TRASTUZUMAB (HERCEPTIN) IN THE MEDIA
Deconstructing media coverage of trastuzumab (Herceptin): an analysis of national newspaper coverage
The news media are major sources of information about health issues for both the public and for health professionals and can have an influence on decisions about treatment choices and medical care. Sometimes the media can make great claims for the latest medical breakthroughs and discoveries, some of which have yet to be fully developed or indeed licensed for use.There has been much discussion and debate about media reporting surrounding the introduction of the drug trastuzumab (Herceptin) for early stage breast cancer. The aim of this project was to systematically examine and critically describe the content and main narratives in UK national daily newspaper coverage of trastuzumab.
We retrospectively searched eight national daily newspapers, and their Sunday equivalents, from 19 February 2006 back to the earliest mention of trastuzumab (or Herceptin). The proprietary name of Herceptin was always used by newspapers. Four out of five included articles were rated as being positive towards trastuzumab, the remainder rated as neutral. Access to trastuzumab treatment was the main narrative running across included articles and reports of individual patients seeking treatment featured prominently throughout. Around half of included articles mentioned licensing, but rarely mentioned that licensing processes can only occur when the manufacturer applies for a licence. Only a minority of articles mentioned that the drug had to be licensed before it could be subject to the NICE approval process.
Newspaper coverage of trastuzumab has been characterised by uncritical reporting. Journalists (and consumers) should be less enthusiastic and more questioning when confronted with information about new drugs and of the motives of those who seek to set the news agenda.Conducted by: Paul Wilson1 , Alison Booth1, Alison Eastwood1, Ian Watt2