epipen-sep2016x600Once again pharma greed is in the headlines with the meteoric price increase of EpiPen, the life-saving treatment for severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock.

The media spotlight on pricing also revealed corporate tax inversions, obscene CEO pay packages and management bonuses, Medicaid fraud, and old-fashioned nepotism (CEO is the daughter of a sitting U.S. Senator). If the media is looking for a new “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli they found it in Mylan CEO Heather Bresch — who has made no apologies for what looks like a shakedown scheme aimed at public schools and Medicaid patients.

So to no one’s surprise, media ratings for the EpiPen brand (89) are leading the sector this month, knocking Medical Marijuana (85) out of its #1 spot. From a media visibility perspective, the brand is now #1 in the crowded prescription drug brands sector, advancing an incredible +35 points to close the August news cycle at an 89 rating. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a +35 point rating increase, and never in the drug sector. Tampering cases come close, but the contentious topic of predatory drug pricing in the midst of a presidential election year is perfect-storm fodder for headline news.

Surprisingly, media sentiment (for which we use a 3rd-party sentiment engine) is somewhat balanced with 19% positive coverage vs. 15% negative coverage. Media values are high at $23 million for August ($37 million over the preceding 12-month period).

Prior to the price-gouging story, media momentum was down for EpiPen, with average media rating of 55 over the trailing 4-year period. Excepting stories around promising clinical trials, successful disease treatment, and positive earnings, prescription drug brands would prefer to fly under the media attention radar. With the unflattering spotlight currently on EpiPen, Mylan needs to rebuild public trust and pivot media attention to how they are adding value to real people’s lives. Using a media measurement tool like mediaQuant, Mylan can easily establish media benchmarks — over time, in different media segments, and against competing brands — and monitor and manage change dynamics from there.

Of course the Epipen price-gouging story is not a first for the pharma industry. The topic remains front-and-center in any media discussion involving drug brands. While the topic of high drug prices hasn’t returned to the Marin Shkreli level we saw in September 2015, the story line advanced +3 points to close at a 73 rating, just ahead of the topic’s trailing 12-month average. Media momentum is increasing and negative sentiment is quite strong at 31%.

From a media intelligence perspective, it’s critical that pharmaceutical manufacturers monitor the key topics and trends affecting their industry. In the case of Mylan and the EpiPen brand, the political winds could easily follow media and consumer sentiment, leaving U.S. drug manufacturers in a situation similar to other developed countries where government price oversight is quite common. With the right media visibility tool, Mylan can know when and where their media strategy needs to adapt to changing media story lines versus proactively drive them.