Reviews Press

Fix for low sex drive puts reporters in a bad patch

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 25 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1294
  1. Ray Moynihan (, visiting editor
  1. BMJ

    Stories about the testosterone patch are a case study in misleading media coverage

    As the debate over the safety of new anti-arthritis drugs rolls around the world, the gap between marketing messages and scientific truths becomes clearer by the day. The estimated toll of heart attacks associated with Merck's rofecoxib (Vioxx) mounts; questions about other COX 2 inhibitors arise; and the drug companies and regulators are rightly being criticised and investigated. Now is a good time for rigorous scrutiny of the media's role in initially boosting this new class of anti-arthritis drugs: the record will show that many reporters seemed simply to reproduce the marketing hype in their stories.

    Yet even while this debacle continues, another case study in misleading media coverage around the world is fast emerging: many of the articles about the experimental testosterone patch for women look more like marketing fiction than rigorous journalism. In their search for sexy stories some media outlets are exaggerating the benefits of the patch, inflating the potential pool of patients, playing down well established harms, and ignoring important conflicts …

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