Food for Thought: Improving Media Coverage on Healthcare

Whether it’s about vaccines, new drugs or side effects of existing medications –  media coverage of medical topics very often is poor and biased. Written from an industry or pharma critics perspective, it exaggerates either risks or benefits. In addition, writers often do not seem to be familiar with the various tedious tasks, steps and regulatory requirements of drug development.

Enter Media Doctor, an initiative by Australian academics and clinicians from the Newcastle Institute of Public Health, who are interested in promoting better and more accurate media coverage in the area of medical treatments. They founded Media Doctor Australia, a website reviewing and rating news items on medical treatments using a standardized rating scale. The website also presents examples of reports regarded as good or bad.

Media Doctor applies ten different rating criteria in six categories, respectively: Pharmaceutical, Adverse Effects, Diagnostic Tests, Surgical Procedure, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, and Other. As an example, an article is regarded unsatisfactory if it does not mention sources and possible conflict of interest or does not attempt at independent corroboration. A satisfactory story for example needs to discuss the strength of evidence in detail.

Meanwhile, the idea has spread to Canada, Hong Kong, and the U.S. (under the name of Healthnewsreview). The U.S. website in particular is very outspoken, and does not hesitate to label poor stories as “shovelware straight from a news release” or an “unbalanced story” providing only “two rosy anecdotes” as evidence.

Useful statistics provide the reader with insights on which media and journalists provide the most reliable stories. That’s exactly the lever for improvement, and – for journalists – also a possibility to demonstrate competence and quality.

akampion now has learned that a German version of Healthnewsreview is in preparation at the University of Dortmund’s Chair of Science Journalism. We will keep you updated on how and when the site will be up and running!

Company News: Micromet Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2009 Financial Results

Micromet, Inc. (NASDAQ: MITI), a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of next-generation antibodies for the treatment of cancer, today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2009.  The Company also highlighted recent pipeline progress and outlined expected 2010 milestones.

Further details can be found at:

Food for Thought: Speedway – A New Electromobility Concept

To reduce the dependance of today’s mobility needs on fossil fuels, it is not enough to just change the energy source. As an example, the cruising range of today’s e-cars is sufficient for commuting, but still too small for traveling longer distances.

Enter Christian Foerg , a young designer from Munich who just finished his diploma thesis at FH Munich with his “Speedway” electromobility concept. It is based on an electric vehicle which is supported by an external linear motor embedded beneath the pavement of conventional highways.
While the electric vehicle runs on battery power in towns and in the countryside, on the autobahn it is driven by a drifting magnetic field. The concept already is used in passenger carriers on airports (JFK’s Airtrain), in subways (Tokyo’s Toei Oedo line), and in Shanghai’s Transrapid train.

Foerg’s feasibility study calculates costs of 8.5 million Euros per highway kilometer to convert existing highways. This is in line with the costs of building or rebuilding conventional highways, ranging from 6 to 12 million Euros per kilometer. In Foerg’s concept, the highway still can be used by conventional cars and the system can be implemented step by step.

Food for Thought: How Bad is Big Pharma? An Analysis of Public Perception in the U.S.

Despite growing complaints about the negative reputation of the pharmaceutical industry, little fundamental research data has been available on the topic so far.

A detailed analysis by George P.  Sillup and Stephen J. Porth published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing supports the evidence. Following an audit of the top five U.S. newspapers over two years (2004-2005), Sillup and Porth concluded that the overall coverage of the pharmaceutical industry was primarily negative (69.5% and 60.1% in 2004 and 2005, respectively) and that “pharmaceutical companies need to take action to address the negative impression about them.”

In our view, the findings underline the importance of a sustainable, long-term communication strategy targeting all relevant stakeholders, including patients and the general public.

Further details and the full article (pdf) can be found at the Emerald Insight website:

Source: George P.  Sillup and Stephen J. Porth in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 3, 2008, pp. 163-180

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