Counting Words Because Words Count

  • by: |
  • 01/19/2006

The new physician-label rule announced yesterday by the FDA is certain be one of the most important health care stories of 2006. To quickly recap:

Revised for the first time in more than 25 years, the new format requires that the prescription information for new and recently approved products meet specific graphical requirements and includes the reorganization of critical information so physicians can find the information they need quickly. Some of the most significant changes include: A new section called Highlights to provide immediate access to the most important prescribing information about benefits and risks; A Table of Contents for easy reference to detailed safety and efficacy information; The date of initial product approval, making it easier to determine how long a product has been on the market; A toll-free number and Internet reporting information for suspected adverse events to encourage more widespread reporting of suspected side effects; A key-facts section that prompts doctors on what they should tell patients.

The other important piece of yesterday’s announcement is the rule’s preamble where the FDA restates its long-standing position (“long-standing” meaning that the agency has had the same position in both Republican and Democrat administrations) on Federal preemption (for more on this see the blog below with the header, “Quis Custodiet ipsos Custodes?”).

So we can, broadly speaking, divide the announcement into two parts, the label and the preamble. Here’s how some major media chose to use their words (literally):

Washington Post (Marc Kaufmann): 841 total words; 530 words on the preamble.

Los Angeles Times (Nick Timiraos): 583 total words; 236 words on the preamble.

Marc and Nick win the prize for most percentage of words focused on the political rather than the public health story. And they win BIG when you consider the rest of the sample:

New York Times (Gardiner Harris): 1002 total words; 246 words on the preamble.

Wall Street Journal (Heather Won Tesoriero & Anna Mathews): 1109 total words; 150 words on the preamble.

Chicago Tribune (Peter Gorner): 532 total words; 32 words on the preamble.

Associated Press (Andrew Bridges): 660 total words; 124 word on the preamble.

Draw what conclusions you will.

My vote for best story goes to the New York Times with special kudos to the Constant Gardiner.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

Blog Roll

Alliance for Patient Access Alternative Health Practice
Better Health
Biotech Blog
CA Medicine man
Cafe Pharma
Campaign for Modern Medicines
Carlat Psychiatry Blog
Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry: A Closer Look
Conservative's Forum
Club For Growth
Diabetes Mine
Disruptive Women
Doctors For Patient Care
Dr. Gov
Drug Channels
DTC Perspectives
Envisioning 2.0
FDA Law Blog
Fierce Pharma
Fresh Air Fund
Furious Seasons
Gel Health News
Hands Off My Health
Health Business Blog
Health Care BS
Health Care for All
Healthy Skepticism
Hooked: Ethics, Medicine, and Pharma
Hugh Hewitt
In the Pipeline
In Vivo
Internet Drug News
Jaz'd Healthcare
Jaz'd Pharmaceutical Industry
Jim Edwards' NRx
Kaus Files
Laffer Health Care Report
Little Green Footballs
Med Buzz
Media Research Center
More than Medicine
National Review
Neuroethics & Law
Nurses For Reform
Nurses For Reform Blog
Opinion Journal
Orange Book
Peter Rost
Pharm Aid
Pharma Blog Review
Pharma Blogsphere
Pharma Marketing Blog
Pharmacology Corner
Pharmaceutical Business Review
Piper Report
Prescription for a Cure
Public Plan Facts
Real Clear Politics
Shark Report
Shearlings Got Plowed
Taking Back America
Terra Sigillata
The Cycle
The Catalyst
The Lonely Conservative
Town Hall
Washington Monthly
World of DTC Marketing
WSJ Health Blog