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Turning things around

While many US consumers are sceptical about information from pharma companies, the industry is still in a strong position to become a trusted source of information

Almost 90 per cent of US consumers do not trust information on medicines given to them by pharmaceutical companies, according to a report from Datamonitor, which reveals that people are more likely to trust information from healthcare providers and other sources.

Black box warnings on drugs and the complete market withdrawal of others (Vioxx, Bextra, Baycol) have damaged consumer confidence in the pharma industry and the products it manufactures. This has left consumers questioning whether the industry has their best interests at heart.

ìThese doubts, in combination with soaring drug costs and shrinking product pipelines, pose an imminent danger to an industry that relies increasingly on word of mouth to create brand awareness and loyalty,î said Datamonitor eHealth analyst, Kimberly O'Malley.

The report reveals that consumers who are suspicious of information from pharma companies are less likely to make an appointment with their doctor, preferring to remain untreated, while others rely on over-the-counter treatments or herbal remedies.

Findings also suggest that those who do visit their doctor and get a prescription are unlikely to finish their course of treatment or return for a repeat prescription.

While recommendations on treatments from family members, friends and work colleagues are very powerful, the experiences of fellow consumers, in particular those writing blogs or participating in web chat rooms, are gaining influence.

The experiences of other consumers are set to become an increasingly influential part of patients' decision-making processes when it comes to treatment options, according to O'Malley.

Despite consumers' misgivings about the industry and the way in which it markets its products, Datamonitor believes that the sector is in ìa strong position to become a trusted source of information and services in the future, provided more stringent standards of practice are adoptedî, particularly with regard to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising.

Adoption and implementation of the Guiding Principles - a set of self-regulatory guidelines developed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) - should reassure consumers and make redundant the need for further regulation from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to Datamonitor.

ìCompliance with PhRMA's Guiding Principles will undoubtedly improve the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry in the eyes of consumers,î said O'Malley.

2nd September 2008

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