Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Natasha Singer Finds Exactly One Person Who Likes Allergan's New Eyelash Drops. (She's In The Press Release.)

Today's NYT page-one advertisement comes packaged as a news story by Natasha Singer, about those wacky, expensive eyedrops that might make your eyelashes grow longer.

Despite its front page placement, Singer's story quotes only one user of the drug -- Cindy Ross of Wethersfield, Connecticut -- to confirm the company's claims that it's effective in extending eyelash length. “People would say to me ‘Are you wearing false eyelashes?’ — even my own mother asked,” Ross told Singer.

Singer dug up Ross the way most lazy reporters do: from a December 26 news release from Allergan, the makers of Botox and a frequent NYT advertiser. The release included a video interview with Ross offered to television stations around the country.

And if you think Ross rates as an objective commentator on a new prescription to improve personal appearance, consider where she works: as a sales vp for Young Pharmaceuticals, itself a cosmetic drug manufacturer.

Read the rest of the story carefully and you'll see that many doctors and analysts doubt whether the expensive new drug really works, or whether it's worth the possible side effects -- which include itching and a possible permanent darkening of the irises and eyelids.

Beyond that, the high cost of the drug -- it's priced at $4 a dose -- renders it out of reach for all but the wealthiest, most self-indulgent Americans desperate for yet another cosmetic fix.

But that didn't stop the Times from offering valuable page-one real estate today to the drug's launch later this month, even though it had been reported elsewhere (including the Wall Street Journal) back when the FDA approved it in December.

The story also presented a jarring juxtaposition to the terrific Dexter Filkins story from Afghanistan, just inches away, above the fold -- about terrorist attacks on young Afghan girls being sprayed in the face with acid, and scarred for life.

Kinda makes the whole idea of women extending their eyelashes seem pretty lame. On a front page with only six stories, it seems as though someone might have noticed and bumped the Allergan story inside, where it belonged.

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