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Report says US public think pharma 'puts profits before patients'

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report published on 9 January has revealed significant differences between the US public's view of pharmaceutical companies and the perception big pharma has about itself

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report published on 9 January has revealed significant differences between the US public's view of pharmaceutical companies and the perception big pharma has about itself.

The report, entitled "Recapturing the Vision: Restoring Trust in the Pharmaceutical Industry by Translating Expectations into Actions" also claims that stakeholders are losing trust in the pharmaceutical industry.

In a nationwide survey of physicians, health insurers, researchers and policymakers, PwC found that the public believes the industry has put profits before patients, abandoning its original vision of improving human health.

Peter Claude, a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers pharmaceutical and life Sciences advisory services group, said: "It is difficult to comprehend how an industry that has saved so many lives should be held in such low public esteem. Yet in the current climate of distrust, the US public is questioning the industry's motives and practices from sales and marketing to pricing and drug development."

"Pharmaceutical companies need to demonstrate a better balance of their primary healthcare mission with their legal obligation to shareholders through patient-focused behavior. Research has shown that a five per cent positive change in corporate reputation translates into a three to five per cent positive change in market capitalisation," added Claude.

PwC survey results:

  • Seventy-four per cent of US consumers underestimated the average financial investment required to research and develop a new drug by more than 50 per cent
  • Fifty-five per cent of US consumers were split between believing that pharmaceutical companies consider important unmet medical needs when deciding to develop a new drug instead of choosing to develop "me-too" and "lifestyle" drugs with the greatest sales potential. This compares with 71 per cent of US industry stakeholders and 91 per cent of US pharmaceutical executives who said health needs are a top priority for pharmaceutical companies
  • Ninety-four per cent of US consumers and 81 per cent of US industry stakeholders said drug companies were too aggressive in promoting unapproved uses of their product. Forty-seven per cent of pharmaceutical company executives agreed
  • Sixty-two percent of stakeholders agreed that drug companies often manipulate or suppress negative clinical trial results to maximize sales. Four out of five pharmaceutical executives disagreed
  • Seventy-three per cent of stakeholders agreed that drug companies spend too much money and effort attempting to prevent generic drugs from competing with their branded products. Consumers strongly agreed that drug companies should be working with generic drug manufacturers to make generics available upon expiration of their branded drug's patent
  • Two-thirds of consumers surveyed estimated that prescription drugs account for between 40 per cent and 79 per cent of US healthcare costs. In fact, just 10 per cent of healthcare spending goes to drugs, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). According to PwC, this disparity may result from the fact that pharmaceuticals can consume a higher share of consumers' out-of-pocket spending than other components of health spending
  • Eighty-six per cent of consumers underestimated the cost of bringing a new drug to market. Independent studies place the cost of developing a single marketed pharmaceutical product in excess of USD 800 million. Part of public's misconception may stem from the fact that consumers neither understand who funds drug discovery nor appreciate the cost of failure that factors into each success in the drug discovery process
    • DTC has conflicting benefits for industry

      PwC found that US consumers place more value on a pharmaceutical company's reputation when deciding whether to use a given pharmaceutical product than pharmaceutical executives believed. Seventy-eight per cent said that when given a choice, they will consider a drug company's reputation when choosing which product to take.

      Only one out of three pharmaceutical executives thought reputation was a factor. One of the main ways US patients become familiar with a company is through DTC advertising, which has conflicting benefits for the industry. Only 10 per cent of stakeholders and consumers think that DTC advertising provides complete and useful information, compared with 40 per cent of industry executives.

      Nearly 94 percent of stakeholders agreed that drug companies spent too much money on drug promotion overall, including DTC advertising, as well as physician education and overall sales force initiatives. Surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of industry executives agreed.

      15th January 2007


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