Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a timely and thought-provoking advisory about the serious threat to public health posed by misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic on July 15. Just two days later, the New York Times chose to run a disconcerting ad on its pages about yet another global public health challenge: Alzheimer’s disease. The ad contains precisely the elements of “false, inaccurate, or misleading” information the surgeon general warns about.
“When Memory Fades” is a slick paid post that narrates the story of Jane, a 76-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease. The post was paid for by Biogen and created by the New York Times’ “brand marketing arm.” It urges readers to follow Jane’s example in overcoming the stigma associated with cognitive decline and fear of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. It draws a contrast between patients with memory problems who might be reluctant to seek medical advice and those with heart disease who are more “inclined to see a doctor before a heart attack strikes.”