Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nancy Snyderman Protects NBC Sponsors

Shame on Dr. Nancy Snyderman for protecting Nightly News sponsors. During Tuesday's story about the FDA warning for Proton Pump Inhibitors (like Prevacid, Nexium and Prilosec), Snyderman went out of her way to downplay the dangerous side effects of these drugs. She made it sound as if there was no reason for concern, as if the warning would affect only a very small group of people--those over 50 who are on a high prescription dose and have been using the drug for over a year. Just check with your doctor if you get a chance--no big deal. The FDA doesn't issue warnings lightly and this needs to be taken much more seriously than Snyderman indicated. And when Brian asked her about some of the name brands involved, the only one she mentioned was Prilosec. That's not surprising. Over the past two weeks, Prevacid and Nexium have advertised on Nightly News; Prilosec has not. Snyderman made sure to mention only the PPI drug that was not a recent Nightly News sponsor. I expect Brian Williams, Robert Bazell and Tom Costello to bend over backwards to protect Nightly News sponsors. But I don't expect that from Snyderman. As a physician, she acted completely inappropriately.

UPDATE: The day after Snyderman's story on PPIs, Prilosec ran an ad on Nightly News. Obviously, the fact that Snyderman specifically mentioned Prilosec as one of the drugs in the FDA warning caused them to advertise on Nightly News. After all, the way to fight bad publicity is with advertising. So Snyderman's story actually had the effect of adding advertising to Nightly News's coffers. Well done.

By the way, The CBS Evening News ran the PPI story on their May 10 broadcast. So Nightly News waited more than two weeks to run their version of this story. And on Thursday, Nightly News finally reported on the recall of Johnson & Johnson products, a story CBS ran more than three weeks earlier (on May 4). Why is Nightly News waiting so long to air stories about drug recalls? A skeptical person might say they are delaying these reports in order to give their advertisers time to prepare a defense and dispute the accusations. Or perhaps they delay these reports in the hope that the controversies will blow over, in which case they may be able to get away with not reporting the stories at all. Or by putting the stories off for weeks, they become old news that is not as urgent as the current stories that pop up in the news cycle--and current news trumps old news (so again the drug recall stories get buried and therefore not reported). But that's just what a skeptic might say. Good thing I'm not a skeptic.

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