On the beat: healthcare

It's fair to say that healthcare hasn't enjoyed this type of attention in many years. From Michael Moore to Steve Case, just about everyone wanted to weigh in on our beleaguered system.

It's fair to say that healthcare hasn't enjoyed this type of attention in many years. From Michael Moore to Steve Case, just about everyone wanted to weigh in on our beleaguered system.

In the presidential race, the Democrats raced to say universal coverage as quickly as possible, debated one another's respective plans, and reminisced over Hillary Clinton's failure in 1994. In Congress, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has proved to be the defining domestic battle of the Bush years, while also serving as a potential preview to the larger battle ahead.

Big Pharma also got its fair share of the limelight. Merck's Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that had been building positive press since the Food and Drug Administration approved it back in June of last year, was suddenly the most controversial issue out there, following Gov. Rick Perry's (R-TX) mandate. Eventually Merck bowed to the building pressure and dropped all lobbying surrounding the product.

And much was made of the lightweight pipelines around the industry, and the heated competition to license drugs from smaller biotech companies. Of course, one such deal ended badly when Pfizer dropped Nektar's Exubera and pundits wondered whether Pfizer's corporate reputation might take a hit and affect its ability to compete in the market. Regardless, communications efforts between biotech and Big Pharma have taken on a new weight recently.

And, of course, the FDA itself was the topic on the lips of many a communicator, with the agency stuck in the midst of the Avandia mess and busy looking into how it might better communicate risk to consumers. FDA reform has been one of the hot topics in the healthcare beat this year, and it's not likely to disappear despite some movement on the front.

For PRWeek, I'm excited to cover stories from across the spectrum: public affairs in Washington, product launches from Big Pharma, and new developments from the world of biotech. In addition, I've also launched The Pulse, a new blog where I hope to discuss some topics in the field that might otherwise not get a full airing. If 2007 was a big year for healthcare, expect 2008 to be even bigger.

In addition to choosing entries for PRWeek's 2007 Book of Lists, PRWeek reporters provided individual overviews of a year within their beat. "On the beat" columns are also dispersed throughout the Best of Lists 2007 PDF.

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