How the Chicago Tribune took on the pharmaceutical industry
Jackie Spinner of Columbia Journalism Review writes about how the Chicago Tribune’s series on the pharmaceutical industry came about.
Spinner writes, “The three-part investigative project focuses on hidden interactions between prescription medicines that could have life-threatening consequences if taken together. The first of the ‘Dangerous Doses’ series, published a year ago, identified four potentially unsafe drug combinations; one pairing, according to the report, ‘blocked an electrical channel crucial to the heart.’ The second story focused on a woman whose drug combination of Lamictal and Depakote left her legally blind and fighting for her life. Neither the doctor who dispensed her medications nor the pharmacist who filled her two prescriptions warned her of the potential risk.
“For the final story in the series, a Chicago physician wrote prescriptions for drugs with dangerous interactions and gave them to the Tribune. Led by reporters Sam Roe, Ray Long, and Karisa King (who has since left the paper for a position as investigations editor at the Las Vegas Review-Journal), the Tribune dispersed those prescriptions among 15 staff reporters. At each of the pharmacies that reporters visited—in Chicago, downstate Illinois, and neighboring Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan—reporters presented prescriptions and noted whether pharmacists warned them of potential drug interactions. Although they did not identify themselves as journalists, the reporters used their real names and answered questions truthfully. The filled prescriptions were collected and stored in a secure location.
“In all, the Tribune tested 255 pharmacies; of that number, 52 percent failed to provide reporters with adequate warnings.”
Read more here.