Fox News has ignored the role of lax regulation in a multi-state meningitis outbreak that has killed at least 8 people and prompted a Center for Disease Control alert and voluntary recall from the manufacturer of a steroid treatment. The legal status of the medicine in question is murky, and is not subject to strict federal or state regulation. Last year, Fox ran a week-long campaign attacking government regulations, claiming that they would "expose how excessive laws are drowning American business." Fox News has a long track record of attacking government regulation.
Officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 13,000 people may have been exposed to a contaminated steroid compound used for back treatments linked to a strain of fungal meningitis that has infected people in nine states as of Monday. The meningitis outbreak has killed eight people and infected 105.
The New York Times reported that federal inspectors examined the steroid solution created by New England Compounding Center and "found a sealed vial of the steroid afloat with so much foreign matter that it could be seen with the naked eye," later discovering that "the particles were a fungus."
Discussing the practice of compounding, wherein the manufacturer creates the steroid from existing medicines, the Times also reported that "[p]harmacies and regulators have struggled for years over what limits to set on the practice. Compounding has fallen between state and federal authorities, and the legal status of compounded drugs has never been clear."
This same Times story appeared in aggregated form on FoxNews.com on October 5, which noted, "due to the lack of regulations, many health officials try to stay clear of these kinds of drug makers because of the possibility for contamination."
But this information was not relayed in Fox News' on-air segments about the outbreak.
In a Media Matters review of Fox News segments reporting on the outbreak since the release of the CDC alert at 7:30 on October 7, no mention was made of the role of lax regulation in the outbreak.
On October 7, during news breaks on the 8pm and 11pm airings of Huckabee and in a segment on Fox Report, the CDC warning was reported without any mention of regulation.
On the October 8 editions of Studio B, America Live, Happening Now, America's Newsroom, Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends First, the outbreak was reported and information on the CDC-recommended course of action was given out, but discussion of the lax regulation of the contaminated drugs was omitted.
Fox News has regularly attacked efforts at regulation by the federal government: Fox described the Environmental Protection Agency as "job terrorists" who are "strangling America;" cherry-picked data to make false claims about the cost of regulation; falsely claimed that government regulations were responsible for high unemployment; and even attacked laws regulating child labor and workplace safety.