Beyond clinical trials and FDA approval, the media plays a critical role in seeding and building market validation of drug treatments. Tracking the media visibility of the branded drugs should be part of a multi-pronged measurement approach that includes assessing story lines involving the underlying disease, the people they affect, and market influencers.

Let’s look at the example of type-2 diabetesAstraZeneca has been providing a branded diabetes treatment for years — Byetta. In addition, health advocacy groups’ primary goal is to raise awareness and funding for the disease and those affected by it. So right there you have two key tracking elements for a successful earned media measurement program: the disease and the organization(s)aligned with raising awareness around it.

Byetta

It’s hard to find a pharma manufacturer not involved in type 2 diabetes. AstraZeneca is a strong player in this area with a number of offerings, and the firm’s long-standing Byetta offering received a sizable media lift after settling patent challenges with generic supplier Teva. Both firms are now aligned with both a generic and branded version of the $310 million type 2 diabetes drug.

During the latest media cycle , Byetta advanced +10 points to close June 2016 with a 37 rating and returning the drug to its 2013 rating level. (Note that the 2013 rating high of 52 was during an FDA investigation into possible links between Byetta and pancreatic disease.)

Positive sentiment of 29% is actually quite strong given 71% neutral and virtually zero negative coverage. Media values reflect the brand’s low rating figures, closing the month at $34k, with a trailing 12-month media value of just under $100k.

It’s unlikely, given the long-term media decline, that the recent media interest in Byetta will continue. The brand is off nearly -20 points over the trailing 4-year period with only the most recent month showing some ratings promise.

Astrazeneca

Now let’s look at the rating trajectory of the drug’s manufacturer, AstraZeneca. Both company and drug brand media visibility can and do move independently of one another as the parent brand earns media across a broader set of product, industry, and financially focused story lines.

The corporate pharma brand is operating at nearly twice the media visibility as Byetta, ending the June period off -1 point at a 72 rating, just -3 points below AstraZeneca’s trailing 12-month average of 75.

The 4-year media cycle shows an amazing 2-year rise that peaked just under 90 points, followed by an equally dramatic decline that has brought the brand close to its original 2012 low of 70. Even at 72, AstraZeneca is still ranked quite high within the pharma brand sector at #5, up +2 positions over its prior month ranking. With the exception of October 2015 when the brand dropped to #10 in the rankings, AstraZeneca has maintained a consistent sector rank between #3 and #7 for the prior 12-month period.

Media values are moderate, closing June at $796k and $9.7m for the trailing 12-month period.

Type 2-Diabetes

Two other drug market dimensions that should be assessed from a media visibility standpoint are story lines around the disease it treats and story lines around disease treatment/cure advocacy groups.

Type 2 diabetes is currently up +2 points at 87, +3 points ahead of its trailing 12-month average and generating $34m in earned media value over the same 12-month period ($5.4m in the latest June news cycle).

Media sentiment is about where you’d expect disease coverage to come in — 1/4 positive, a small negative component at < 10%, with the remaining coverage in the neutral territory.

The Gates Foundation

Now let’s take a look at a market influencer. While there are other advocacy groups more squarely focused on addressing diabetes awareness and treatment, I picked The Gates Foundation to illustrate my point.

The Gates Foundation recently made headlines with a co-investment in microbiome research aimed at further understanding its affects on various diseases, in particular, diabetes. Gates is a good example because the organization is a massive influencer in the health advocacy space and a media magnet for broad news coverage. Aligning your chart and message with the Gates Foundation is a sound media strategy.

The foundation’s media rating is up +1 point this month at a strong 71 position, +4 points ahead of its trailing 12-month average of 67. The 4-year media trend shows a stable advocacy group media profile, maintaining a consistent 65-70 point average rating for nearly 4-years. Positive media sentiment is low, but negative sentiment is near zero, suggesting the bulk of media attention on the Gates Foundation is informative and data-driven without much editorial commentary or criticism.

As far as sector media rank is concerned, it’s hard to find a better-positioned advocacy group than the Gates Foundation. The global philanthropic organization has maintained a solid #1 position, only trading on a #2 position with the Clinton Foundation as Hillary Clinton draws additional media attention due to her bid for the White House.

In Summary

For pharma brand managers, assessing the media visibility of their branded drug treatments is critical in assessing overall brand health. So too is measuring and monitoring the media visibility of the entire drug market ecosystem, comprising story lines about the disease and the people affected by it, disease research and advocacy groups, public policy initiatives that facilitate treatment, the parent company, and more.

Monitoring and measuring all of these market influencers provides a more comprehensive view of media impact. Mentions of Byetta are great, but increasing media mentions for the disease it treats and those championing its cure all work to build and foster market awareness and validation, and ultimately how drugs are developed, financed, distributed, and consumed.