Is COVID-19 really improving pharma's reputation? Takeda survey says not so much

Takeda US facility
A new Takeda study conducted by Ipsos MORI in the U.K. finds consumers and healthcare providers favor pharma companies with a clear sense of purpose. (Takeda)

Thinking pharma might earn a halo with its COVID-19 work? Not so fast, Takeda says. Its recent U.K. study finds only an incremental boost in positive consumer sentiment.

Only 17% of adults surveyed in October agreed that their perception of the pharma industry has improved during the pandemic, while the majority (54%) said their opinion hasn't changed. Ipsos MORI fielded the study with adults in the U.K. and also with healthcare professionals.

“Whilst there might be this perception it’s improved, there’s actually a lot of work to do to get down to the general public to change their perceptions,” Jon Neal, Takeda managing director in the U.K. and Ireland, said.

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Still, there was at least one silver lining. Among healthcare providers, 68% have a favorable view of the industry, indicating to Neal that “the people who know us better have a better impression of us.”

There’s also an opportunity to reach out to the many consumers in the neutral middle—36% have neither a positive nor negative impression of the industry—and communicate better with them.

Key to that communication is conveying purpose. The more the industry strives towards purposeful business, the more it will see real impact on improving care and outcomes, Neal said.

That said, the report shows there is still a lot of work to be done. However, the current state of the world offers a unique chance for drugmakers to leverage the public interest spurred by the pandemic.

“The route out of the pandemic relies on us—producing vaccines, medicines and treatments that will help us get through this. So I think the role that we’ll play has given us a much bigger voice,” Neal said.

RELATED: Pfizer rides reputation wave after unveiling positive vaccine data: Harris Poll

He also believes the industry should look outside itself for other businesses that have used purpose to differentiate themselves. Research has shown broadly that consumers want to engage with companies that have a clear purpose, morals and values. Takeda’s survey proves that’s true in pharma as well.

“What the report clearly shows is that does make a difference. People have a heightened favorability to pharmaceutical companies where they believe a clear sense of purpose is being communicated, particularly among healthcare professionals,” Neal said.