Media Research Center

Free Market Project

3/7/2006 10:10:48 PM

Updated 02/24/06

Free! FMP Headlines
RSS Feed


CBS Continues Coverage of Alleged Viagra Link to Blindness
Ongoing story downplays FDA disagreement and shows network’s one-sided approach to ‘rare’ risk.

by Todd Drenth
28, 2005

     CBS continued to report on an alleged link between Viagra and blindness that even the FDA can’t find. “The danger may be even broader than previously known,” said CBS anchor Bob Schieffer leading into the June 27, 2005, story.

     “CBS Evening News” correspondent Sharyl Attkisson followed with “a CBS News investigation finds more potential links between Viagra and all kinds of blindness.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is looking into roughly 50 reported cases of vision loss and their relation to Viagra, has found no definitive proof that Viagra causes blindness.

     After analyzing Viagra “adverse events” from the last four years, Attkisson said CBS found more than 140 cases of partial or total blindness. Last month CBS News reported that 23 million men worldwide had used Viagra. “These reports alone aren’t proof of a direct link,” Attkisson admitted, “but experts look to them for patterns.” The pattern in this case indicated that only one out of every 164,000 Viagra users has reported any problem. According to the National Safety Council, the odds of dying from a lightning strike were nearly three times worse: 56,439 to 1.

     Atkisson first reported on a possible link between use of Viagra and blindness on May 26, 2005. The latest story followed an announcement by Viagra drug-maker Pfizer that it would warn consumers about the potential side effect of vision impairment on the drug’s label. The story made no attempt to explain why Pfizer agreed to the warning to protect itself from possible future litigation.

     In both stories, Attkisson stated a response from Pfizer, but had tried unsuccessfully to get a company to make their own position known. 

     While lawsuits are in process against Pfizer, the doctor Atkisson relied upon had “been a paid expert for both Pfizer and patients suing Pfizer.”

     Dr. Howard Pomeranz, a neuro-ophthalmologist from the University of Minnesota, was the one who first considered a possible relation between Viagra and blindness in 1998. He pointed out that most men are on Viagra because of problems with blood circulation which also makes them prone to eye damage. “Viagra may be an additional risk factor.” he said.

     Pfizer, Atkisson said, insisted that “no scientific evidence suggests Viagra causes eye stroke or any other severe vision problem” and that “huge clinical studies reveal no serious eye issues.” Clearly, that hadn’t convinced Atkisson, since this was her third story on problem.
“Media Malpractice: Journalists Ignoring Tort Reform to Report One-Sided Stories Against Business”


Send this page to a friend! (click here)