Trust issues: Millennials are more skeptical of pharma than older generations

Millennials on both sides of the healthcare coin are skeptical of pharma companies. Both younger patients and doctors don’t trust Big Pharma, according to doctor social network Sermo. And it may be the drug companies’ fault.

Sermo recently asked its network of physicians about their millennial patients and, coupled with an earlier study of millennial doctor attitudes, concluded that pharma companies are out of touch with younger patients and doctors.

 “It doesn’t surprise me that millennials are skeptical of pharmaceutical marketing and don’t ask for brand name drugs. Trust in the pharma industry may be low," likely because companies "haven’t done a good job engaging where millennials are, like on social media,” Osnat Benshoshan, Sermo chief marketing officer, said in an email to FiercePharma.

A study earlier this year found, however, that when pharma companies do engage with millennials online in advertising, it is more likely to drive traffic to their web sites.

While the Sermo survey questioned millennials' overall healthcare perspectives and choices, specific to pharma, only 5.4% of doctors said their younger patients are more likely to ask for brand name drugs or treatments. That goes hand-in-hand with the finding that 45% of millennials are more likely to challenge doctor recommendations than patients in other age groups are. Millennial doctors themselves have noted previously that they also are less likely to be influenced by others, including pharma companies.

Part of the reason for the questioning attitude is that millennials skew more cost-conscious than other generations. Doctors in the Sermo network said more than half (54%) of their millennial patients were more likely to ask about upfront costs or inquire about less expensive treatment options.

They also were less likely to want to build a relationship with a doctor; 57% just wanted to book one-time appointments. More walk-in clinics and telemedicine proliferation were predicted by more than a quarter of doctors as likely impacts of millennial healthcare habits.

“With more millennials entering adulthood and making medical decisions on their own, we’re seeing the impacts of their choices in a number of ways,” said Dr. Linda Girgis, Sermo advisory board member said in the news release. “From a tendency to shop around for doctors to a higher level of comfort in discussing costs, millennials are pushing for healthcare options that fit their schedules and budgets.”