Big Pharma's bad rap made late-night TV, even before the Shkreli effect

Back in June, before the pricing debate hit full swing, pharma had already taken two new hits to its public image, adding to the evidence that the industry's rep is more Johnny Rotten than Pope Francis.

A Harris poll had just confirmed that pharma gets a big thumbs-down from most of the general public, with only 37% of respondents saying "positive" things about the industry--even fewer than last year. That puts the drug business about on par with the airlines, and we all know how much love they get.

That was the hard data. The soft? A report from HBO's John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, which pilloried the industry in general--and its marketing practices in particular. Oliver spent 17-plus minutes detailing the reasons why we should care about pharma's misbehavior. And detailing said misbehavior. Then, almost every popular news outlet--including Rolling Stone--wrote up Oliver's report as news.

Pharma's reputation has moved front-and-center since, with presidential candidates zeroing in on drug prices as a campaign issue--not to mention some poster-child price hikes from Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli and Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) chief Mike Pearson. More