Corporate reputation can be fickle. It only takes one high-profile bribery scandal, a well-publicized aggressive price increase, or general evidence of wrong-doing, and a reputation built over many years can come crumbling down.
However, some companies just seem to get it right.
For the first time, Denmark-based Lundbeck emerged as the number one company in terms of corporate reputation in the US. AbbVie, Eisai, Pfizer and Janssen (in that order) rounded out the top five companies.
For the last four years, UK-based PatientView has fielded a survey of patient groups across the U.S. to find out which companies have the best corporate reputation. The 2015 survey included 28 companies and explored the views of 106 patient groups.
BioPharma Dive previously reported on ViiV Healthcare’s continued ranking at the top of PatientView’s global rankings, which looked at 48 countries and 1,075 patient groups. The survey used six key indicators to rate corporate reputation, including patient-centricity, patient information, patient safety, useful products, transparency and integrity.
Better than average
Overall, 35.6% of the 106 patient groups considered the pharma industry “excellent” or “good” in terms of overall corporate reputation—the best ranking of the industry in the last four years. This roughly tracks with results seen in the global survey.
However, patient groups in the U.S. do seem to have a less rosy view of the industry. In the global survey, nearly 45% of respondents ranked the industry either excellent or good (that survey did include other companies however).
Lundbeck ranked particularly high in “patient-centricity,” notching excellent or good ratings among 83.9% of patient group respondents. This is more than double the 40% favorability ranking for the industry as a whole. The Danish drugmaker also doubled up on its competitors in terms of transparency—the indicator which aligns most with pricing policies.
Multifaceted patient support is key
“The percentages awarded Lundbeck by US patient groups stand among the highest ever recorded in PatientView’s Corporate Reputation Survey,” said Alex Wyke, president of PatientView.
This may be the first time that Lundbeck has topped PatientView’s survey, but this 100-year-old company has deep roots in neurologic and psychiatric diseases, with a specific focus in the areas of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and schizophrenia.
Since 1959 and the approval of Lundbeck’s antipsychotic Truuxal for treatment of schizophrenia, the company has been a leader in brain disorder-related research.
Access + awareness
But what is it about Lundbeck that makes it so compelling to patients? Lundbeck’s US President, Peter Anastasiou, said patient-support programs and community-based activities help the company forge deep connections with patients.
“At Lundbeck, we believe our promise to patients extends far beyond medications,” Anastasiou said.
“First, we have programs in place for each of our products that help ensure patients have access to the medicines they need. In addition, we provide disease awareness and educational content, often created in partnership or with support from patient organizations,” he said.
Addressing stigma around mental health issues
Like other companies involved in treating psychiatric and neurologic diseases, such as Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Allergan, Lundbeck must continually address the deep-seated stigmatization associated with psychiatric and neurologic disorders. A key part of successful marketing within this category emphasizes on successfully redefining mental illness as a medical condition, rather than personality flaw.
Eli Lilly changed the conversation around depression when it launched Prozac in 1988 and set a precedent for awareness campaigns driving product uptake. Almost 30 years later, Lilly continues to focus on building awareness to combat stigma. It markets numerous drugs in this space, including Cymbalta for depression, Strattera for ADHD, and Zyprexa for schizophrenia.
Although Lilly is ranked 10th overall in the PatientView survey, it ranked higher among mental-health patient groups, suggesting this outreach has helped its reputation. Six of the 21 mental health groups (28.6%) stated that Lilly was “best” at providing high-quality products, much higher than its overall ranking.
Lundbeck is well aware of the challenge of combating stigma in different communities. “Lundbeck is dedicated to tackling the stigma associated with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia and major depressive disorder,” Anastasiou said.
Last year for World Mental Health Day, Lundbeck initiated a conversation about the concept of dignity in mental health via a microsite, which allowed people around the world to share their perspective on dignity, connect with others, and share ideas about how to reduce stigma.
In addition, last year, Lundbeck and Takeda, which co-markets the antidepressant Brintellix with Lundbeck, partnered with the American Psychiatric Association’s Partnership for Workplace Mental Health to support employers in recognizing and responding to employee mental health needs.
This week, however, the FDA denied an expanded indication for Brintellix, in a surprise decision after an advisory committee had recommended the label change. The companies had sought to win approval for treatment of cognitive dysfunction in adults with depression.
“Takeda and Lundbeck are disappointed with the response. However, the companies were pleased that FDA recognized the importance of cognitive dysfunction in MDD and view it as a legitimate target for drug development," the companies said in a joint statement.
Supporting community efforts yields patient loyalty
The PatientView survey revealed an interesting statistic—88% of patients in neurologic and psychiatric patient groups had experienced some type of interaction with Lundbeck
“Being part of the community inspires us, and it’s also an opportunity for us to listen to the needs of the community. Our active participation has led to several very impactful programs. For instance, after learning about a local epilepsy program (Studio E: The Epilepsy Art Therapy Program) in Chicago, we worked with the Epilepsy Foundation to expand the program to more than 50 U.S. cities,” Anastasiou said.
The program attracted a total of 2,500 people and had a major impact on many of the participants, who face a great deal of stigma. Lundbeck subsequently fielded a survey of participants and found participation in the program significantly increased feelings of self-esteem and self-worth among participants.
Extending offline support to online venues
Lundbeck also leverages social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to connect with patients. “It has been an especially useful tool for helping people in the rare disease community,” Anastasiou explained.
“Given the small number of people with conditions like Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) and Huntington’s disease (HD), it can be very difficult to find and meet with others who have similar experiences. Essentially, our social media platforms are an extension of the support that we provide offline, at the community level.”
Reputation is not something Lundbeck takes lightly either. “These results are a source of great pride for everyone across our company,” Anastasiou said. He saw the feedback as an affirmation of their approach.
Results from the global PatientView survey further suggested the importance of patient-centricity in building pharmaceutical brands. ViiV was rated the best company at focusing on the patient by a wide margin. Taken together, Lundbeck and ViiV’s success highlights a potential counterstrategy for an industry hammered by negative publicity on pricing.