- The public's emotional reaction to pharmaceutical companies is getting more positive, but drugmakers will need to increase transparency if they want even better responses from consumers, according to a new report.
- The Reputation Institute, a research firm focused on how the masses view corporations, on Wednesday issued its 2017 Global Pharmaceutical RepTrak study. AbbVie leads the industry with a 74.5% positive perception from the general public, according to the study, while Novo Nordisk and Takeda round out the top three — scoring at 74% and 73.8%, respectively. At the bottom were GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, both of which clocked in at 68.5% or less.
- Those results came from the nearly 17,000 survey responses gathered from the general public of eight countries during the first quarter. The Reputation Institute asked survey takers to scores companies on seven criteria: citizenship, governance, innovation, leadership, performance, products and services, and workplace.
Pharma's image, tattered of late by sky-high list prices, an opioid epidemic in the states and scandals at the top levels of leadership, has seen better days. Only 28% of U.S. consumers view the industry positively, according to a Gallup poll, which puts it in a tie with the federal government as the two worst-rated business sectors in the country. More than half of responders had negative opinions about drug companies.
The new report from Reputation Institute paints a brighter picture, however. Across all responders, 71.8% had positive perceptions of the industry, up from 68.2% the year prior. In fact, pharma's reputation has increased each year since at least 2014, when it clocked in at 65.8%.
Notably, responders viewing the industry as having "excellent" reputation (the highest score range possible) grew by seven percentage points year-over-year. Conversely, those perceiving the industry as "weak" or "poor" (the two lowest possible scoring ranges) dropped more than 25 percentage points.
Despite that more positive growth, the report's authors noted that pharmaceutical businesses are missing the mark on key reputation growth drivers.
A drugmaker's delivery on citizenship, governance, and products and services are the most important for upgrading its public perception, according to the study, yet survey takers said the industry is doing average on two of those accounts: citizenship and governance. What's more, results showed the general public thinks pharma is doing just OK at behaving ethically, supporting good causes, protecting the environment or being transparent.
"Pharma companies would benefit from more communication as overall familiarity is still low, and the general public is asking for more information about the companies," the report said.
On a company-by-company level, almost all of the 17 drugmakers had "strong" reputations, meaning 70-79% of responders viewed them favorably. The two exceptions were GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, which, along with Bayer, were also considered the most greedy and arrogant. Merck & Co. and Merck KGaA were the only two companies to see their reputation slide in 2017.
On a more positive note, the public viewed AbbVie and Janssen as two of the most exciting and sincere medicine developers. Additionally, almost three in five of survey takers said they had a positive opinion about the commitment pharmaceutical companies have toward advancing treatments and cures, a particularly good sign given the recent efforts from PhRMA and others to double down on science and R&D.
To conduct the report, Reputation Institute evaluated public opinions in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S. In order for a rating to count, responders must have completed at least 75% of it and identified themselves as relatively familiar with the companies they were evaluating.