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Journalists' inconsistent reporting on drug costs

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In the same week that some journalists reported that “many don’t take prescriptions because of cost,” other journalists gave us reminders of how inconsistently they help readers think about drug costs.

NBC drug cost.jpgYesterday, for example, the NBC Nightly News reported its second story on the high costs of Makena, the first FDA-approved drug to prevent premature birth. Good job. But then they immediately followed with a brief story on Merck’s boceprivir drug for hepatitis C – and NEVER MENTIONED cost. The screen shot at left is from the NBC website, showing how they “packaged” the two Makena drug stories (online and on the air over two days time) around the hepatitis C drug story for which cost apparently was a non-issue.

Wrong. Stay tuned.

They weren’t alone. Undoubtedly many newspapers across the country did what my local Star Tribune newspaper did, telling the story of Medicare’s consideration of paying for the expensive prostate drug Provenge. But above that little Provenge cost story, the Strib placed a big banner story for the Merck hepatitis drug, and, again, never mentioned cost.

drug costs headlines.jpg

Nitpicking? I don’t think so.

First, there are at least two horses in the race for the first protease inhibitor for Hep C to reach the market; Vertex’s telaprevir and Merck’s boceprivir. It’s probably safe to say that the cost will be in the thousands per month. The costs of existing treatment is about $70,000 for 48 weeks of treatment.

Folks, as a country, we have a limited pot of money to spend on health care. Costs are always important. Yet 70% of the 1,469 stories we’ve reviewed on as of this moment fail to adequately address costs.

That’s the population-wide, national problem.

For the individual concerns, go back to the top of this post. “Many don’t take prescriptions because of costs.” Costs are always important.

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