Sponsored by the Arrupe Center for Business Ethics at Saint Joseph's University, the audit also found a less negative tone in coverage. Two issues drew the most attention: drug safety and the FDA regulatory environment.
Details of the findings include:
» Flu vaccines, which earned the top spot on the list of issues last year, dropped to 11th.
» Drug prices are receiving less media scrutiny, but are still on the radar screen, at fourth place on the list of issues.
» Merck, Roche, and Pfizer were the companies identified most frequently in the news.
» Healthcare reform coverage decreased by 88 percent, from last year's 86 articles to only 10.
Processing the News
The audit analyzed the top five newspapers in the United States as defined by circulation for a 12-month period and identified all front-page and editorial articles pertaining to "hot button" pharma issues. The purpose of the audit was to shed light on the following questions:
» Do the articles and headlines support or oppose the positions taken by the industry, as defined by the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers' Association (PhRMA)?
» How often do reporters include the industry's perspective in the stories that cover the issues of the day?
» What pharmaceutical companies and brand names are identified and discussed in the articles?
» What are the implications of these findings for the industry?
» To be included in the study and in our EthicsTrak database, an article had to be published between October 1, 2010, and September 30, 2011, in one of the top five US newspapers (as measured by circulation): USA Today, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.