ViiV, Gilead sweep the pharma image competition--and Pfizer is close behind

It's an apparent contradiction: The business that's in the business of treating the sick and saving the dying is also one of the most-vilified industries on the planet. The very people pharma seeks to treat are among the more skeptical. But it doesn't have to be that way--and if drugmakers want to get ahead in the new "patient-centric" world, they need to turn that skepticism around.

Here's the extent of the problem, according to the latest survey from PatientView: In the healthcare industry, multinational pharma companies rank next to last, reputation-wise, with only 35% of patient groups deeming them "excellent" or "good." Biotech companies come in just above that, with a 41% approval rating. Since 2011, pharma's reputation, already not so hot, has slipped even further.

For its annual report on pharma reputation, PatientView surveys 800 patient groups worldwide, seeking to analyze the industry--and individual companies--by a list of measures important to patients (and other interested parties in the industry). Perceptions varied dramatically. The groups saw drugmakers as innovators that deliver high-quality products. But pharma flunked the fair-pricing test, with just about 13% in the excellent or good categories, and transparency was almost as poor, at 18%.

But what you really want to know is which companies are actually scoring well with patient groups. At the top of the overall chart is ViiV Healthcare, the HIV-specific joint venture between GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Pfizer ($PFE). Of the 6 indicators PatientView measured, ViiV ranked first in all but one, and that one is easily remedied: providing quality information to patients.

In second place is Gilead Sciences ($GILD), which beat out ViiV on the quality-information indicator and came in second for each of the other 5: patient-centricity; patient safety; high-quality, useful products; transparency; and integrity.

You'll notice that these top two both specialize in HIV treatments, though Gilead has other products, most notably a brand-new and fast-growing hepatitis C franchise. Ironically enough, Gilead repeatedly comes under fire from activist groups, including Médecins Sans Frontières, for the high price tags on its drugs.

AbbVie ($ABBV) rounds out the top three, and the rest of the top 10 include Pfizer, J&J's ($JNJ) Janssen unit, Roche ($RHHBY), Eli Lilly ($LLY) and Novo Nordisk ($NVO). Novartis ($NVS) also made the top 10 but took a big fall from last year, when it was in third place; this time, the Swiss drugmaker came in 9th.

- see the blog post from PatientView

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