Brian Williams and his producers have again shown that they are truly the drug companies' best friends. On Wednesday, Robert Bazell couldn't wait to tell us that GlaxoSmithKline's Avodart may soon be approved to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, in addition to its currently approved use for shrinking non-cancerous enlargements of the prostate. And Bazell could barely contain his joy at announcing that the FDA is now allowing AstraZeneca to market their "blockbuster drug" Crestor to millions of people with normal cholesterol levels. When there's good news for the large pharmaceutical companies (especially Glaxo), Nightly News announces it quickly and loudly. But when the news isn't so good, well--that's a different story. Last month, the U.S. Senate released a report stating that the diabetes drug Avandia (made by Glaxo) has been linked to heart attacks and heart disease. Furthermore, according to the report, Glaxo failed to warn patients about the dangers of Avandia and attempted to cover up the link between Avandia and heart disease. To protect Glaxo, Brian and his producers buried this story on a Saturday (when fewer people are watching the broadcast). Their Avandia story clocked in at under two minutes, much less time than the other networks devoted to it. During her report, Nancy Snyderman, NBC's chief medical editor, only mentioned GlaxoSmithKline twice, and the second time it was only by the initials "GSK". The Glaxo logo never once appeared on screen. (During Wednesday's story about Avodart, the Glaxo logo appeared on screen twice in large letters). But at least Nightly News reported the Avandia story. On Feb. 18, it was revealed that the zinc in Poligrip (also a Glaxo product) was causing some users to experience numbness in their extremities and to have trouble walking. Glaxo announced that they will be pulling the product from the market until they can manufacture a zinc-free formula. Brian Williams did not even bother to report this story (although Katie Couric did). Once again, Brian and his producers did Glaxo a favor by squelching a negative story about one of their products.
Postscript: On Friday, two days after Nightly News reported their glowing story about Avodart, Glaxo's Vesicare sponsored the "Making A Difference" segment. Are we supposed to believe that these events are unrelated? Clearly, this is a case of "You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours."