Couric Parrots Liberal Complaints About 'Free Lunch' from Pharma for Docs

Why is it that a page from Katie Couric's "Notebook" is often cribbed from the left-wing playbook? [Check here for a real eye-roller from June 2007] In her October 25 "Notebook" item at her Couric & Co. blog, the "CBS Evening News" anchor parroted the complaints of a left-wing group that finds scandalous the practice of doctors getting freebies from pharmaceutical companies.:

We all know the saying, 'there's no such thing as a free lunch,' but not if you're a doctor. Every year drug makers spend almost $7 billion in lunches, dinners, travel fees and gifts to doctors. That's on top of the estimated $18 billion in free drug samples they give them. We talked with Rob Restuccia of the Prescription Project, which studies potential conflicts of interest between drug makers and doctors. He says there's a high correlation between the prescribing of particular drugs and gifts to those physicians...[...]It may be a bitter pill for some drug companies but when doctors receive free lunches, it's their patients who often pay the price.

Of course, if your doctor is unprofessional enough to compromise his medical judgment over one meal at Red Lobster, you've got bigger problems on your hands, but on the whole it's ludicrous to suggest that most physicians do so. Of course Couric was uninterested in any rebuttal from pharmaceutical companies or doctors who have found working lunches with drug company representatives helpful to learning about new drugs on the market. What's more, Couric failed to note the liberal leanings of the Prescription Project, supported financially by the liberal Pew Charitable Trusts and led by a group called Community Catalyst, which supports expanding the SCHIP insurance program, among other liberal policy positions.Indeed, Prescription Project's Restuccia has his own share of liberal bona fides. For example, his profile on his Web site notes he was named "Families USA Health Care Advocate of the Year Award." Families USA is of course another left-wing advocacy group. In 1994 it backed Hillary Clinton's health care plan.While Couric seemed to only take issue with doctors dining with drug company salesmen, she did toss out the $18 million statistic about drug samples, as though in and of itself they were suspect.I've written previously at BusinessandMedia.org about how CNN once took stock in left-wing criticism of free drug samples.:

Those free samples your doctor gives when you’re sick are a symptom of an “amoral” market-based health care system, argues a left-leaning doctor. But to the crew of CNN’s “In the Money,” Dr. Jerome Kassirer of Tufts University is just a concerned doctor trying to improve the quality of medicine in America, even though he’s a liberal critic of private health care and, according to the Federal Election Commission, donated to the Howard Dean and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) campaigns.“Feel like you see a drug ad every time you turn on the TV? Well consider this, only about 10 percent of pharmaceutical marketing dollars go to advertising according to our next guest,” teased “In the Money” co-host Jennifer Westhoven on the February 18 program, adding that the other 90 percent goes to wining and dining doctors, according to Kassirer, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

For more on the media's bias against pharmaceutical companies, check out my March 2007 study co-written with Business & Media Institute managing editor Amy Menefee, "Prescription For Bias: Networks Downplay Drug Costs, Treat Medicine as Entitlement."

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters