Front page pill pushers
Naomi Marks describes how the media are complicit in drug marketing
The lay media have long come under attack for not adequately scrutinising the information emerging from Big Pharma about new prescription drugs, but now they stand accused of helping to publicise and promote drug company products. In a hardhitting article in the current issue of the prestigious US periodical the Columbia Journalism Review, the press is criticised, in its coverage of drug industry matters, for failing as a public watchdog. ‘Americans have always been obsessed with all things health-related,’ says the article, ‘but today a drug can move almost instantaneously from medical research to miracle cure through news media that too often seem more interested in hype and hope than in critically appraising new drugs on behalf of the public’ (www.cjr.org/issues/2005/4/lieberman.asp).
The article's author, Trudy Lieberman, who is health policy editor of US watchdog organisation Consumers Union, blames various factors. In short, she says, journalists all too often fail to: