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

More R&D stories, good news for pharma Another significant change was the re-emergence of articles on research and development, jumping back up to seventh on the list from its rank of 12th last year. This is generally good news for the industry, as these articles tended to present and expand the discussion around the costs and risks of drug research as well as the promise of new drug development. In the study period, there were 16 articles that focused on R&D, nine of which were positive about pharma.

Juggling places Data disclosure, clinical study design, and marketing and sales incentives used in the industry continued to attract attention, ranking four through six on the list. In particular, while there is indication that pharma is managing the sales and marketing issue more effectively through implementation of PhRMA Guidelines (dropped from No. 4 in 2006 to No. 6 in 2007), it is still a source of negative media coverage with 17 mentions this year.

New issues replace old Also attracting attention in 2007 is bioterrorism, previously included in the "Other" category. But with 15 articles in 2007, up from 12 in 2006, it is prominent enough to count as a stand-alone issue. Meanwhile, articles on generic drugs and importation/reimportation have faded in prominence since the beginning of the study.

Good News, Bad News

Certainly, it's no secret that the media coverage of the industry tends to be negative. But what's important to watch is a growing polarization of the reporting. (See "More Good News for Pharma," .) In 2007, there were fewer neutral articles and more negative articles—but there was an increase in the number of positive articles for pharma too.

To determine the position of the article, we analyzed headlines and the full-text body copy. Here's what we found:

Negative headlines In 2007, headlines were mostly negative (52.4 percent), inching up from 51.9 percent of articles holding anti-pharma positions in 2006 and 42.9 percent in 2005. Since headlines can be influential in shaping public perceptions and are often all consumers read or remember from their morning newspaper, these results again represent a challenge to the industry.

Pharma Steps Out of the Spotlight
Positive articles double Reversing a trend, 2007 saw an increase in the number of positive articles and editorials for pharma. In fact, the proportion of positive articles almost doubled, from 15.6 percent to 29.3 percent of all articles. This could be due to more balanced reporting.

More balance Regardless of whether articles took a primarily positive or negative tone toward the industry, we analyzed whether both sides of the disputed issue are at least acknowledged. Last year, 70.7 percent of articles mentioned both sides, up significantly from 58.5 percent of the articles in 2006. This can stem from a variety of factors on the part of the media or the industry. For example, perhaps industry execs are finally starting to weigh in on the issues of the day.

Who's News?

This year, we introduced a new analysis into the audit: We tracked pharma companies and drug brands mentioned in newspaper articles. This analysis provided an excellent crosscheck between our findings about the issues and the companies and products responsible for generating media attention related to those issues.

In the study period, the top-five newspapers mentioned 47 pharma companies. However, reporters focused most attention on 13 firms, which were mentioned five or more times. Leading the pack was Merck, which had 25 mentions on these papers' front and editorial pages. Following closely were GlaxoSmithKline, with 24 mentions, and Eli Lilly, with 16. Not surprisingly, the companies most often mentioned were linked to products most often cited in the news.


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