Pharma outreach to LGBTQ community lacking, reveals untapped market beyond HIV and PrEP: survey

Pride flag from Getty Images
Nearly three-quarters of people surveyed in a new study think more positively about companies that advertise in LGTBQ media. (Getty Images)

The healthcare needs of the LGBTQ community go beyond just HIV testing and prevention, of course, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the typical pharma TV commercial.

That was one common theme in a survey of more than 15,000 members of the LGTBQ community by Community Marketing & Insights. The soon-to-be-published study was commissioned by CMI Media Group, the Human Rights Campaign and Wells Fargo.

Nearly half of those surveyed believe pharma companies aren’t doing enough to reach out to and understand members of the LGBTQ community. People who identified as lesbian, transgender and nonbinary were even more likely to feel ignored, according to the research.

“What that data tells me is that there’s a huge market that’s not being tapped into,” said Craig Beyerle, supervisor of paid social for CMI Media Group.

The survey found less than a quarter (21%) of cisgender gay and bisexual men strongly or somewhat agreed that “pharmaceutical companies adequately outreach to and understand my identity as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary and/or queer individual.” 

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Meanwhile, only 8% of transgender and nonbinary participants and just 6% of cisgender lesbian and bisexual women agreed; 39% of all respondents were neutral.

Those who disagreed gave various reasons such as seeing only heterosexual couples in pharma ads or feeling that their unique healthcare needs aren’t recognized. Others cited the high cost of medications like hormone treatments or HIV drugs.

Beyerle attributes the higher positive response among gay men to recent education and awareness campaigns around PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) treatments to prevent HIV. The federal government now requires most health insurers to cover HIV prevention pills such as Gilead’s Truvada and Descovy with no cost-sharing.

“I think it’s great that we can get that PrEP coverage, but there’s more to us than that,” said Beyerle, who is gay. “A lot of us within this community also have high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and various different disease states that require just as much attention.”

Respondents also expressed some of the same negative perceptions that continue to dog pharma among the general population, such as the belief that companies put profits ahead of patients.

“As long as pharmaceutical companies are primarily driven by profit, they have no capacity to understand or care about me or other people in my community,” a Latina lesbian from Nevada commented.

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So how can pharma companies build trust in the LGBTQ community? One way is by showing up. Nearly 8 in 10 surveyed said they think more positively about companies that sponsor LGBTQ community organizations and events. 

“Just being present at different pride outreach events and being part of the community,” is a good first step, said Beyerle, although he said activities should extend beyond pride month.

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they think more positively about companies that advertise in LGTBQ media, which 86% said they read or view regularly.

Beyerle also suggests companies feature more same-sex couples in non-HIV drug ads. “When somebody within the LGBTQ audience can relate to a message, it makes them more connected to that brand or that company,” he said.