CBS Spins TB Scare into Drug Industry Attack

The May 31 CBS "Evening News" spun a recent international health incident into ammunition for an attack on the pharmaceutical companies.After the program updated viewers on the tuberculosis scare caused by one infected man's European honeymoon, reporter Nancy Cordes launched into the blame game.

“Why haven’t more drugs been developed to fight disease with the potential to kill thousands?” asked Cordes, the CBS Transportation and Consumer Safety correspondent.

She then quoted a doctor who blamed the bottom line.

“Pharmaceutical companies live to make a profit and if antibiotics, for example, because they’re used for usually 7 to 14 days, maybe as long as a month, can’t generate the same kind of profits as a new cholesterol agent or the new Viagra, which a person might take for years,” said Dr. Eric Nuermberger, an assistant professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Nowhere in the CBS report, did Cordes include a drug industry response to that charge. But leaving the pharmaceutical industry out of stories on medical “controversies” or breakthroughs is not unusual.A Business & Media Institute study found that nearly 80 percent of those stories exclude the viewpoint of the industry, failing to include either a company statement or spokesman.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.