BLOGSCAN – Television Advertising Revenue and the Anechoic Effect
by Roy Poses
February 21, 2012
We have often discussed the anechoic effect, how cases involving or discussions of the topics we address on Health Care Renewal, the concentration and abuse of power in health care, fail to produce any responses, or echoes. Two recent blog posts discussed one way in which the anechoic effect might be generated.
A post by Dr Steven Greer on CurrentMedicine.TV, enlarged upon by Alison Bass on the Alison Bass blog, discussed a segment on 60 Minutes yesterday that dealt with the evidence that anti-depressant drugs may not be efficacious for mild to moderate depression. Since this evidence is about four years old, the question is why it has only made it to the main-stream media now? Both Dr Greer and Ms Bass think it may be because the patents on most of the newer, mainly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor [SSRI] type anti-depressants have run out. Therefore, their manufacturers may no longer be interested in using the clout they derive from paying millions for television advertising to keep programs critical of these drugs off the air. The implication is that large health care organizations may often use threats to withdraw advertising to forestall criticisms of their products or their agendas in the media, hence increasing the anechoic effect.
Why 60 Minutes suddenly discovered the placebo effect in treating depression
by Alison Bass
February 20, 2012
When Dr. Irving Kirsch published his meta-analysis in PLoS Medicine in February 2008 showing that antidepressants were no more effective than a placebo in treating mild or moderate depression, the national news media ignored his explosive findings, for the most part. And when I published Side Effects a few months later, exposing the deception behind the making of the bestselling antidepressant Paxil, they were similarly unresponsive. While my book received great reviews and a lot of attention from regional radio outlets, the national broadcast media pretty much ignored the story. Indeed, a studio interview I did with Kai Ryssdal on American Public Media’s Marketplace never aired, perhaps because of the pressure Paxil’s maker, GlaxoSmithKline, brought to bear on Marketplace’s producers.
So it was with some bemusement that I watched the 60 Minutes segment on antidepressants, which focused on Kirsch’s 2008 finding that antidepressants are no better than placebo in treating most forms of depression. In the segment, Kirsch, who is now associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Beth-Israel Deaconess Hospital, noted that the reason many patients feel better after taking antidepressants is not because of the drug’s effect, but because of the powerful placebo effect in making them feel better.
Why, I wondered, was 60 Minutes taking note of this now, four years after Kirsch published his meta-analysis and two years after he published his own book on the subject, The Emperor’s New Drugs?
Here is one very plausible reason, as articulated by Dr. Stephen Greer in a CurrentTV column today: because the patents for most of these blockbuster antidepressants [like Paxil and Prozac] have expired and the drug companies, who advertise heavily on television, are no longer pressuring the national media to stay mum…
“You’re telling me this now?”
Why the news is suddenly critical of statins and antidepressants
By Steven Greer, MD
February 19, 2012
The CBS news show “60 Minutes” made waves with a story asserting that the antidepressants taken by millions of Americans daily are actually no more effective than sugar pill placebos. Also recently, the national evening TV news reported on a research publication from Harvard that found a 50% increase in the chance of diabetes among women who took cholesterol lowering statin drugs like Pfizer’s Lipitor, and that cheaper generic statins were as effective as the more expensive branded statin Crestor. Those are just three examples of a new trend in mainstream media to expose controversies in blockbuster drugs that generate tens of billions of dollars in revenue for the drug industry.
It is quit rare for national TV news to report on any data critical of blockbusters despite plenty of research over the last several decades questioning the risk/benefit profile of numerous commonly used drugs. While one can only speculate, there might be many reasons for why the mainstream TV news is finally reporting problems. The most likely explanation is that the same drugs now being exposed as unsafe and ineffective have also lost patent protection, and therefore, are no longer generating the huge advertising revenue for the networks. A significant portion of the revenue for the broadcast networks is derived from pharmaceutical advertisements…
We often envision such things as clandestine conversations that have actually occurred – some James Cagney-like character from the pharmaceutical company talking to an Edward G. Robinson-like doctor or media exec in a room filled with cigar smoke and the shades pulled. "So if you know what’s good for ya, youse gotta lay off with the kids getting suicidal, see. It don’t look good upstairs, see." I doubt such things happen, or happen very often. More likely, it’s like the neurotic covenants often seen in marriages. The husband puts up with exhorbitant spending and the wife looks the other way about daliances, for a loud example. The point is that the contract is unspoken. In fact, neither has really ever consciously articulated it. It just is. I expect that the same is often true for a KOL being paid as a speaker or advisor. It’s just assumed that the payee will ‘accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative, but don’t mess with mister in-between’ [to stick to the 40s metaphors]. The same situation likely happens with network executives. Alison’s interview just didn’t make the cut.