4th Annual Press Audit: Coverage Uncovered! - Pharmaceutical Executive


4th Annual Press Audit: Coverage Uncovered!
Pharma gets less ink as news reporters shift their sights to other topics. That's a good thing—isn't it? But when the industry does make headlines, safety issues rule and the message of the value of innovation gets more play.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Tone We also analyzed each complete article to determine whether it took a positive, negative, or neutral position toward the industry. For example, any article that called for restrictions or a prohibition on DTC advertising—a position that the industry opposes—was deemed negative. In contrast, an article that claimed that DTC advertising resulted in more informed patients was designated as positive.

More Good News for Pharma
Balance Despite the dominant position taken by the article, we also looked to see if it included the opposing viewpoint. When an explicit statement with an opposing view was included—even if it didn't receive equal coverage—we concluded that the article covered both sides. When the opposing view was not presented, the article was labeled as one-sided.

The Issues at Hand

There was a drastic drop in news ink on the industry in 2007, compared with the previous year. (See "Pharma Steps Out of the Spotlight," .) In 2007, 147 articles reported or editorialized on issues facing pharma. That compares with the 271 and 270 articles that ran in 2005 and 2006, respectively. (However, there was more coverage of the industry in 2007 than in 2004, when this audit began.) Since media coverage tends to be negative, the drop off in terms of number of articles is perhaps good news for the industry.

Coverage of pharma decreased across the board in the five major newspapers. (See "Clipping Service," .) The Los Angeles Times had the largest drop, running 60 percent fewer stories in 2007 than it had in 2006. While the number of front-page pharma stories was down, there was an even bigger change inside the West Coast paper: The number of editorials dropped from 36 in 2006 to 8 in 2007. The New York Times also saw a significant drop in editorials: It ran 64 articles on pharma issues in 2006 and only 22 in 2007.

For the articles that did run, what did they cover? Here's what the audit of the four factors revealed:

Drug safety dominates The issue of drug safety leapt into full public view in 2005, in the aftermath of the Vioxx recall. Since then, it remains the top-reported issue affecting the industry and has become increasingly prominent in the nation's conciousness. Indeed, while the number of articles on this topic had only a marginal uptick, from 73 in 2006 to 76 in 2007, the proportion of stories on drug safety leapfrogged from 27 percent of all articles in 2006 to more than half (52 percent) in 2007.

Most-Reported Issues
Drug prices, a mainstay It's hardly a surprise that drug prices continue to be a sensitive issue. However, what is surprising is that, in terms of coverage, it was a distant second to drug safety, with only 37 mentions. While out-of-pocket drug prices continue to be an issue for the patient/consumer, that concern is trumped by drug safety.

Intense FDA scrutiny The topic of FDA and regulatory affairs had the most remarkable change, catapulting from the middle of the pack last year to tie for second place (from 15 articles in 2006 to 37 in 2007). Some of these articles discussed the FDA Revitalization Act that "would give the Food and Drug Administration new power to police drug safety, order changes in drug labels, regulate advertising, and restrict the use and distribution of medicines found to pose serious risks to consumers" (New York Times, May 5, 2007).


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