Negative drug news doesn't get the same play as positive

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You’re seeing lots of cardiovascular news this week because the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology is going on in New Orleans.

I applaud the health news coverage of the Wall Street Journal, but even their coverage shows a bias toward the positive and against negative findings.

In today’s WSJ, the front page of the “Marketplace” section, page B1, has a story on the “blockbuster drug plavix” and a pack of new rivals on the horizon.

But negative findings on two other drug studies are relegated to pages B6 and B7, deep in the paper and deeper in that section.

Stories headlined “Crestor Fails to Clear A Bar in Arterial Study” and “Two Heart-Failure Drugs Fail to Reduce Death, Admissions” were important, but got neither the quality nor quantity of space given to the generally positive Plavix (and rivals) story.

American consumers need to be reminded that not all drugs are blockbusters, and that hopes at the beginning of trials are often dashed at the end. Page 1 placement would drive that point home.
(But at least the WSJ reports on the negative findings somewhere – don’t get me wrong.)

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Bill Gleason

March 27, 2007 at 8:50 pm

This negative news seems to be getting
plenty of exposure (from CNN)
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (AP) — More than half a million people a year with chest pain are getting an unnecessary or premature procedure to unclog their arteries because drugs are just as effective, suggests a landmark study that challenges one of the most common practices in heart care.
The stunning results found that angioplasty did not save lives or prevent heart attacks in non-emergency heart patients.
An even bigger surprise: Angioplasty gave only slight and temporary relief from chest pain, the main reason it is done.
“By five years, there was really no significant difference” in symptoms, said Dr. William Boden of Buffalo General Hospital in New York. “Few would have expected such results.”
He led the study and gave results Monday at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology. They also were published online by the New England Journal of Medicine and will be in the April 12 issue.