Physicians not immune from adopting views from faulty news stories

LETTER — Posted May 8, 2006

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Regarding "Study shows flaws in TV news health stories" (Article, April 3): One critical issue not addressed is the degree to which physicians obtain their health information from television news.

Some years ago, several studies indicated an association between cardiac health, longevity and red wine intake. The media presumed a causal effect -- a possible but highly implausible explanation. It wasn't long before patients were coming in to our office stating that their doctor had told them that two to three glasses of red wine per day were fine. This was despite thousands of papers indicating the potential risks of such behavior.

It is more critical than ever in these times of rapid online and media distribution of misinformation that we attend to the literature, reading it closely to tease out potential bias, then assist in redirecting media pundits whenever they inaccurately interpret scientific data.

Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, New York

Editor's note: Dr. Gitlow is chair of the AMA's Action Team on Alcohol and Health.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/05/08/edlt0508.htm.

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