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How a Copywriter Reads a Clinical Paper

What key elements you need to consider in a clinical paper (Article written November 18th 2021)

How a Copywriter Reads a Clinical Paper

Every drug has its core clinical papers, and usually a set of ‘less important but maybe useful/interesting’ ones that need to be assessed. For a copywriter, this often means that, at least at the outset of a project, you are faced with a ring-binder full of papers to work your way through. So it goes without saying, that a good scanning technique is a vital tool to be able to get a quick grasp of the strength and breadth of data supporting a particular drug.

This is how I go about it, but there are no doubt other, equally valid approaches.

As an example, for the purposes of writing this article, I have used a study that was published in 2014 here. The study looked at real-world clinical outcomes in multiple sclerosis patients in order to ascertain the ‘value’ of treating with disease-modifying-drugs (DMDs) – either immunomodulatory (IM) or immunosuppressant (IS).

Step 1 – establish the broad credibility and veracity of the study

1.1 Go right to the end and check to see if there were any commercial sponsors: that may nuance slightly the veracity of the data – and the word ‘nuance’ is important here as I am not suggesting that company-sponsored studies are any less rigorous than non-sponsored trials! But it can sometimes be thrown back at you as an objection, so it’s important to be aware of it.

1.2 Where was it published? Is it an obscure journal or more mainstream? This is important because most authors would love their studies to be published in high profile, respected medical journals, but of course that depends on the ‘strength’ of the study. In this case, the Multiple Sclerosis Journal is a credible, disease-specific publication that is endorsed by leading MS research groups such as ECTRIMS and ACTRIMS.

You can also search for the Impact Factor of the journal which will provide you with a measure of its importance or rank based on the frequency its articles are cited. In the case of the MSJ, its impact factor of 5.649 places it in the top 7% of all journals – so very respectable, although admittedly not at the dizzy heights of the NEJM or The Lancet.

To read the full article click here

2nd March 2022


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