CBS's 'Dangerous' Medicine Reporting Hard to Swallow

     Children’s cough and cold medicine is “safe” when used properly, but according to the same CBS doctor the product is “dangerous.” As a result, the network chose to blame business.


     That’s what Dr. Alanna Levine, a pediatrician based in Englewood Hospital in New York, told co-host Harry Smith on "The Early Show" Oct. 3.


     "They're safe if they're used properly, but so often they're not and so I consider them to be dangerous," Levine said.


     The CBS segment focused on new regulations of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but left out any representation by pharmaceutical companies or trade organizations.


     Levine stressed problems with use of the product telling viewers that emergency rooms see up to 7,000 children a year, but didn’t focus on parents improperly administering cough medicines. Instead she attacked the products.


     “Studies show that they don’t work [when used properly],” Levine said when asked if they work by Smith. “Making them drowsy is not helping cough and cold symptoms.”


     A year ago a panel of FDA experts met and decided to recommend that caregivers not administer over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under 6, according to The Wall Street Journal Oct. 20, 2007.


     The FDA announced that it would be rewriting old regulations with new ones, but it would not ban the drugs, according to the Oct. 3, 2008 Journal.


     New regulations will include updating how cough medicines are marketed to children as well as their safety – a process the Journal said would take years.


     "While the effort is expected to take years, the end result could be a tougher regulatory environment for many over-the-counter cold and cough products – such as requiring drug makers to seek approval for their products in a manner similar to that for prescription drugs," the Journal said.


     A "multiyear plan" is in the works, according to Linda Suydam, president of Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA).


     Suydam said in a statement Oct. 2, 2008 that the plan is "specifically designed to help improve the safe use of [over the counter cough and cold medicines] and reaffirm the efficacy of these medicines. The leading makers of these medicines remain committed to working with FDA and pediatric experts to ensure that parents and caregivers continue to have appropriate treatment choices for their children."


     In late 2007 a number of drug makers, under threat of regulation, pulled products marketed to children under 2 years old.

     The Journal noted Oct. 11, 2007 that CHPA had previously said in documents submitted to the Food and Drug Administration that the group supported new warnings for the medications that would say ‘do not use’ for children younger than 2.

     The Business & Media Institute has found recurring network news bias against pharmaceutical companies. According to BMI’s study Prescription for Bias, the industry was ignored nearly 80 percent of the time during the nine-month study window.