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Pharma's reputation stays low in 2013

Patient group survey ranks pharma second bottom among healthcare industries
patientview pharma reputation survey

The reputation of pharma companies remained at a low ebb last year, with performance ratings down across the board compared to 2011, according to a survey of patient groups.

All told, 35 per cent of respondents to the PatientView poll indicated that multinational pharma companies had an "excellent" or "good reputation", around the same as in 2012 but down from 41 per cent in 2011.

Once again, the drug industry ranked second bottom among healthcare industries just ahead of for-profit health insurers, while biotech companies also slipped down the rankings a little.

"Pharma should worry about patients' views of its corporate reputation," said Alex Wyke, PatientView's chief executive.

"The power of the patient is increasing, thanks to the growing effectiveness of the patient movement," she added, with patient groups now lobbying at the international level, influencing reimbursement and starting to provide community level services.

As in previous surveys retail pharmacists topped the list with 62 per cent rated good or better, followed by medical device companies (55 per cent), private-sector healthcare services (51 per cent), non-profit health insurers (43 per cent) and generic and biotech companies, with around 41 per cent apiece.

"Although pharma has improved its ability to manage adverse news about products in 2013, the industry still has significant room for improvement in other areas of its business, particularly in its relationships with the media, ability to have ethical marketing practices, and acting with integrity," according to the report.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given media articles on pharma corruption in China and fines for pay-for-delay deals in Europe, one of the biggest declines compared to 2011 was for ethical marketing practices.

The sector also fared poorly on issues such as fair pricing, transparency and philanthropic activities and - despite perennial announcements from the industry that patients always come first - more than a third of respondents felt it was doing badly on patient-centricity.

On the plus side, pharma was perceived as making quality, useful products, being innovative and successful in ensuring patient safety, with scores largely in line with prior years.

Interestingly, companies with HIV/AIDS products dominated the rankings for corporate reputation, with ViiV Healthcare and Gilead Sciences come in at positions one and two. While this year's report did not ask respondents to give reasons for their selections, PatientView speculates this may be because they launched new therapies last year "to the satisfaction of the HIV/AIDS community".

However, "despite the accolades, both companies have come under criticism for their pricing strategies from groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)," PatientView noted.

Other companies ranking highly were AbbVie and Janssen, which may be a result of concentrating on pharma and exiting other sectors such as medical devices, while Menarini, Sanofi and Teva all rose several places up the list to break into the top 10 of 33 firms covered. 

Among the decliners, Lundbeck and Novartis - which were both fined by the EC last year in pay-for-delay cases - dropped out of the top 10.

Article by
Phil Taylor

14th February 2014

From: Sales, Marketing

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