Pharma’s reputation harmed by pricing tactics, say US patient groups

CoverEmbargoed publication date: 31st August 2015

  • Findings based on a survey of 76 US-based patient groups.
  • Survey conducted November 2014 to January 2015.
  • This independent study, funded by PatientView, represents for the first time the perspectives of 76 US-based patient groups on the corporate reputation of 11 individual pharma companies, and of the pharma industry as a whole, during 2014. The opinions of the US patient groups are compared in the report with those from the entire body of 1,150 patient groups (from 58 countries worldwide, and representing all therapy areas) which responded to the 2014 edition of PatientView’s annual study: ‘The Corporate Reputation of Pharma—from a Patient Perspective’.
  • The 11 pharma companies reviewed for their corporate reputation in this study are:AbbVie l AstraZeneca l Bayer l Bristol-Myers Squibb (B-MS) l Eli Lilly (Lilly) l GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) l Merck & Co (USA) l Novartis l Pfizer l Roche l Sanofi

Key findings

  • PatientView’s 2014 ‘Corporate Reputation of Pharma’ survey makes the dismaying discovery that not one of the 76 US-based patient groups responding to the study considers the pharma industry to have an “excellent” reputation. The key reason for this poor perception of the sector is the very high prices which companies are now seeking to charge for their innovative new products – particularly for cancer drugs and hepatitis treatments. The report finds very real fears among patient groups that, because of these price levels, the people who need these life-saving new drugs will be denied access to them.
  • The survey also reveals that many more US patient groups than their counterparts in Europe and globally believe that pharma companies should be doing much more to ensure that their pricing policies are fair. When asked by PatientView what single action pharma companies should take to improve their corporate reputation, as many as 30% of the US groups cite this as the top priority, compared with 16% of patient groups globally and just 13.9% of those in Europe.
  • In sharp contrast, the high approval rates given by the US groups to retail pharmacists – ranking them first among eight healthcare industries, and with as many as 75% considering pharmacy’s corporate reputation to be “excellent” or “good” – reflects patients’ appreciation for efforts by pharmacy chains to offer them ever-more low-cost support, including walk-in clinics, cheap diagnostic testing and other affordable services.
  • There is no doubt – US patient groups are angry and concerned about the very high price tags which so many potentially life-saving new drug treatments now carry, and the implications that these have for patient care. According to one global cancer group, these price levels show that none of the pharma companies reviewed for the ‘Corporate Reputation of Pharma’ survey is truly patient-centred – “the focus is on business and profits” – the group said. And a US national organisation representing the interests of patients with rare diseases was even more explicit, telling PatientView: “it is outrageous what they charge for some lifesaving drugs. Their greed means that there are many people who don’t have access to therapy because of the prices that they are allowed to charge.”

What US patient groups say about pharma’s activities …

  • At 57%, a majority of US patient groups say that pharma is “excellent” or “good” at being innovative. However, this is considerably lower than the percentage of patient organisations holding this view in Europe (70%) and worldwide (67%), PatientView finds. US-based groups are also notably more pessimistic than their European and global counterparts about how well pharma carried out a number of other significant activities in 2014.
  • However, US patient groups do hold higher opinions than their European and global counterparts on some of pharma activities. Most notably, 32% of US patient organisations applaud the industry’s performance at practising philanthropic activities for 2014, just 22% of European and 23% of global patient groups shared this belief.
  • But all reserve their lowest scores for the pharma industry’s ability to price its drugs fairly

All patient groups – US, European and global – consider the pharma industry’s worst performance to be at ensuring that its pricing policies are fair, and by a large margin. Just 16% of US patient organisations consider the sector’s performance here to be “excellent” or “good,” and this drops further to only 14% for both the European and global groups.

The pharmaceutical industry’s corporate reputation …


Compared with other healthcare industries …

US patient groups rate the multinational pharmaceutical industry’s corporate reputation as second-lowest out of eight healthcare industries, higher only than for-profit health insurers. In 2014, US patient groups rank the pharma industry seventh out of a table of eight healthcare industries in terms of corporate reputation – only for-profit health insurers do worse – and not one organisation considers pharma’s reputation to be “excellent” or “good,” PatientView finds. European and global patient organisations surveyed have a slightly more positive view, with 39.4% of both considering the industry’s reputation to be “excellent” or “good.” Retail pharmacy tops the eight-industry table for corporate reputation in the opinions of all patient groups – US, European and global – and they place medical devices, private healthcare companies, biotechs, not-for-profit health insurers and generics makers all higher than pharma.

Over time:

A majority (55.4%) of US patient groups believe that the pharmaceutical industry’s corporate reputation has got worse over the past five years. This is a far higher percentage than of either the European or global patient groups, among whom, 31.6% and 35% respectively hold this view. Moreover, while 26% of European organisations and 25% of global groups consider that the sector’s reputation has improved over the period, only 18.9% of US patient groups agree with this view.

Results for individual pharma companies …

Eli Lilly ranks first out of 11 pharmaceutical companies assessed for corporate reputation by US-based patient groups in 2014, compared with its 12th position in PatientView’s global listings. Lilly takes the top spot in 2014 for four indicators of corporate reputation: • providing the best high-quality information for patients; • having the best record on patient safety • the best record on transparency; and • for integrity.

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PatientView believes that the US patient groups’ high levels of appreciation for Eli Lilly revealed by the survey are the result of particularly strong support expressed by organisations representing diabetes and mental health – especially for the firm’s provision of high-quality, useful products and information, and its record on patient safety. They also point to TruAssist, the firm’s patient assistance program, which during 2014 supplied 300,000 US patients with medicines which they would otherwise have found unaffordable. And diabetes patients have welcomed the US marketing approval granted in September 2014 for Lilly’s Trulicity (dulaglutide), a new and convenient treatment which needs to be injected just once a week, by pen. However, Lilly received no such support in the survey from groups representing cancer patients. This is largely due to patients’ ongoing concerns about the very high prices frequently being sought industry-wide for innovative new products, in this case specifically for Lilly’s Cyramza (ramucirumab), which in April 2014 received US approval for the treatment of advanced stomach cancer, at a cost of more than $13,000 a month.

AstraZeneca tops the survey’s ranking for patient-centricity for 2014. PatientView reports that the UK-based major received strong support from groups representing cancer and mental health, based on the firm’s strong R&D pipeline in these areas, plus its policy of supporting the mental health community’s opposition to US government plans to reduce reimbursement levels for anti-depressant medicines.

Pfizer receives 2014’s top ranking for provision of products most useful to patients, boosted by support from groups representing neurological condition. And the US major is placed second for its record on patient safety and also for its integrity.

What US patient groups suggest pharma should be doing to improve reputation …

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  • A significant body—30%— of US patients overall believe that the single strategy which would enable pharma to improve its corporate reputation would be to adopt fair pricing policies. This is far more of a priority for US groups than European organisations – just 13.9% of which cite it as their most important strategy – or the global groups, at 16%.
  • The second most important strategy, cited by 20% of the US organisations, would be for companies to have a patient-centred strategy. The continuing controversies over very high price tags for innovative new drugs leads some patient representatives to comment that, despite their public statements, pharma majors are not now truly patient-centred


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