‘Two life-changing cystic fibrosis drugs are rejected for routine use by the NHS in Scotland because of their cost.’
At 6.30pm yesterday, the headline and the opening statement are simplified for tabloid impact, incomplete, and thus inaccurate. The drugs have not been rejected in an absolute sense at all, as the screen message implies, but only for routine use. The drugs have not been rejected because of their cost but because there was insufficient evidence of their effectiveness.
The report then allows a single parent to express disappointment before telling us:
Two cystic fibrosis medicines that are described as lifechanging by campaigners will not be made routinely available on the NHS in Scotland. The Scottish Medicines Consortium that recommends which drugs should be funded said it had heard powerful testimonies about the potential benefits of Orkambi and Symkevi (?) but said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to justify the costs of the medicines.
What ‘routinely available’ actually means is not explained nor are the SMC allowed to explain their decision. STV do allow that. Might we not expect such a group to have an evidence-based argument for their decision to balance the understandably emotional accounts of one or two parents? Surely, we could be told just what ‘insufficient evidence’ means?
In their place we get an extended single case with Lisa Summers then we meet a group of campaigners then we get an interview with one campaigner.
In total we have six excerpts with unqualified parents and campaigners or reporters using their words (‘lifechanging’) against two from medics, short and unemphasised, but none actually with qualified medics. Where is the balance that journalists love to talk of?
After a quick mention of the cost of the drugs, Lisa finishes with:
Historically people with cystic fibrosis can face a considerably shortened life. Treatments like this give hope that the condition will be halted while the hunt goes on to find a cure.
This rounds off a report which began with emotional drama and lies, which had four unqualified sources and no medical ones, and which referred to lack of evidence for the drugs and the (enormous) cost of the drugs, only quickly in passing.
Readers might remember Reporting Scotland disgracefully describing NHS Tayside’s Oncology department as ‘dysfunctional’ when no one else had done so, only to discover, too late, a St Andrews professor who disproved the notion. Once again Reporting Scotland are prepared to exploit any personal trauma in an attempt to politicise it.