Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nightly News Gets A Gold Medal For Incompetence

It is incomprehensible that Brian Williams and his Nightly News producers would allow GlaxoSmithKline's Vesicare to sponsor the Feb. 19 "Making A Difference" segment about Hannah Teter's charitable work. Chris Jansing tells us that Teter's "Hannah's Gold" charity has been providing assistance to people in Kenya, including helping one village "buy land for a health clinic in an area ravaged by the AIDS epidemic." On her "Hannah's Gold" website, Teter says that she is focusing on buying "plots of land for homeless AIDS victims that we met in Kirindon, Kenya, the town that we've been sponsoring for three years." Her charity has "purchased home base care kits and trained home visitors in home care of HIV patients." Teter's charity is doing admirable work on behalf of people affected by AIDS in Africa. Meanwhile, GlaxoSmithKline and its predecessor companies spent years fighting to prevent low-cost AIDS drugs from being sold in Africa because that would have undercut their profit margin on the AIDS drugs they were already selling. In 2001, Glaxo actually sued Cipla, an Indian pharmaceutical company, to try to prevent them from introducing low-cost AIDS drugs into Ghana. And Glaxo refused to grant a license to other companies who wanted to manufacture a lower-priced generic version of those drugs to sell in Africa. For years, Glaxo fought to keep their own AIDS drugs from being sold at low prices. Glaxo even sued the South African government over the Medicines Act, which would have allowed the government to obtain inexpensive AIDS drugs. In 2003, an AIDS advocacy group sued Glaxo to attempt to force them to allow low-cost AIDS drugs into South Africa. South Africa's competition commission eventually found Glaxo guilty of anti-competitive behavior, a decision that finally paved the way for the introduction of generic AIDS drugs. In 2004, Glaxo was sued by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation over its AIDS drug pricing policies in South Africa. According to Michael Weinstein, AHF's president, "As a result of Glaxo's actions, thousands and thousands of South Africans were unable to afford or obtain Glaxo's life-saving AIDS drugs, and we believe thousands of those individuals have died of AIDS as a result." So while Hannah Teter is helping people affected by AIDS in Africa, Glaxo was actually responsible for thousands of AIDS-related deaths. Allowing GlaxoSmithKline to sponsor a "Making A Difference" segment about Hannah Teter's charitable work in Africa seems like some sort of cruel joke. Apparently, no one at Nightly News is the least bit concerned about the relationship between advertisers and the stories they sponsor. Shame on Brian Williams and his producers. They owe Hannah Teter an apology.

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