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Use of superlatives in news articles on cardiac drugs

Jaiswal, Dev
Ottwell, Ryan
Wildes, Daniel E., Jr.
Douglas, Amber
Vassar, Matt
Background: Superlatives are exaggerated expressions that are often used by writers to inflate the benefit of drugs and medical devices. News articles containing superlatives have the potential to mislead consumers' and health care providers' perception of a drug's effectiveness or its potential harm. The primary objective of this study is to evaluate the presence of superlatives in news articles covering drugs in the field of cardiology.
Methods: We searched Google News for news articles published over a four-day period (September 1, 2019 to September 5th, 2019). The following superlative terms were searched: breakthrough, game changer, miracle, cure, home run, revolutionary, transformative, life- saving, groundbreaking, and marvel. Articles were reviewed and data was extracted for all news articles in a duplicate, blinded fashion.
Results: Twenty-three unique news articles were included in our study which contained 29 instances of superlative use. Ten drugs from 7 drug classes were associated with superlative use. The most common drug associated with superlative use was Inclisiran, a PCSK9 Inhibitor, with 15 instances in 10 articles. Over a quarter of the drugs in this study did not have FDA Approval (3/11).
Conclusion: We demonstrated that superlatives are commonly used in news articles covering a variety of cardiovascular medications. Superlatives have the potential to influence a reader's opinion of a specific drug and its relation to current medical care. We provide recommendations that readers exercise caution when reading news articles containing this sensational style of writing.