Mental health patient groups slam pharma over R&D engagement, again awarding low reputation scores

Pharma is yet to shake its bad reputation among mental health patient groups. As in previous years, the proportion of groups that said the industry has a good or excellent reputation lagged well behind other therapeutic areas, with respondents particularly damning about a failure to engage patients in R&D.

PatientView gathered the data, speaking to 82 mental health patient groups as 2022 rolled into 2023 to add to its knowledge of how the pharma industry is perceived. The resulting report (PDF) shows that the industry remains in the bad books of mental health patient groups, which have consistently given a more negative assessment of pharma than their counterparts in other therapeutic areas. 

Pharma made some gains from 2018 to 2021, when the proportion of groups saying pharma had a good or excellent corporate reputation rose from 24% to 40%, but progress stalled in the latest survey. In the 2022 data set, the figure slipped to 38%. The global average for all diseases is 60%.

PatientView noted that the pharma industry “is now focused on mental health as a key priority, and has significantly improved its R&D output,” but “any benefits from the uprated approach have yet to be seen by the mental-health patient groups” in the survey. 

Typically, patient groups acknowledge pharma companies are a source of products that benefit patients but chide the industry’s approach to pricing. That dynamic plays out to an extent in the mental health data, but the groups are far less positive about R&D, with 41% saying pharma is at least good at creating products that benefit patients compared to the therapywide figure of 65%.

The mental health patient groups took a poor view of the transparency of pharma pricing and use of fair pricing policies, with 14% saying the industry is good or better in both areas, but reserved the strongest criticism for how companies engage patients in R&D. Only 12% of respondents said the industry is good or excellent at engaging patients in R&D.

PatientView gathered quotes about what the groups want. A representative of a regional mental health patient group in Canada said “research is not complete or applicable without extensive consultation from patients regarding their health,” while a respondent from a Chinese depression group highlighted the value of “understanding patients’ needs and feelings.”

Like other PatientView surveys, the report ranked pharma companies by reputation, but the respondents only recognized six companies. Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Lundbeck and Otsuka took the top three spots. Limiting the ranking to respondents that have worked with a company reduced the list to four, with AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly dropping off, and saw Pfizer tie with Otsuka for third place.