Drugmakers suffer decline in trust, report says


The overall corporate reputation of pharmaceutical companies declined in 2012 compared to 2011, according to an independent study by patients' organisations.

The study – "The corporate reputation of pharma in 2012: the patient perspective" – is funded by PatientView, which represents 600 patient groups.

PatientView has focused on patients' impressions on the corporate reputation of 29 individual pharmaceutical companies, and the industry as a whole, in the study that was conducted from mid-November to mid-December.

Only 34% of the 600 patient groups responding to the 2012 survey state that multinational drug companies had an “excellent” or “good” reputation during 2012. In 2011 that figure was 42%.

Forty percent of the patient groups also state that the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry declined during 2012. As many as half of the 600 respondent patient groups say that industry had a “poor” record in 2012 for having fair pricing policies or for being transparent.

Lundbeck, a Danish company specialising in drugs for brain disorders, took first place in the ranking, despite an EU antitrust probe launched in 2010 over suspicions that it hindered the entry of a generic drug onto the European market.

It was followed by Gilead Sciences, and American company that concentrates on antiviral drugs and pulmonary diseases. Novartis, a Swiss company that sells drugs, vaccines and contact lenses among other things, came in third.

More bad press in 2012

The sharpest fall in trust relate to how firms manage "adverse news about product".

"Having ethical marketing practices" and "having a good relationship with the media" were cited as the main reasons for declining trust.

According to the patients, there are several reasons why pharmaceutical firms' reputation fell during 2012. The companies are seen as having failed to help patients in cash-strapped southern European countries get access to medicines – including in Greece, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

They are also seen as being too preoccupied selling drugs that offer short-term health benefits, the patient groups say, while not enough effort is being made to discover new substances suitable for neglected diseases.

All these factors have culminated in "a general impression that profit comes before making people well," the report concludes.

Many of the 600 patient groups responding to the 2012 survey have referred to negative press and "bad corporate stories" during the year to explain why they have downgraded their opinion of some companies.

Stories on issues such as patient safety, transparency and company integrity have been particularly bad in 2012.

Pharmaceutical companies with a high exposure to ‘bad stories’ in 2012 will see their rankings drop in the study, whereas other less-affected ones have benefited as a result.

The European healthcare system is struggling to cope with low levels of transparency and trust in the pharmaceutical sector, according to 97% of doctors, industry professionals and policymakers polled at the Gastein Health Forum in October 2012.

The European Commission believes there is "a level of mistrust, particularly between public authorities and the pharma industry."

The EU executive's entreprise department said it would publish new corporate social responsibility guidelines in early 2013 to tackle issues of trust and ethics in the pharmaceutical sector, and access to medicines in Europe.

>> Read: Mistrust puts pharmaceutical industry in the spotlight

  • Early 2013: European Commission expected to publish new corporate social responsibility guidelines to tackle issues of trust and ethics in the pharmaceutical sector.

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