What Are The Hot Buttons?
Table 2 identifies the issues covered in the articles, the frequency of their coverage, and how the results compare to previous
years. Retaining its top spot on the list of topics attracting media attention is drug safety, an issue that dominated the
news in 2013. We identified and tracked 61 articles on drug safety this year compared to 27 last year. Furthermore, drug safety
received more than triple the coverage of the next issue on the list, interaction with the FDA, which had a count of 19. Much
of the increased coverage in the New York Times and the Washington Post discussed above was focused on drug safety. "Deaths Tied to Painkillers Rising in the U.S." (Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2013) is one example of the reaction to reports of increasing cases of overdoses and the mounting pressure to
restrict use of certain prescription drugs. Likewise, "Problems Cited for Years at Drug Firms" (Washington Post, February 8, 2013) focused on shoddy practices and unsanitary conditions at the New England Compounding Center, whose contaminated
steroid shots were linked to a meningitis outbreak resulting in 45 deaths. The Washington Post reported that "state and federal authorities did little to systematically inspect and correct hazards posed by specialty pharmacies,
which custom-mix medications for individual patients, hospitals and clinics. In the lightly regulated industry, pharmacies
were rarely punished even when their mistakes had lethal consequences."
Second on the list this year was interaction with the FDA followed closely by high drug prices. Whereas drug safety articles
are predominantly negative for the industry, FDA articles are a mixed bag. Compare, for example, "FDA Approves Bionic Eye
to Help Blind" (Washington Post, February 15, 2013) to "After Tainted Drugs Kill 53, Time to Fix 'Broken' System" (USA Today, April 29, 2013). High drug prices were back in the news in 2013 with a count of 18 articles, compared to only six last year.
The New York Times focused heavily on drug prices with both editorials (e.g., "Exorbitant Prices for Leukemia Drugs," May 2, 2013) and articles
(e.g., "Improper Efforts to Limit Competitive Drugs," February 9, 2013).
Research and development of new drugs which is typically good news for the industry dropped from second to fifth place on
the list this year with 14 articles compared to 24 last year. Also moving down the list this year was marketing and sales
incentives, dropping from eight articles to only two. This is a positive change for the industry and seems to reflect changing
policies and sales practices in the industry.
Increased Coverage of Companies and/or Their Products
Integral to our audit is assessment of the number of times a pharma company or one of its products is mentioned to determine
what companies are attracting positive, neutral or negative media attention and being covered in the news. For example, the
second most reported company this year, Perdue Pharma, was mentioned 10 times. Four of the 10 mentions were the company by
name and six of the mentions were by the company's beleaguered product OxyContin. The higher the number of mentions a company
and/or its products gets, the greater attention that company is getting in a given year.
This year there were 97 companies mentioned with 27 of the companies identified by their products. This is the highest number
of mentions since we began reporting in 2005 and 10.2 percent higher than the second highest number of mentions, which was
88, in 2009. Clearly responsible for this increase is the tragic problems associated with the New England Compounding Center,
which accounted for 26 (26.8%) of the 97 mentions. It also invited mentions about four other pharmacies (e.g., Olympium Pharmacy).
Completing the most frequently mentioned companies are GlaxoSmitKline with seven, some of which were about Avandia, its diabetes
drug, and its link to cardiovascular problems, and Amgen and Novartis, with five apiece. After that, there are two mentions
for 10 companies and one mention for 12 companies. Additionally, there were 11 "other" products mentioned, which were primarily
generic drugs. A summary of the number of mentions can be observed in Table 3.