The tuberculosis scare led all three major network news broadcasts on May 31. But CBS “Evening News” pointed fingers at one of the network’s favorite targets, the pharmaceutical industry.
Reporter Nancy Cordes compared the lack of vaccinations and treatments of this specific strain of tuberculosis to other “fast-moving infectious diseases,” including SARS, West Nile Virus and Avian Flu.
She followed with the blame game. “Why haven’t more drugs been developed to fight disease with the potential to kill thousands?” asked Cordes, the network’s Transportation and Consumer Safety correspondent.
“Pharmaceutical companies live to make a profit and if antibiotics, for example, because they’re used for usually 7 to 14 days, maybe as long as a month, can’t generate the same kind of profits as a new cholesterol agent or the new Viagra, which a person might take for years,” said Dr. Eric Nuermberger, an assistant professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The Associated Press reported that only two other patients with this drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis have been treated at National Jewish Hospital since 2000. With only three cases documented in the last seven years, it would be difficult for the pharmaceutical industry have developed vaccination and treatment for this specific strain. That was a point CBS did not make.
The CBS story also neglected to include a response from the pharmaceutical industry about its development of medications for infectious diseases.
However, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHRMA) points out such products are not that easy to develop. There are various hurdles that must be cleared. PHRMA stated new medicines used to treat these diseases “are the result of medical research and development that can take as long as 15 years and cost nearly $1 billion to bring a new medicine from the laboratory to a pharmacy shelf.”
A Business & Media Institute study found while covering everything from medical “controversies” to breakthroughs, nearly 80 percent of the stories excluded the viewpoint of the pharmaceutical industry, failing to include either a company statement or a company spokesman.