MS in the headlines
Jack Osbourne’s openness about his recent diagnosis has put MS in the media spotlight.
The coverage has heightened the awareness of the condition, which is often clouded in misconceptions.
But what about the day-to-day reporting on MS? More hype than hope?
The wild web
In our internet era, it is becoming even easier to come across misinformation, scare stories and miracle cures.
Some sites give an individual perspective that isn’t grounded in evidence, but this can catch out even the best of us when it’s shrouded in heavy science speak.
That’s why we joined the ‘Ask for evidence’ campaign last year – calling on everyone to demand better evidence for scientific claims. All of us can ask for evidence, and you don’t need a science degree to do it.
Sometimes the most basic questions are the most useful: who is saying it? How were conclusions reached? Was it a fair test? How big was the study?
We are all guilty of stopping at a headline – the truth is we don’t always read down to the small print.
That’s fine as long as we remember the science isn’t always as clear cut as a snappy one-liner suggests.
For getting to the bottom of what headlines really mean, the NHS's Behind the headlines is brilliant. It takes claims from the news and goes back to where the story came from, what the research involved and what it might really tell us.
Meanwhile, we’ve worked with Sense about Science to produce I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it, a useful guide for weighing up claims about cures and treatments.
I don’t know what to believe is another handy guide for anyone who follows medical news and wants to ask more questions.
The research road
So, headlines can be misleading, and on closer inspection the news doesn’t match up to the billing. An exciting report might be the results of an early stage lab study that doesn’t mean much for us in the here and now.
The research is likely to be solid, but the immediate implications for our healthcare can be limited.
And it’s often very difficult, even for researchers, to know what the repercussions of their work might be further down the line. Sometimes it’s a dead-end, another time it could be a breakthrough.
The story of Botox
Botox is a good example of the evolution of research around a treatment. Since its discovery over a hundred years ago, this naturally occurring toxin has been capitalised on for its ability to paralyse muscles.
More recently made famous for smoothing out wrinkles, Botox has gradually developed all sorts of uses in medicine - excessive sweating, muscle spasms and migraine being just a few.
We funded early studies into Botox and it has now been developed as a treatment for overactive bladder in MS, which is currently awaiting UK marketing approval.
It is also great to hear the recent news of a study looking at Botox for managing MS tremor. This promising work could pave the way for further trials that could position this drug with yet another application in MS.
All of us can ask for evidence, and you don’t need a science degree to do it.