Pharma industry improved since before pandemic say patient groups

The aim of the survey is to help pharmaceutical groups improve and better understand patients' needs. [Shutterstock/Molly Woodward]

Since the pandemic, the public image of big pharma companies such as Sanofi, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Bayer has improved, according to a survey of 2,150 patient groups worldwide.

The Pharmaceutical Reputation Survey 2021 was conducted for the eleventh consecutive year by PatientView, a UK-based research, publishing and consultancy group and aims to help pharmaceutical groups better understand patients’ needs.

The patients, who come from cancer, disability, cardiovascular and rare disease groups spread over five continents, were asked about their opinion of the reputation of 47 companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

Fifty-nine per cent of patient groups responding to the 2021 survey said that the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation was “excellent” or “good”, compared to 50% in 2020.

“The annual global rankings by patient organisations give us insights about our performance across 10 patient-centric indicators, helping us improve our interactions and offerings with patient organisations,” commented Jan Nissen, vice president of US pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.

According to Emma Andrews, vice president of patient advocacy at Pfizer, the survey “helps us better serve the needs of patients and advance our shared goals of helping our community live longer healthier and more productive lives”.

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A better reputation thanks to COVID

For the methodology, the patient groups first assessed the pharmaceutical industry’s performance as a whole, compared to other health sectors, and then the performance of individual pharmaceutical companies through nine indicators.

These indicators include transparency, research and development, integrity, patient access and safety, product quality, support and services, and as of 2021, support for patients during the pandemic.

The 2021 results place the pharmaceutical industry ahead of all other healthcare players in terms of reputation for the first time in 11 years.

Seventy-six per cent of patient groups surveyed in 2021 said that the pharmaceutical industry had been “very effective” or “effective” in supporting patients during the pandemic, compared to only 61% in 2020.

The only criterion that lost points compared to last year was transparency in clinical data, dropping from 26 points in 2020 to 25 in 2021.

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ViiV Healthcare, Pfizer and Sun Pharma in the lead

The patient groups were also asked to rank the companies in the pharmaceutical industry with the best reputation. The three rankings were split between the top five pharmaceutical companies, the top three ‘big-pharma’ companies and the top three generic companies.

Of the 47 pharmaceutical companies featured in Patient View’s survey, the highest rated was ViiV Healthcare, a company specialising in developing AIDS treatments, formed from the merger between Pfizer and GSK.

Next in the top five is the leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the biotech company Roche/Genentech, and two other pharmaceutical companies: the American Gilead Sciences and the Belgian Janssen, a subsidiary of the Johnson & Johnson group.

Among the 13 ‘big-pharma’ companies proposed, Pfizer, Roche/Genentech and Janssen came out on top.

Finally, India’s Sun Pharma, Switzerland’s Sandoz and America’s Mylan are the three best generic drug manufacturers, according to patients.

Despite a clear improvement compared to 2020, most of the respondents to the survey believe that the pharmaceutical industry still has room for improvement in terms of transparency, communication on pricing policy and access to medicines. Respondents also want patients to be involved in research and development (R&D).

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[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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