Networks Bash GlaxoSmithKline After Avandia Study

Last night the rhetorical attack on Avandia was fierce.

"We're starting with a story that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans because a new study out today says a drug they take increases their chances of having a heart attack and dying," warned CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric.

ABC's John McKenzie said, "Some doctors warn this could become one of the country's biggest drug catastrophes in recent memory."

And NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams stated, "A new study out tonight says in effect taking the drug might lead to some fatal consequences."

All those May 21 evening reports were talking about GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia - a drug to treat Type 2 diabetes - and overly emphasized the possible negative side effects found in a recent study.

But the author of the study, Dr. Steven Nissen told CBS viewers not to panic:

"I do not want our study to lead to a public panic," said Nissen, adding "Patients should not stop taking the drug on the basis of a news report."

The drug manufacturer GSK's responses were limited in the broadcasts, and left out this crucial point. "Avandia has a cardiovascular safety profile comparable to other oral anti-diabetic medicines."

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.