Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pfizer Pulls Nightly News's Puppet Strings

On Wednesday, Nightly News aired a report about health concerns associated with the weight loss drug Meridia. Robert Bazell told us that Meridia was ineffective (people lost an average of only five pounds) and dangerous (there was a 16% increase in heart attacks and strokes among its users). Bazell also told us that an FDA advisory panel recommended that Meridia be pulled from the market or severely restricted. It sounds like a pretty bad drug. But who was really behind this report? The story was sponsored by Toviaz, a Pfizer product. Pfizer is a direct competitor of Abbott (Meridia's manufacturer) and recently attempted to develop their own weight loss drug but abandoned it in the trial phase. To what extent was Pfizer allowed to influence the story about Meridia? Did Pfizer provide Bazell with any of his information? Was Pfizer consulted for input on this story by the Nightly News producers? Allowing Pfizer to sponsor any story related to the pharmaceutical industry is a major conflict of interest. Allowing them to sponsor a negative story about a drug they attempted to compete with is unethical. By running this story, Nightly News did a huge favor for their pals at Pfizer. Pfizer paid NBC for the privilege of sponsoring the Meridia story, and in exchange for that payment, Nightly News ran a negative story. Simply put, Pfizer bought the right to trash one of their competitors. It is unbelievable that the Nightly News producers would allow this to happen. But hardly surprising. Nightly News has a history of running stories that are favorable to their big pharmaceutical sponsors, especially Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline. Brian Williams and his producers go out of their way to report positive stories about their sponsors' products, and also go out of their way to report negative stories about their sponsors' competitors. This is not just inappropriate, it's corrupt.

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