Off the Hook? Pharm Exec's Annual Press Audit - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Off the Hook? Pharm Exec's Annual Press Audit


Pharmaceutical Executive


Newspaper Coverage of Companies and their Products

A component of our audit is to track the number of times a pharmaceutical company and/or one of its products are mentioned. For example, if the company is mentioned by name once and two of its products are mentioned once apiece, then that would account for three mentions for that company. This is an excellent proxy for the amount of media attention, good or bad, the company received during the year.

This year there were 69 mentions that included 25 companies and 55 of their products. The most frequently mentioned company was Pfizer (Wyeth included) with 18. The 18 included nine mentions of the company by name and nine mentions for eight products: twice for Prempro and once for Aricept, Celebrex, crizotinib, Lyrica, Neurontin, Reglan, and torcetrapib (one of the industry's biggest disappointments). The anti-hypertensive caused mortality in the treatment group receiving a combination of torcetrapib and atorvastatin (Lipitor) during Phase III clinical studies in 2006.

Genentech was second with 13 mentions; four for the company and nine for three of their products: Avastin, Rituxan, and Herceptin. Avastin was the most mentioned product with seven due to concerns about the drug's link to blindness when used off-label to treat macular degeneration and about FDA's withdrawal of its approval of Avastin for breast cancer.

GlaxoSmithKline and Merck were tied for third with 11 mentions. For GSK, three identified the company by name and eight identified six products by name: Avandia and Paxil each had two, and Bactroban, Coreg, Tagamet, and Welbutrin each had one. For Merck, there were seven mention of the company by its name and four for its products: Gardasil, Varivax, Vioxx, and Zostavax. Roche and Johnson & Johnson (McNeil included) were fourth and had nine mentions apiece. Roche's mentions were a combination of the company name (five times) and product names (three times; one each for Orlistat, Plexxikon, and Vemurafenib). Johnson & Johnson's mentions included four by company name and five for five products: Benadryl, Motrin, Tylenol, Zyrtec, and Zytiga. Abbott was a distant fifth with five mentions; three for company name and two for Meridia. Following these was a collection of companies and/or products with two or fewer mentions.

Healthcare Reform and Pharma

We analyzed the top five U.S. newspapers to address the following questions:

Do the healthcare articles and headlines support or oppose the positions taken by the industry?

What ethical issues face the pharma industry in these articles on reform?

How often are the industry's perspectives included in the articles?

What pharmaceutical companies and/or brand names are identified in the articles?

What are the implications of these findings for the industry?

When the full articles were considered, 80 percent (eight of 10) were neutral, while positive and negative articles decreased to 10 percent apiece, which was lower than the two previous years.


Table 3: Healthcare Reform—Number of Articles by Newspaper
The New York Times and Washington Post each had three neutral articles and the USA Today had two. The New York Times, this year's most prolific paper, with four articles, had the only positive article, and the Wall Street Journal's only article was negative. Comparisons of coverage among the five newspapers are depicted in Table 3 (at right).

Implications for Pharma: The LA Times Weighs In

Despite the data showing a decline in coverage of the industry in 2011, the Los Angeles Times emphasized it was a matter of quality, not quantity. LA Times health editor, Rosie Mestel, told us "there has been no strategic change in our coverage of the pharmaceutical industry. It's possible there was a decrease in coverage because the emphasis in 2011 of our health writers/editors was on healthcare initiatives. We have two stories scheduled for early this week on medications and another upcoming story on Lipitor."


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