Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Express headline 'wildly misleading'

The front of today's Daily Express claimed 'Statins halt Alzheimer's':

As ever when the Express leads on such stories, it's always worth skipping straight to the end of the article first. It's only here that Jo Willey reveals:

Dr Simon Ridley, of the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Overall evidence suggests that statins like Simvastatin do not benefit people with dementia, but this suggests the timing of treatment could be vital. Many experts believe that treatments for ­dementia will be most beneficial if given very early in the disease process.

“While these new findings are valuable, the benefits are shown in mice and we don’t know how they will bear out in humans. There is a real need to push on with research that will boost early detection and help sufferers get more benefit from treatments.”


Study leader Dr Hamel agrees more research is needed to prove if humans could benefit.

So 'Statins halt Alzheimers' eventhough we don't know if these results would apply to humans.

The NHS Behind the Headlines analysis says:

These attention-grabbing claims could easily lead readers to assume there has been a major breakthrough in the fight to cure Alzheimer’s disease. However, they are based on a small laboratory study which used mice that were bred to display signs of Alzheimer’s...

Even though these seem like positive results in mice, research has already looked directly at whether statins can stop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in humans. For example, two recent high-quality reviews of research into statins and dementia suggest that there is no evidence that statins provide any specific benefit to humans with Alzheimer’s. While the new research suggests that the timing of statin use may allow it to have an effect, the evidence is far from conclusive and this would need to be explored further in a laboratory.

Given the limitations of this research and the uncertainty over its results, the headline “Statins halt Alzheimer’s” is wildly misleading.


Newspaper headlines about this research were generally misleading and suggested that it directly applies to humans. Most media reports took a few paragraphs, and in some cases half the article, to inform readers of the key fact that this research was carried out in mice and not humans. While the Daily Express’ headline suggests that statins have been proven to “halt Alzheimer’s”, this is not justified by the newly published research. In fact, the current body of high-quality research on this topic suggests the opposite is true.

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