, there are indications PRP can speed healing of tendons and ligaments, which can be notoriously slow to repair, as anyone with tennis elbow can attest.

One of the problems of this sort of article is that it relies heavily on anecdote, which doesn’t tell us much about effectiveness. Personal stories are also more compelling than evidence and can give readers false hope in an unproven therapy.

And now the best evidence indicates that the plasma rich platelet therapy, or PRP, is no more effective at treating pain than salt water. At $1,000 per treatment it is certainly more expensive than salt water.

I would ask the following of all reporters. When you are writing about a new medical technology, device, drug, or therapy, scour the internet and call every independent scientist you can locate to uncover every potential problem with any miracle cure. If there is no compelling evidence that something works, don’t write an article about it. If there is evidence it works, thoroughly cover the potential harm, because there is always potential harm.

Giving false hope to readers does not serve them well. And creating demand for expensive and unproven therapies only drives up costs for everyone.

2 Comments


  1. […] The Progressive Pulse – Giving the injured (false) hope Tags: article, article-says, fairly-simple, knowledge, look-forward, only-on-programs, solution, the-same, want-the-same, were-told, will-focus, will-not Baseball & The Boogie Down: There's Still Hope Girls. Derek Jeter …Google Web Toolkit Blog: GWT Developers: Hope to see you at Google I/ORobyn O'Brien: Hope: It's What's For DinnerCary News | Controversial ending for Green Hope-AthensHope for American Cars at Detroit Auto Show – TonicExperts Hope Dems Learn Stimulus Lessons « The Washington IndependentNew Years Rings in a New Coast Guard Rating | Coast Guard NewsWFPP Guest Post: Can Mama Bear Let Go? « Raising My BoychickLorain County Moms » Blog Archive » A high school reunion I …Momentum Resources: Be Careful What you Wish For View the Contact Powered by Information […]

  2. tennis elbow

    January 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    maybe, it would be better if they are telling fact that are proven and the effects, background, and how does this treatment will give compliment for those who are hoping to ease the pain of their elbow. giving personal stories from those who experienced it may be considerable but it is not that credible. it is like giving them a piece of bread instead of teaching them how to make a bread for themselves. this kind of articles should be reviewed over and over again before it is released to the public.

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