What Are the Hot Button Issues?
Table 2 identifies the issues covered in the articles, the frequency of their coverage, and how the results compare to previous
years. At the top of the list of topics attracting media attention in 2011 are two issues related to drug safety. Scrutiny
and criticism of "FDA and Regulatory Issues" was first on the list, which fits the pattern of previous years. Next up on the
list is the related issue of "Drug Safety," another perennial focus of the media. With a combined total of 46 references in
the 80 articles audited, these two issues, "FDA" and "Drug Safety," continue to dominate the news and reveal the continuing
media scrutiny of the drug approval process, cases of misuse or abuse of prescription drugs, the impact of adverse events,
and consumer lawsuits related to drug safety. As you might expect, most of those articles were critical of the industry and/or
a specific pharma company or brand.
Table 2: Analysis of Ethical Issues
Third on the list was "Research and Development." This set of articles reported mostly good news about the industry, in the
form of progress made in research and drug development for cancer, lupus, schizophrenia, AIDS, and advancements in diagnostic
testing for head injuries and Alzheimer's disease.
The focus on high drug prices has ebbed and flowed over the eight years of the study. In the beginning years, drug prices
were consistently at or near the top of the list of hot-button issues. Last year, the number of articles on drug prices dropped
to sixth on the list, but this year it bounced back up again, to fourth place, just one article behind the focus on R&D. Furthermore,
two related pricing issues—"Importation/Reimportation of Drugs" and "Differential Pricing and Distribution"—once a significant
focus of media attention, make barely a blip on the screen now. Each received just one reference in 2011.
Flu vaccines dropped from the top of the list last year to a distant 11th place in 2011. In fact, flu vaccine articles were
so prominent in 2010 that they received more than double the coverage of any other single pharma-related issue.
Surprisingly, healthcare reform was not a hot issue in 2011, at least not in comparison to 2010. As shown in Table 2, the
10 references about the pharmaceutical industry are divided evenly between "Healthcare Reform" and "Medicare/Medicaid," with
five references each. Although there was far less newspaper coverage this year, the rankings of these issues only moved slightly
when compared to last year. "Healthcare Reform" dropped from fifth in 2010 to sixth in 2011 and "Medicare/Medicaid" went from
seventh in 2010 to sixth in 2011.
A consistent finding throughout the eight-year study is that articles and headlines tend to be more negative than positive
for the industry. The good news over the past two years, however, is that the proportion of both negative headlines and negative
articles declined considerably from previous years. In fact, the analysis of full-text articles reveals a significant shift
toward less negativity about the industry, to an almost equal balance of positive (17.5 percent) and negative articles (21.2
percent). Despite that bit of good news, headlines were still twice as likely to be negative (25 percent) than positive (12.5
percent) toward the industry.