Media

Dec 20, 2017

How media reporting can prompt health scares

A 7.30 story on long-acting contraceptives influenced women to cancel their implants -- an example of the media's influence on people's health decisions.

Emily Watkins — Media reporter

Emily Watkins

Media reporter

When the ABC’s 7.30 program ran a story about some pretty awful side effects from long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), a number of women immediately cancelled their appointments to have devices implanted in the following days.

In 7.30‘s story, two women described their painful side effects and trouble in getting doctors to remove the devices, while an expert commented on the influence of big pharma on prescribing drugs to patients, with reporter Sophie Scott introducing the idea by saying, “There are concerns the medical fraternity is too eager to prescribe the devices because drug companies are spending up big on promotions.” One comment was included towards the end by Dr Amber Moore from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who said the devices were safe as a contraceptive, and reversible. 

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10 comments

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10 thoughts on “How media reporting can prompt health scares

  1. old greybearded one

    The media frequently get the science wrong. The issue here is that some women have had very bad side effects and that this was not being brought forward. It is the job of the media to highlight this. The ABC and statins is tricky. There is not good evidence in support of the very high level of statin prescription, but undoubtedly there is good reason to take the for many patients. Similarly, the antidepressants known as SSRIs only work better than placebo in 20-25% of cases. They can also have horrendous side effects including suicide, but who knows this? I also remember the fatal results of reliance on COX2 inhibitors. Big pharma is very good at hiding adverse trials, so the media must act. Sometimes however they forget to explain how great the risk really is.

  2. Roger Clifton

    Fear sells newspapers. It is not in the interests of the media to expose scaremongering. Fukushima became a newsman’s festival of malice, with thousands dead from stress while no one died from radiation.

    1. AR

      Dodger – still parroting Blot’s B/S but wrong article.

    2. dennis

      Good on you dodger, with uranium, coal, climate heating, Arctic oil drilling, that should kill off all the people stressing out about it, so you blokes in a few years should have nothing to complain about. Only good times ahead for you blokes. I want to live, so no more leftie BS for me, through the haze that is not there i can see the light at last.

  3. AR

    I think that crossed legs is still 100% safe.
    When further work is done on female pheromone response, the supposed 24/7 sexual availability of women will be relegated to the depths, full fathom seven.

  4. klewso

    It’s not just “health” – it’s a manifestation of the malaise affecting much of our navel lint obsessed media?
    For me it seems too many patronising supercilious ‘presenters’ (not least ABC) seem to see their role as being one of using their positions to push their personal politics and opinions under the guise of “trying to work out for the public” what things mean – refracted through the prism of their own prejudices.
    To start at their eventual destination and work back, collecting facts that support, legitimise and justify their scenario : ignoring that which contradicts it?
    When that 14 month old story of Dastyari was rehashed with a couple of extra speculations :- “he’d tipped off Huang that he was being bugged”? Was Dastyari briefed re Huang’s status? Or could he have been making an off-the-cuff remark, after what just he’d been through?
    Who in our media was interested in such things as “who leaked, and why, at that particular phase of the Bennelong by-election cycle – so serendipitous to Turnbull’s needs”? While Homer Dutton was not held up to explain his branding someone – not charged by ASIO – a double agent?
    Too often “peripheral facets/additional information” about an issue don’t interest them in the narrative they are intent on selling and the agenda they are pushing as they edit our view of a bigger picture?
    Take the likes of Sales and Alberici – it doesn’t matter how many experts they get to interview, who contradict the actions of this their doted Limited News Party (eg economics, climate change, science, education, IR) they will indulge the assertions of this government : while taking a cynical view of Labor’s, or the Greens?

    [A couple of weeks ago The Business did a comparison in light of the assertions of what Turnbull-Morrison and their donor puppet-masters at the likes of the BCA were spruiking about “Australia’s exorbitantly (in comparison to other countries) restrictive corporate tax rate” of 30% – reporting that many companies don’t pay any tax; and that our 30% is about middle range, less than that of the US 35% : but a couple of nights later Alberici (who on a Lateline “promo” told us that she didn’t watch Tony Jones episodes : as if she knows all she needs/her personal fact portfolio is full?) was peddling the Limited News Party/BCA line on “how high our company tax rates are compared to other countries”?]

  5. dennis

    In 2013, a widely-criticised Catalyst two-part program on the ABC was dedicated to the over-prescription of heart medication statins. Two years later, researchers estimated that 60,000 Australians had stopped taking the drug, which they said could have resulted in between 1522 and 2900 fatal heart attacks………. There you go “could have resulted” how many earning over half a million a year, are going to tell the truth, any way Klewso explained it very well.

    1. Roger Clifton

      Dennis — An editor’s first responsibility is to “sell newspapers”. This puts pressure on editors to keep popular bogies alive so that we keep buying newspapers. It is our own taste for frisson that keeps an ugly story current and its victims dying. But we need our journos to have gotten their facts right (and pay lip service to any counter argument in balance), so that in thoughtful moments we can read between the lines. That was the problem with the Catalyst story. Not that it lacked passion, but that it was rough with the truth and lacked balance of expert opinion.

  6. [email protected]

    Memo to Michelle Guthrie:

    Dear Ms former Murdoch executive,

    So you’ve canned the highly regarded Lateline but kept Leigh Sales-rep and the 7:30 Report.

    I rarely bother with “7:30” these days: if I wanted to watch tabloid current affairs I’d tune into 7’s Today Tonight. At least it doesn’t pretend to be more than pure entertainment.

    Scaring the bejesus out of viewers with pseudo-science shouldn’t be a core ABC objective: or have I missed a fatwa from Malcolm’s mates on the ABC Board?

    Or is it because the anti-Vaccers (or whatever ideology they subscribe to) who comprehensively destroyed the reputation of Catalyst have found a niche at 7:30?

    Or is the intention to drive previously loyal ABC viewers ((& listeners) to Murdoch platforms like Sky?

    Now that would make a lovely Christmas present for Lachlan and James, not to mention a certain US citizen who somehow still exerts an inordinate amount of influence in Canberra…

  7. Lesley Graham

    My issue here is that there is too much testosterone in this thread. I don’t really think that most men really understand the problems that women have put up with since the “magic pill,” that was designed to give us choices & control as a side effect more manageable periods etc. With this “gain” a whole attitude that “you’ve been offered a quick fix stop whingeing about it & get on with it” seems to play into the “mejia’s reporting”. Most men can never conceive of the pain, embarrassment the missed opportunities & expense that women in our society are often stuck with because of our gender & biology) How many men realise that our government charges a gst on feminine hygiene products, as they are classed as “luxury goods,” the hypocrisy is mind numbing. We need to remember that a reasonable percentage of adult women have struggled over the years due to problems that either contraceptives cause or exacerbate underlying issues. Having experienced the nightmare that is endometriosis, which was visited on me throughout my adult life & following on the subsequent autoimmune process that now controls my body. I was lucky enough to have a great gynie/surgeon who understood & made my operations & recoveries a bit more bearable, but it also rendered me unable to have children (but that’s another story) We need to start recognising that birth control & the ongoing problems that women experience need to be taken seriously, there are far too many women that have to tolerate & endure not only the pain & stigma of a silent disease/problem but add in the dismissive attitudes of the many male driven interactions that have some stake in their situation or lives (whether it be some well meaning but patronising, boss, family member, partner, etc to an insensitive off the cuff remark by a GP/medical professional etc). I like many women believe much of the problems that women have had to endure around contraception/family planning & the issues that most men would unlikely have heard of, with their sum total of knowledge being around contraception as a preventative around unwanted pregnancy/sexual health(& may be)aiding women with their “plumbing problems, ” that is it. May I be bold enough to suggest if big pharma, have gotten out of the way & actually been serious about resolving many of the problems that arise, rather than focusing on the $$$$’s.(I’m stepping out on a limb here) I’ve no doubt in my mind that if this had been a predominantly male medical problem, it would have been resolved years ago, with the least amount of mess & stress!!!! We need to remember the pill is nearly 60 years old, the days of being forced into having yet more babies, that people couldn’t afford to feed or keep are well in our societies rear view vision mirror. There however is still a reluctance to accept that women are still handed the lion’s share of the contraceptive responsibility within their relationships & there are still those of us that are too sensitive for the chemical laden cocktails that big pharma & the medical response to this “adult” responsibility, they insist these as the “correct or right” approach. Our society needs to take up the mantle of this particular issue & start accepting that to little has been done in the time since the public drive to allow couples & women to manage their own reproductive health. I would suggest that this conversation that 7.30 had is important, because the message is being muddied by too many people with too many agendas, which creates problems of its own making (due to ignorance & the need to judge outside of one’s area of experience or field of knowledge) one of which the media needs to be careful around what it portrays & what message that they’re really trying to get across.

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