Pubdate: Wed, 11 Aug 2004
Source: Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC)
Copyright: 2004 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Michale Mithoefer, M.D.
Bookmark: (Ecstasy)


Thank you for printing a correction of your story of Aug. 4 about my
research with MDMA ("Ecstasy"). You have now made it clear that I have not
been "giving my patients Ecstasy for months," and that I have been
administering MDMA only as part of a carefully controlled,
government-approved study. You have also pointed out that the original
article, which referred to concerns about toxicity in recreational "Ecstasy"
users, failed to mention the FDA-approved studies that have found no serious
adverse events and no evidence of neurotoxicity in subjects administered
pure MDMA under medical supervision. It is important that people understand
the difference between potential medical use, which may prove to be
therapeutic under certain circumstances, and recreational use, which can be
dangerous, even fatal.

I would also like to register my opinion about a broader problem with the
media that was manifested in the Aug. 4 article but is certainly not unique
to The Post and Courier. I was not in favor of any local coverage of our
study until it is completed. I told the reporter this; however, I understand
that the press has a responsibility to make editorial decisions
independently. With this responsibility comes the responsibility to consider
the impact of the way those decisions are carried out.

What particularly bothers me is that when I spoke to Mr. Maze on the phone,
his explanation for his misleading, front-page paragraph was that he was
"just trying to get people hooked in" so they'd read the rest. The feedback
I have gotten resulting from this journalistic method is that (in addition
to a number of crank phone calls) at least 20 people have said things like,
"You must be really upset about that article! Isn't it typical of the way
the paper presents things!" I think this is a great shame. There was useful
information in the article, but it was overshadowed by the sensationalistic
and misleading introduction and the unbalanced presentation of the science
(which I imagine was the result of insufficient research, not biased
intent). My plea is that the media focus less on "drawing us in" and more on
informing us accurately.

A final thought: I know that dealing with the media comes with the territory
of doing controversial research, and I accept the attendant challenges. What
often seems to be forgotten is that we're studying a disorder that is
causing untold suffering to millions of people every day.

Our subjects, who have failed to respond to existing treatments, are
volunteering to help us search for better ones. This is no trivial matter
for them or for others with the same problem. They deserve a respectful
approach to reporting on this research, particularly in a local paper that
is apt to be read by them and their families.


Mount Pleasant
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