NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Coverage Of Drug Benefits Does Not Present Complete Picture

June 29, 2000

News media coverage of drugs is less about their effectiveness and more about hype for the drug and its benefits, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers who sampled news coverage say the media do not present a complete picture. While news reports noted general information about the drugs, important specifics were often left out.

The study found:

  • Only 40 percent of the reporting covered more than the general positive benefits of the drugs; most left out such specifics as how many people were helped or how effective the drugs were.
  • Less than half (47 percent) of the stories mentioned potential side effects, and only 30 percent referred to the cost of the drugs.
  • Of those reports that cited expert or scientific evidence, less that 40 percent disclosed that the evidence was financed or supported by the drug's manufacturer.

News outlets can be serve a useful public service role in areas of health, experts say, as they did in communicating warnings about the connection between Reye's syndrome and the use of aspirin in children. However, this study concludes that current coverage too often leaves the public with inadequate information to make medical decisions involving the drugs.

Source: Ray Moynihan, et al., "Coverage By the News Media of the Benefits and Risks of Medications," New England Journal of Medicine, June 1, 2000.


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