Big Pharma ranks near bottom in patient attitudes

Big Pharma has got to be thankful for for-profit health insurers. They represent the only group that patients who are taking drugs are touched by that they dislike more than makers of branded drugs.

That is according to a survey recently published in PatientView Quarterly, which surveyed 500 international, national and regional patient groups, about their opinions of different parts of the drug and devicemaking, paying and delivery process. While 72% of the participants come from Europe, Forbes contributor John LaMattina says there are lessons to be drawn for the industry. LaMattina is the former president of Pfizer R&D and now senior partner at PureTech Ventures, 

Pharma ranked seventh out of 8 categories. According to the survey, which must be purchased to get to the nitty-gritty, only 34% gave pharma a good or excellent rating. Generic drugmakers didn't do much better, with 37% of respondents having good feelings about them, while biotechs were rated favorably by 44%. Patients liked their retail pharmacists the best, at 62%. Then there was medical device companies, 50%; private healthcare services, 46%; biotechs, 44%; and not-for-profit health insurers, 39%. For-profit health insurers fell a full 10 percentage points lower than pharma at 24%.

There are number of factors that influenced patients against branded drugmakers. Not surprisingly, pricing was at the top of their list. They also found drug companies too secretive, said they do a poor job of letting them know about adverse drug event news and a third of them have issues with the industry's integrity. 

The former Pfizer ($PFE) R&D exec offers up some ideas on changing such attitudes. He thinks Big Pharma should provide more transparency on payments to physicians and clinical trial data, stop pushing drugs for unapproved uses and give up television advertising.

Some individual drug companies have taken these kinds of steps, although often after intense criticism. For example, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has committed to open up its data vaults and let researchers peruse years of results good and bad.

But there are other signs of disaffection with the lack of transparency in the industry. Just this week, the AARP, AFL-CIO, and 17 other healthcare advocacy groups issued a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, urging the Obama administration to roll out regulations for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. That is the legislation that mandated disclosure of financial ties between industry and doctors. The regulations to implement the act are 15 months overdue. Some doctors wrote a similar letter. Of course, this delay is not the industry's doing.

- read the Forbes piece
- here's a link to the report