COMMENTS: Land of Nod

Last Friday (text link), when the FDA publicized risks associated with Procrit and similar medicines, we argued that the network newscasts have an obligation to go out of their way to report on potential problems with the prescription drugs that are heavily advertised during their timeslot. Back then ABC and NBC did the right thing, CBS only mentioned the warnings in passing. Now the FDA has turned to Ambien, Lunesta and eleven other sleeping pills. Again, CBS failed to assign a reporter to the warnings. But NBC went overboard in the other direction. Surely, the risks of extreme sleepwalking do not warrant lead status!

NBC's Tom Costello sat behind the wheel of his car to alert a few of the patients who take these pills that "sleep driving, cooking while asleep, even making phone calls while asleep" may occur. Costello quoted Ambien as arguing that the side effect is rare, found in fewer than one patient in 1,000--which seems reassuring until the volume of prescriptions is factored in, 42m annually. ABC's Lisa Stark passed on the drugmakers' instructions: pill poppers should "stick to the recommended dose and avoid alcohol."


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