As far as many patient groups are concerned, the theme song for the pharmaceutical industry should be Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.”
For all the criticism that drug makers have endured in recent years, a new survey finds that they are faring worse than ever. Just 38 percent of patient groups thought the pharmaceutical industry had an “excellent” or “good” reputation last year, down from almost 45 percent in 2015, according to PatientView, a research firm that canvassed more than 1,400 patient groups from 105 countries.
Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry fares poorest when it comes to pricing.
Just 11 percent believe drug makers offer fair pricing, down from 15 percent two years ago and the lowest-ever ranking since the firm began this annual exercise in 2011. It is also worth noting that the measly 15 percent showing in 2015 was the best report card on pricing that the industry received over the past six years. In other words, patient groups have been especially unhappy about drug prices.
The patient groups were asked to assess 47 drug makers on seven traits: the extent to which the companies are focused on patients; the sort of information provided patients; patient safety; useful products; transparency; integrity, and the effectiveness of the relationships with drug makers.
And drug makers fared poorly on a number of the measures.
For instance, 59 percent of patient groups said that drug companies were innovative, a notable drop from 69 percent in 2015 and the lowest showing since 2011. Similarly, 64 percent reported the industry makes “high quality, useful products,” down from 72 percent last year and barely exceeding the 63 percent lowest rating in 2012, which was the low point.
Drug makers never ranked high on transparency, but now only 20 percent of patient groups gave them a good report, compared with 26 percent in 2015. And just 27 percent of patient groups say drug makers do an excellent or good job of providing access to clinical trials, the lowest percentage since 2011. Only 25 percent believe pharma engages in ethical marketing, down from 36 percent in 2015.
We should note that there are some limitations. For one thing, some patient groups accept industry funding, which may skew their responses. And as PatientView noted, there are patient groups that are more familiar with some drug makers than others depending on geographic location or if they are devoted to diseases for which only some companies make certain medicines.
As for individual companies, the most reputable drug maker was ViiV Healthcare, which is a joint venture devoted to HIV medicine that is largely owned by GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer and Shionogi are minority partners. The company was ranked first overall in 2016, and was also considered the most reputable in all seven indicators used to gauge reputation.
Rounding out the top 10, in descending order, were AbbVie; Novo Nordisk; Novartis; Gilead Sciences; Grifols; Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit; Roche; Lundbeck; and Shire. The lowest-ranked company was Hospira, which is now owned by Pfizer. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, infamous for buying older medicines and then jacking up the prices, captured the second-to-lowest ranking.