Sixth Annual Press Audit - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Sixth Annual Press Audit


Pharmaceutical Executive


Tracking the Negatives


Table 4. Analysis of Headlines and Full Articles
An overall drop in coverage in 2009 proved to have a silver lining, due to the fact that negative coverage remains the norm when journalists write about the industry. This slant has been consistent over the six years of the study. The good news for 2009 is that the proportion of both negative headlines and negative articles declined from previous years—though articles were still four times more likely to be negative than positive toward the industry. (See Table 4.)


Table 5. Three-Year Analysis of Newspaper Articles
And which news daily gets the prize for most negative coverage of the industry? This year's audit examined all 420 articles from the database over the past three years. The results shown in Table 5 indicate that The New York Times wins that distinctive label by a wide margin, followed by USA Today. In contrast, The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal were most likely to publish a positive article about the industry.

Wyeth Draws Strongest Interest


Table 10. Companies Identified
The audit also tracks level of interest in companies and their brands. Cited most frequently were Wyeth, Pfizer, and Merck, each of which was involved in major news stories involving merger and acquisition activities. Brands attracting the most attention were Wyeth's Phenergan and the Pfizer blockbuster Lipitor; in the former case, it was the heady whiff of scandal linked to a key liability ruling around negligence in administration of a powerful drug; for Lipitor, the coverage was due to its status as symbol for the "patent cliff" challenge confronting the industry over the next few years. In addition, Novartis received coverage of its attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy drug, Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride), while Pfizer featured prominently for its $2.3 billion fraud settlement for civil and criminal allegations that it illegally marketed the painkiller Bextra. (See Table 10.)

Top of Line: Healthcare Reform

Healthcare reform established a presence in the top five newspapers with 86 citations, almost 90 percent of which occurred over the last five months of the audit's reporting period. The Washington Post accounted for half of the total coverage, with its editorials doubling the number of front page articles. The Los Angeles Times had a comparable number of front page articles but not nearly as many editorials.

Four of the five newspapers held opinions that were generally supportive of healthcare reform. The Washington Post was more supportive than the other newspapers by virtue of the volume of its coverage and its favorable opinion about the public option for insurance coverage. Although they were generally supportive, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times laced their articles with healthy skepticism. Interestingly, coverage by the Wall Street Journal was sparse, with only three articles, and the paper was primarily negative in placing strong emphasis on the cost of reform.


Table 6. Number of Articles
Coverage by all five newspapers accelerated during the second half of 2009, with greater attention given to healthcare reform by Congress. However, the results in Table 6 do not include the fourth quarter of 2009, which fell after the end of the audit period.


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