Press in the Service of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Medication Coverage in Israeli Online Newspapers

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:15
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Anat KLIN, Western Galilee Academic College, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Yovav ESHET, Zefat Academic College, Israel
The importance of providing the public with accurate, balanced, and objective information about drugs is reflected in their unique regulatory status. As such, Direct-To-Consumer Advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs is banned in the media of most countries, including Israel, as is embedded marketing. Also, Israeli medical ethics requires that physicians avoid participating in commercials for medical and other products. Furthermore, a 2011 law mandates physicians to disclose their relationship with pharmaceutical companies. Also, Israeli journalist ethics requires exclusion of commercial content from journalistic texts, and that media coverage of controversial issues be balanced and objective.

Over 60% of Israeli internet users look online for medical or health information for a family member or themselves and 14% asked doctors to change their medications due to online information. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to analyze medication coverage in online newspapers in order to examine the pharmaceutical industry’s role and relationship with journalists, physicians, and academic researchers in promoting new medications. Biased coverage might harm public health and raise state expenses.

The study examines whether norms and laws were met in medication coverage in three Israeli online newspapers in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to provide the public with balanced, objective information. The level of coverage balance is assessed by the ratio between content promoting drug usage and content limiting it, using framing theory. We evaluate the relative prominence of information sources, applying advanced countervailing powers theory, which describes key players in the health market.

Results show that most of the medications cited are prescriptions drugs. This points to the pharmaceutical industry’s trend to promote these medications for subsidization by the state through public pressure. Moreover, the high rate of articles citing pharmaceutical industry as information source points to biased coverage in favor of medication usage, ignoring their risks and side effects.