A survey of patient advocates conducted by PatientView is the latest data point showing a trend of the pharmaceutical industry’s reputation returning back to or below pre-COVID-19 levels.

  • Overall, the survey of 2,500 groups from more than 100 countries found that the percentage of groups rating the industry’s reputation as “Excellent” or “Good” dipped from a high of 60% in 2022 down to 57% in 2023.
  • For comparison, this same metric was just 41% before the industry’s pivot during the first COVID outbreaks.
  • While the global topline data impact is modest, the view in the U.S. is dimmer, with an “Excellent” or “Good” rating drop of 8 points compared to the prior year.

A deeper look

The PatientView survey is consistent with other data showing a general decline of the life science industry’s reputation. Among the American general public, the net positive view of pharmaceutical companies is worse than ever, according to Gallup. Even more concerning, the recent decline is not driven by a single news event, such as the 2015 Turing Pharmaceuticals price hike, leaving no scapegoat. The problem is an industry-wide one. The view of the industry soured among self-described liberals/Democrats in the mid-2010s and then, without those supporters returning, fell among conservatives/Republicans in the post-COVID-19 era.

The impact on the industry is real. An overall negative view by the public creates a fertile environment for elected officials and other opinion drivers to target the industry – ranging from media and social media commentary about specific drug prices, to Congressional hearings, to the IRA and its potential expansion. Declining favorability means that companies have fewer allies during an issue.

What companies can do

The two biggest reputational drags on the industry are perceptions of high prices and drug supply shortages. For companies nearing a new drug launch, strong value narratives and understanding of drug pricing among your closest stakeholder groups are essential.

All companies must also be prepared to answer questions about the stability and resiliency of their supply. Without ample company-supplied context, the default view of drug shortages is that a company failed to invest. Greater transparency into efforts to make the supply chain more resilient provides confidence and creates publicly findable proof points if a shortage becomes inevitable.

The Syneos Health Corporate Affairs Practice has expertise across all these issues. Please reach out with questions, issues, or to discuss further.

About the Author:

Paul Tyahla is a Senior Strategist in Syneos Health’s Reputation & Risk Management Practice. He has more than ten years of experience in public affairs, issues management and public relations.  At Syneos Health, he helps life science companies manage high-profile issues as well as emerging threats on issues such as pricing, expanded access policies and regulatory action.