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Pharma ranks bottom in Gallup poll of industry reputation

US opioid epidemic and medicine pricing to blame


People in the US are more than twice as likely to consider the pharma industry in a negative rather than a positive light, according to a new survey.

The latest cross-industry work and education poll by Gallup shows that pharma came at the very bottom of a list of 25 industries, with healthcare also faring poorly at a lowly 23 in the rankings.

Pharma was even viewed more negatively than the federal government, which perennially scores very badly on the survey and came in 24th place this year. The drug industry rescued the government from its last-place standing from 2011-2018.

To put that in perspective, pharma – whose mission is to create drugs that save lives – had a considerably worse reputation than advertising, the legal sector, banking, oil and gas and real estate this year.

Gallup’s scoring system involves taking the percentage of people polled who view an industry positively and subtracting the proportion with a negative view, to result in a net positive figure. For pharma this year 27% positive and 58% negative ratings gave it an overall score of -31.

The government mustered -27 and healthcare -10, while at the top end of the scale came the restaurant industry (+58), the computer sector (+50) and grocery (+43).

Pharma’s low standing doesn’t come as a massive surprise of course, given it has been called out repeatedly in the last few years for helping to fuel the opioid epidemic that has caused hundreds of thousands of fatalities in the US, as well as facing ongoing scrutiny over medicine prices.

“Several Democratic candidates have called out the industry in their party's presidential debates,” says Gallup, adding that right after it conducted this poll, an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572m for its role in the state's opioid epidemic.

“The pharmaceutical industry's US image has fallen to a new low," said Gallup although it suggested the industry “can hope to recover in the same way other industries have after particularly negative ratings, including the oil and gas, real estate, and automobile industries.”

It goes on: “As the opioid epidemic rages on – and as the actors involved in creating it continue to experience lawsuits, protests and public shaming – it may be hard for the pharmaceutical industry to make a comeback just yet”.

“The industry's rating likely will not recover until its role in the opioid epidemic is addressed, and the political pressure on the industry for high prices and massive profits subsides.”

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th September 2019



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