COMMENTS: Fettucine Alfredo & Grandpa Alfredo

Because so much of the network newscasts' income is derived from selling pharmaceuticals advertising and because so many members of their audience belong to the older demographic among whom medicine use is most frequent, it is imperative that they should cover prescription drug stories--especially ones that put the advertised brands in a bad light.

Thus anchor Katie Couric did the right thing on CBS when she personally led the newscast with the news that Zetia, an ingredient in the heart medication Vytorin, actually increased the levels of dangerous plaque in patients' arteries. Couric reminded her viewers which drug that was--the "heavily marketed" one with the "clever commercials." To their credit both NBC's Tom Costello and ABC's John McKenzie covered the research too. Costello credited its advertising campaign with helping Vytorin's makers, Merck and Schering-Plough, grab 20% of the $22bn anti-cholesterol market, with 800,000 patients popping the pill each day. McKenzie called Vytorin "among the most promoted medications" and raised the question of why it took so long for the results to be released. "The clinical trial was completed almost two years ago."


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