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Comparing media coverage of the pharmaceutical industry: pre- and post-pandemic lockdown

Stephen J. Porth (Department of Management, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)
George P. Sillup (Department of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing

ISSN: 1750-6123

Article publication date: 1 December 2022

Issue publication date: 22 March 2023

295

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze media coverage of the pharmaceutical industry before and after the COVID-19 lockdown to determine whether the coverage changed in light of a global health-care crisis and the fast-track development of vaccines and antiviral treatments.

Design/methodology/approach

The top five US newspapers were audited, comparing the 12-month periods before and after March 2020 coinciding with the pandemic lockdown, yielding 493 front-page articles and editorials. Each headline and full-text article was separately analyzed and categorized as either positive, negative or neutral toward the pharmaceutical industry. A frequency analysis of the hot button issues covered in each article was conducted.

Findings

Year 1 and Year 2 audit results were compared to identify changes in media coverage pre- and post-lockdown. The amount of coverage of the industry increased 145% and the tone of both headlines and articles shifted dramatically. Only one of the five newspapers had a net positive article rating of the industry pre-lockdown, four of five were net positive post-lockdown. The proportion of positive headlines increased 165%. The top issues discussed in the coverage shifted from persistent challenges for the industry (e.g. opioid crisis, high cost of drugs) to the emergence of the virus and status of vaccine development.

Originality/value

This research establishes how media coverage of the pharmaceutical industry changed as the industry responded to a global health-care crisis and identifies implications for industry stakeholders.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Cindy Slater, Business Reference Librarian, and Summer Scholar Program Research Assistants Kerry Faust and Lauren Stwalley, all of Saint Joseph’s University, for their support.

Citation

Porth, S.J. and Sillup, G.P. (2023), "Comparing media coverage of the pharmaceutical industry: pre- and post-pandemic lockdown", International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 24-37. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPHM-05-2022-0044

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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