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"A pill to make you smarter"

Vancouver Sun

Source: Vancouver Sun

Published: 13 Jan 2022

Category: Pharmaceutical

Rating: (1½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

It would be hard to imagine improving on the intelligence of computer engineer Bjoern Stenger, a doctoral candidate at Cambridge University. Yet for several hours, a pill seemed to make him even brainier.

Participating in a research project, Stenger downed a green gelatin cap containing a drug called modafinil. Within an hour, his attention sharpened. So did his memory. He aced a series of mental- agility tests. If his brainpower would normally rate a 10, the drug raised it to 15, he said.

"I was quite focused," said Stenger. "It was also kind of fun."

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 2 of 9
Availability of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Not Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Not Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Not Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of Harms of Treatment Not Applicable

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

The edgy subject matter of this article - smart drugs - is likely to draw in a significant number of readers. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to find the much needed discussion of the complex ethical and biomedical considerations that regulators, researchers and users face in determining the legitimacy of offering these potentially harmful pharmaceuticals to healthy individuals.

There is no description of the types of studies that have been done, the magnitude of the effect, the potential side effects (short-term or long-term) - with the exception subtle mental change - or the costs. This fluffy article frames poorly understood neuro-active drugs as society's next caffeine. This is an uncritical examination of the possible market expansion of drugs intended for patients suffering from serious diseases (and therefore more likely to accept a greater risk of treatment harm) to be made available to healthy individuals who will have a much lower tolerance to potential damage.

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