There are a lot of sexy health and science stories on the horizon these days - everything from human cloning to stem cell research to new vaccines. But aspirin is not among them. The 100+-year-old pain reliever is time-tested, but when Bayer approached Golin/Harris about generating "new news" for the drug, it looked as though the team wouldn't have much to work with. Instead of focusing on the old, Bayer wanted to highlight aspirin's new uses and demonstrate that scientists are still learning about potential uses for the drug. The American Heart Association says aspirin is underused (of all the people who have suffered previous heart attacks and strokes and should be on an aspirin regimen for their health, less than 26 percent are). Plus, many groups have begun recommending that aspirin be used as a preventive measure against a first heart attack or stroke. Research has also shown the drug could be used to help ward off diseases like colon cancer, Alzheimer's and prostate cancer. Armed with this research and a third party spokesperson, Dr. Charles Hennekens, an authority on preventive medicine at the University of Miami, the Golin/Harris team began pitching health reporters. Team members targeted major outlets like USA Today, Time and Newsweek and began establishing a rapport with healthcare editors. But their pitches weren't getting much attention from journalists who were more interested in the many other healthcare stories on their plates. Finally, after weeks of emailing and calling Jerry Adler and Anne Underwood at Newsweek, and sending news and information uncovered by Bayer and other sources about once every two weeks, Adler and Underwood took the bait and told the team they might be interested in writing a piece about aspirin. The team continued working with the Newsweek reporters, and the result was a two-page story in Newsweek titled "The Oldest New Wonder Drug." The article covered the history of aspirin (did you know Hippocrates used a chemical precursor of the drug, which was officially discovered at the end of the 19th century?). Several doctors also commented in the story on the benefits of using aspirin as a preventive therapy, not just for heart and vascular disease, but for a variety of cancers and possibly even Alzheimer's. Newsweek also used a recent Bayer ad targeting women with heart disease prevention messages as a graphic for the article. (Golin/Harris: Dan Lathitham, Kevin Einbinder, 312/729-4000)
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