LYMEPOLICYWONK: CBS Lyme Story, A Tale of Conflicts of Interest & Bias
A CBS news story on Lyme disease has patients concerned about the misinformation that it promotes. On top of that, the story does not have the level of journalistic integrity that serious topics should have. For one thing, there is the title: “Lies and Truths”. Lies are statements that are known to be false that are told to intentionally deceive another person. Lies are not issues that are matters of scientific debate. When a science article title uses the word “Lies”, it tells the reader that it is not about science. Second, the article is a single source article. This means unlike most journalism and particularly good science journalism, there is no attempt to present different sides of the issue. One side, in fact, one person’s opinion is put forth as uncontested “truth” with no counterpoint. Third, the piece is edited by the Orly Avitzur, M.D., M.B.A., Editor-in-Chief of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). You may recall that the AAN was part of the antitrust investigation by the Connecticut Attorney General into the Lyme guideline development process by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. The reason?
After the antitrust investigation was launched the IDSA cited a spate of copycat guidelines, including a set by the AAN, as independent corroboration of its beleagured guidelines to support it legal position. Here’s what the Attorney General had to say about the AAN Lyme guidelines: “The IDSA portrayed another medical association’s Lyme disease guidelines as corroborating its own when it knew that the two panels shared several authors, including the chairmen of both groups, and were working on guidelines at the same time. In allowing its panelists to serve on both groups at the same time, IDSA violated its own conflicts of interest policy.” Who did Dr. Avitzur rely on as the source for her story? You guessed it. . .Someone who was not only a member of the IDSA Lyme guidelines panel, but also was the Chair of the AAN panel: Dr. John Halperin. How about disclosure of these interests so the public can assess whether the information in this article might be biased? Forget about it. So much for unbiased journalism.
The CBS story is available at: http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-204_162-10007902.html?tag=mncol;lst;1
Those interested in the role of the AAN in the antitrust investigation by the Connecticut Attorney General should read the article in Neurology Today: Guidelines on Trial: AAN Subpoenaed as Part of Investigation into Treatment Parameters for Lyme Disease. http://www.aan.com/elibrary/neurologytoday/?event=home.showArticle&id=ovid.com:/bib/ovftdb/00132985-200710160-00001