According to a new global survey, the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation reached a five-year high, despite continuing blowback over high drug prices.
For the last five years, UK-based PatientView has fielded an annual survey to patient groups across the world. In 2015, 44.7% of patient-group respondents ranked the overall reputation of the industry as either “excellent” or “good.” This is a notable improvement over previous rates of between 34% and 42% in the last four years.
And for the third year running, Viiv—a joint venture between Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Shionogi headquartered in the U.K.—emerged as the top-ranked company in terms of corporate reputation. AbbVie, Lundbeck, Janssen, and Novo Nordisk (in that order) rounded out the top five companies.
For 2015, the survey explored the views of 1,075 patient groups from 72 countries and included a total of 48 companies in the report. PatientView used six key indicators to rate corporate reputation, including patient centricity, patient information, patient safety, useful products, transparency, and integrity.
Veni, Vidi, Vici, Viiv?
What consistently separates Viiv from the pack?
PatientView found increased investment by pharma in relationships with patient groups and patient-centric activities to be a major game-changer.
Viiv is one example of a biopharma company which maintains strong ties with patient communities by proactively recognizing and responding to needs. In every category outlined by PatientView, Viiv is a top contender. It’s not the only company that has built strong ties with patient communities—but it is ranked much higher in terms of patient-centricity than other pharma companies in the survey.
Only 34% of patient groups surveyed by PatientView thought the industry rated “Excellent” or “Good” at being patient-centric. Viiv hit 53.8% of respondents, suggesting it has substantially distinguished itself from competitors. As drug companies’ concern over negative PR grows, there might be lessons in Viiv’s streak at the top of PatientView’s survey.
By creating stronger relationships with patients through community-support programs and patient-education programs, pharma companies can enhance the value proposition associated with their products. Patient-centricity creates a more familiar brand and links a company’s products to the positive impact generated by the support work a company conducts.
But, this approach can also create conflicts of interest, if funding from pharma companies indirectly pressures patient groups to emphasize certain topics over others. As a recent article by the USA Today notes, pharma funding may lead patient groups to emphasize drug development rather than weighing in on drug affordability issues.
This can play directly into a drugmaker's strategy, as companies frequently cite the cost and effort of drug development as a justification for high prices.
Last year, Viiv funded numerous patient-based initiatives designed to support communities affected by HIV. For example, in May 2015, Viiv gave £100,000 in grant-funding to seven patient-advocacy groups in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Latvia, Portugal, Serbia and the U.K.
In October 2015, Viiv announced it would be providing funding of £2 million per year to support various programs in Africa focused on the needs of MSM (men who have sex with men) and transgender individuals. Viiv also stepped up its funding for children through the Positive Action for Children Fund (PACF), which supports 34 community-based organizations in 16 sub-Saharan nations.
Since 2009, PACF grants have provided HIV testing for nearly 250,000 women, while making it possible for 135,000 babies born to HIV-infected mothers to receive they support and care they need.
Viiv’s Positive Action programs cover many of the groups touched by HIV, focusing on helping various communities overcome stigma and discrimination. Beyond supporting programs for MSM and transgender people, Viiv also has specific support programs that extend to commercial sex workers, injecting drug users, and HIV-infected people in the U.S., particularly in the South.
Pivoting to the patient
In a recent report, Jeff Elton and Anne O’Riordan from Accenture Health Consulting, highlighted the evolving role of patients in pharma.
“We’re entering a time when the priorities of the individual patient with a specific disease or health condition can drive a real determination of value in therapies...The patient is taking on more direct responsibility for outcomes, viewing them from a new vantage point as beneficiary and active customer. Healthcare is pivoting to the patient," they wrote.
The implications for pharmaceutical marketing are significant.
As Anne O’Riordan explained, “Marketing which is today brand and product-centric will evolve to being patient solution centric with each solution predicated on a distinct value proposition and a digital enablement capability."
"In line with the digital age, marketing will need to have much stronger customer analytic capabilities which will allow for improved responsiveness to customers and consumers and an increasing ability to anticipate and predict needs and requirements,” she said.
Recently, there has been greater interest in performance-based pricing, which could provide a model for creating new values. In February, Novartis signed pay-for-performance deals with the major insurers Cigna and Aetna, tying the price of its new heart med Entresto to reductions in the proportion of patients hospitalized for heart failure.
Deals like these could help align costs with the highest-value drugs and share benefits with the wider healthcare system. For drug companies, they can offer an opportunity to increase access to their drugs and reverse negative pricing publicity.