The Zignal Health and Pharma Labs Report: COVID-19, Vaccines, and Drug Pricing
Welcome to the Health and Pharma Labs Report from Zignal Labs, your monthly dive into the issues driving conversations in health today. For today’s report, we used the Zignal Labs Media Intelligence Cloud to explore conversations around COVID, drug prices, and vaccine progress. Keep reading for:
- What are the trending issues in health and pharma?
- What are some key issues that basic media analysis might miss, and how can you uncover them?
- What’s the sentiment breakdown for these key issues on social media and in digital outlets?
- What are the implications for comms professionals and brand managers?
Leveraging media intelligence for public health: Learn how the Public Good Project used Zignal to better understand conversations about the opioid crisis.
What’s dominating the discussion?
It will likely come as no surprise that, in the last month, COVID-19 has dominated the conversation in health and pharma, with almost triple the share of the next most-discussed topic. This has more or less been the case all year long, but in the last month, it hasn’t just been the usual subjects of daily case counts and containment measures driving the conversation – recent positive news related to vaccine efficacy have played a major role as well.
The issue breakdown below reflects this, with the two most prominent issues after COVID-19 being vaccines and research.
Trending stories paint a different picture
As dominant as COVID-19 continues to be in health and pharma discussions, a look at the top trending stories (by mentions) in the space over the past month adds dimension to the landscape. Only one of the top five stories pertained to the COVID-19 pandemic, while three out of five focused instead on a topic that has long been top-of-mind for the patient community: drug pricing. Specifically, they centered around new rules introduced by the president to lower the prices of prescription drugs:
Trending Stories: November 2020
- “No One is Listening to Us” – More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Healthcare workers can’t go on like this | The Atlantic
- Trump Announces Groundbreaking Rules to Lower Prescription Drug Prices | Breitbart
- The President Gives Remarks on Delivering Lower Prescription Drug Prices | pscp.tv
- How Trump’s New “Most Favored Nation” Executive Order Will Reduce Prescription Drug Costs in Medicare Parts B & D | Forbes
- White House killed deal to pay for mental healthcare for migrant families separated at border | NBC News
“As much as comms professionals and brand managers in health and pharma may feel inclined to focus their communications on positive stories like scientific advancements, it’s pricing that has the most immediate, tangible impact on patients’ lives.”
So what can we take away from this? One possible lesson: There’s only so much a company can improve its standing with the patient community if concerns remain about drug pricing. As much as comms professionals and brand managers in health and pharma may feel inclined to focus their communications on positive stories like scientific advancements, it’s pricing that has the most immediate, tangible impact on patients’ lives.
Zignal on the health beat: Vox cites Zignal data showing a spike in mentions of hydroxychloroquine following Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Read the article here.
Sentiment analysis: Pricing misses out on the positivity boom
Indeed, drug pricing remains an area of contention in the conversational landscape. Our analysis shows that while discussions of COVID-19, vaccines, and clinical trials have more positive sentiment than negative or neutral – likely fueled, at least in part, by recent medical and scientific progress in these areas – sentiment around pharmaceutical prices and general accessibility of health is still mostly negative.
“Don’t be fooled by surface-level analysis. Positive sentiment and a high-volume of mentions in one area might provide a false sense of security, blinding you to key areas in which the patient community is demanding more of your brand and your industry. It takes a deeper media intelligence analysis to catch these issues.”
Here’s an example of the kind of negative sentiment around drug pricing expressed on social media, even as sentiment around the more dominant topic of coronavirus is largely positive.
In the end, our main takeaway for comms professionals and brand managers in the health space is: Don’t be fooled by surface-level analysis. Positive sentiment and a high-volume of mentions in one area might provide a false sense of security, blinding you to key areas in which the patient community is demanding more of your brand and your industry. It takes a deeper media intelligence analysis to catch these issues.
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This analysis was conducted using Zignal’s “Healthcare & Pharma Industry” environment and filtered for various keywords related to healthcare and pharma. Date range: November 1, 2020 – December 1, 2020.