ABC and CBS Give No Credit to Novartis

     Both ABC and CBS evening news programs praised a new drug that could save lives threatened by osteoporosis. But they didn’t say what company spent years and millions of dollars developing it.


     ABC “World News” anchor Charles Gibson called it “promising news.”


     “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric agreed, saying the new drug “may be just what the doctor ordered” for the 10 million Americans living with the disease.


     The wonder drug hailed by both “Evening News” and “World News with Charles Gibson” on May 2 is zoledronic acid.


     It is sold under the brand names Reclast and Zometa. But neither CBS nor ABC mentioned the maker of the new treatment: Novartis Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: NVS).


     Novartis should have been given credit for the innovative new drug, since it likely cost them millions in research and development costs. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America estimates the cost of an approved new drug to be more than $800 million.


     Zoledronic acid differs from other osteoporosis medications because it can be injected through an IV in about 15 minutes, and only has to be given once a year.


     Both broadcasts cited a study of postmenopausal women that resulted in a 70-percent decline in spine fractures and a 41-percent decline in hip fractures.


     “Experts say reducing fractures can save lives,” said “Evening News” medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook.


     The study did find an irregular heartbeat to be a potential side effect, which both programs reported.


     Ignoring pharmaceutical companies and development costs is common in media coverage of the industry. In fact, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 20, 2006, only 22 percent of network stories named the company that developed the drug in question and only 2 percent of stories included cost, according to a Business & Media Institute study.