Big Pharma's reputation strikes out again, and profit perceptions may be to blame

Here we go again. Another public opinion pool where Big Pharma shows up among the least likable industries or lands near the bottom when it comes to corporate industry reputation.

This time it's the monthly Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll for August. While the core of the study focused on consumers' opinions about drug prices, several questions also tallied public sentiment regarding pharma. And it ain't good.

Only about four in 10 respondents (42%) have a positive view of pharma companies. That ranks the pharma industry almost at the bottom, with just oil companies below it at 40%. However, pharma did "win" among those who said their opinion was "very unfavorable," drawing 30% of the respondents, the most of any industry. Oil companies (27%) and health insurance companies (25%) were right behind with the very unfavorable sentiment.

Those dim views came despite some recognition for pharma's contributions to society: 62% said drugs developed in the last 20 years have made the lives of people in the U.S. better. Compared with other fields, respondents put the pharma industry in the middle of the pack for its social contributions, with more than half of consumers (57%) saying drugmakers help out about as much as other industries do.

The disconnect between the value of new prescription drugs and pharma's overall corporate reputation is an ongoing, but important, issue--especially when it comes to marketing.

The problem is that when consumers don't like or trust a company--or industry--they are less likely to act on advertising, according to Ipsos Public Affairs. Corporate reputation "impacts the credibility and appeal of your messages, products and services," according to the Ipsos website, which also calls reputation a corporation's "most important intangible asset."

One of the problems for pharma may be related to the other questions Kaiser asked about money and profits. Some 73% of Americans think drug companies make too much in profits, while another 74% said Big Pharma is too concerned about making money and not concerned enough about helping people.

Topher Spiro, VP of health policy at the Center for American Progress

"It's clear that drug companies have overreached and their pricing is not sustainable," Topher Spiro, the top health policy expert at the Center for American Progress told the Associated Press.

He added, however, "To arbitrarily limit the price of drugs without regard to benefit or value would not be wise," and noted that more transparency is needed about pharmaceutical pricing, as well as more research establishing which drugs work best.

While health insurance kept pharma at the bottom of the Kaiser survey, another related field basked in the glow at the top of the poll. Physicians enjoyed a 78% positive view.

- see the KFF report
- read the AP story

Special Report: Top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue

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