A content analysis of the representation of statins in the British newsprint media
BMJ Publishing Group
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OBJECTIVE: This study reviewed the news media coverage of statins, seeking to identify specific trends or differences in viewpoint between media outlets and examine common themes. DESIGN: The study is a content analysis of the frequency and content of the reporting of statins in a selection of the British newsprint media. It involved an assessment of the number, timing and thematic content of articles followed by a discourse analysis examining the underlying narratives. The sample was the output of four UK newspapers, covering a broad-spectrum readership, over a six month timeframe 1 October 2013 to 31 March 2014. RESULTS: A total of 67 articles included reference to statins. The majority (39, 58%) were reporting or responding to publication of a clinical study. The ratio of negative to positive coverage was greater than 2:1 overall. In the more politically right-leaning newspapers, 67% of coverage was predominantly negative (30/45 articles); 32% in the more left-leaning papers (7/22 articles). Common themes were the perceived 'medicalisation' of the population; the balance between lifestyle modification and medical treatments in the primary prevention of heart disease; side effects and effectiveness of statins; pharmaceutical sponsorship and implications for the reliability of evidence; trust between the public and government, institutions, research organisations and the medical profession. CONCLUSIONS: Newsprint media coverage of statins was substantially influenced by the publication of national guidance and by coverage in the medical journals of clinical studies and comment. Statins received a predominantly negative portrayal, notably in the more right-leaning press. There were shared themes: concern about the balance between medication and lifestyle change in the primary prevention of heart disease; the adverse effects of treatment; and a questioning of the reliability of evidence from research institutions, scientists and clinicians in the light of their potential allegiances and funding.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from BMJ Publishing Group via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 7, article e012613
Place of publication