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The recent publication of the Dry Eye Assessment and Management Study (DREAM) study has some dry eye specialists questioning what is being reported in follow-up articles.1 In the DREAM report, the National Institute of Health (NIH) reported that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements is no better than placebo for dry eye.2 One headline claims omega-3 fatty acid supplements ineffective in treating dry eye disease.3
The DREAM study found 61 percent of participants in the omega-3 group and 54 percent of those in the control group achieved at least a 10-point improvement in their symptom score, but the difference between the groups was not statistically significant.
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“We were surprised that the omega-3 supplements had no beneficial effect,” says Vatinee Y. Bunya, MD, DREAM principal investigator for the clinical center at the University of Pennsylvania.
This conclusion is drawn because the treatment group and control group were not statistically different.
So, how can ODs determine if the information in lay media covering study results are real or not? You need to get the source, read it, and make up your own mind.
Follow these four steps to critique study coverage before you assume the headline is true.
1. Format matters
Study reports are formatted with an abstract (summary), introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references. When you look at an article, determine if the journal is peer-reviewed.
Peer-reviewed journals are considered the best for publication because they undergo a rigorous process for quality. The submitted manuscript is read by one or more experts in the field without knowing the identity of the authors. Reviewers evaluated the article for strength of publication and recommend it be published, edited, or rejected.
The authors may then edit as requested and resubmit their article for an additional review. While peer-reviewed articles are held to a higher standard, they are not perfect.
1. The Dry Eye Assessment and Management Study Research Group. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for treatment of dry eye disease. N Engl J Med. 2018; 378:1681-1690.
2. National Institute of Health. Omega-3s from fish oil supplements no better than placebo for dry eye. Available at: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/omega-3s-fish-oil-suppleme.... Accessed 5/24/18.
3. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. New study finds omega-3 fatty acid supplements ineffective in treating dry eye disease. Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-04/uops-nsf041118.php. Accessed 5/24/18.
4. Georgia State University Library. Literature Reviews: Types of Clinical Study Designs. Available at: http://research.library.gsu.edu/c.php?g=115595&p=755213. Accessed 5/24/18.