In a welcome, surprising reversal, pharma's reputation among patients takes an upturn

This is not a misprint: Pharma's reputation with patients is on the way up. That's according to PatientView, which has run the same reputation study surveying patient groups for the past four years, and labeled the 2015 reputation findings as the best year yet for pharma companies.

Close to half (44.7%) of responding patient groups agreed that pharma had an "excellent" or "good" corporate reputation in 2015, compared with 39% in last year and 34% in 2012, the year of the lowest positive result. Another 28% of the patient groups said pharma's reputation had improved during the year. The study bases its reputation findings on patient centricity, patient information, patient safety, useful products, transparency, and integrity.

High-quality products were the main reason for the bump up in reputation, according to PatientView, with 72% of groups rating pharma products as excellent or good.

"One vital prerequisite for a pharma company wishing to gain and hold a good corporate reputation is for it to have treatments which provide genuine, measurable, and positive impact on a medical condition. Patient groups also closely track any progress in companies' R&D pipelines," the report noted.

Still, it may not be time to start throwing party streamers just yet. Patients still have issues with pharma around pricing. Only 15% believed pharma pricing policies were fair, while 45% rated drugmakers "poor" at pricing. Patient groups representing conditions in hepatitis, HIV and rare diseases were the least happy about pricing.

PatientView also looked at individual pharma companies' reputations, with ViiV Healthcare, Pfizer ($PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) HIV-focused joint venture, coming in at No. 1 again this year. AbbVie ($ABBV) was second, followed by Lundbeck, Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Pharmaceutical division, Novo Nordisk ($NVO) and Gilead ($GILD) rounding out the top six. Gilead was the biggest mover in the group, up eight spots from 2014.

Other patient group issues called out by the study include mergers and acquisitions which groups generally do not like; pricing again, but also access, where the groups asked for more transparency; and unacceptable corporate behavior.

- see the PatientView data in more detail