Pharma Deception in San Francisco

Half of station's "medical breakthrough" story came straight from Pfizer

Submitted by Daniel Price on
Clients: Pfizer
Release Date: January 2006
Aired By: 2 stations
Disclosed By: No stations

On January 27, KPIX-5 in San Francisco devoted nearly three minutes to Exubera, the first inhalable insulin treatment for Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While any viewer could see that the CBS report had nothing but praise for the new Pfizer product, they might be surprised to learn that half the praise was supplied by Pfizer itself.

In anticipation of FDA approval, the drug giant contracted MultiVu to create a video news release (VNR) about Exubera. The promotional story package included strongly positive soundbites from the medical director of a Texas diabetes clinic, as well as diabetics who participated in the Exubera clinical trial.

In its 10:00 PM feature, KPIX-5 began with legitimate reporting—a look at the San Jose company that spent 20 years developing needle-free insulin delivery. But the rest of the report alternated between original station-gathered footage and canned material from the VNR, with no disclaimer to viewers that some of the video was provided by the makers of Exubera.

Worse, a full 38 seconds of contraindication information provided by MultiVu—the safety information about possible adverse reactions that's required by the FDA—was boiled down to an eight-second aside by KPIX reporter Thuy Vu.

The day before the KPIX-5 report, KAAL-6 (Rochester, MN) ran a ninety-second story on Exubera that was built entirely from the Pfizer VNR, without any form of disclosure to viewers. However, the station's health reporter spent considerably more time on the contraindications than KPIX-5.

View the original VNR, as well as the KPIX-5 news story, below.

Original Pfizer VNR KPIX-5 6PM newscast
Created by MultiVu, Inc. January 27, 2006
Voiced by publicist Half of story built from VNR