Information about drugs in the Spanish press (2007-2016): a quantitative content analysis

[Speaker] Felix Bosch:1,2
[Co-author] Gonzalo Casino:3, Elisabet Seres:1
1:Esteve Foundation, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 2:Department of Experimental and Health Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 3:Department of Communication, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Background. Information about drugs is critical to empower citizens to make good health decisions. Quantity and quality of this information in the press have not always been properly analysed. This study classifies and analyses quantitatively news about drugs in the Spanish press.
Methods We conducted a content analysis of 22 Spanish publications, including 15 general newspapers, 4 news agencies, 2 economic journals and 1 professional journal. The search was performed in the Factiva database for the period 2007-2016. Among other aspects, we analysed the texts by source, topic, institutions, companies, types of drugs and authors. In addition, we reviewed the texts about drugs published by the science news agency SINC (2008-2016) to calculate the relative weight of news on drugs compared to all the medicine and science news.
Results In the identified news (n=170,382), we observed a huge increase from 2007 (n=12,382) to 2012 (n=22,839) and a following stabilization. The main sources were Europa Press news agency (n=80,495, 47.2%), EFE news agency (n=16,374, 9.6%), the professional newspaper Diario Medico (n=13,755, 8.1%), the regional newspaper La Voz de Galicia (n=7,920, 4.6%) and national newspapers ABC (n=7.149, 4.2%) and El Pais (n=5,982, 3.5%). The most common topics in drug information were cancer (n=10,693, 6.3%), hepatitis (n=2,735, 2.4%) and AIDS/HIV (n=2,565, 1.5%), and the most common corporate topics were new product approvals (n=3,651, 2,1%), new products and services (n=2,346, 1.4%) and corporate crime (n=2,237, 1.3%). The most cited pharmaceutical company was the Spanish group Zeltia (n=1,262, 0.7%) and the most cited research centre, the University of Navarra (n=698, 0.4%). In SINC news agency, drug news (n=359) represented 6.0% of medical news (n=5,965) and 1.6% of all science news (n=21,933) in 2008-2016.
Conclusions The volume of information on drugs has stabilized after a few years of growth. News agencies and professional press publish more news than general and economic newspapers. The weight of this information is relatively low in relation to the rest of medical and scientific news. More quantitative and qualitative studies are needed to know the real situation of information about drugs in the press.

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