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Pharmaceutical firms maintain reputation post-pandemic — UK research

By Irish Pharmacist - 01st Oct 2023

The pharmaceutical industry continues to maintain strong levels of public trust and favourability in Britain, according to the ABPI UK Pharma Reputation Index. “This is the third year we’ve published the index, and it’s great that we have built such a rich bank of data on our industry’s reputation for anybody to use,” said Jill Pearcy, ABPI Director of Reputation.

Opinions showed consistent recognition of the sector’s support for the NHS, with 67% of respondents saying the industry is committed to developing new medicines to meet patient needs. Overall, positive public sentiment has increased with favourability up to 53% from 50% a year ago, and similar gains across familiarity, trust and advocacy. The steady positive trend comes at a time when news about pharmaceutical topics has generally moved away from the headlines after the pandemic.

The ABPI UK Pharma Reputation Index is based on an annual programme of opinion research, commissioned by ABPI from Ipsos, that delves into attitudes held by the general public, members of parliament and healthcare professionals (HCPs) regarding the reputation of the UK pharmaceutical industry.

Over the years, the public have held a generally positive sentiment towards the industry, and this view continues. In 2023, 71% of people surveyed agreed the sector produced effective medicines and vaccines, and employed highly skilled staff, up from 69% last year, demonstrating the value it brings to society. However, concerns were expressed over limitations on the availability of new medicines due to cost pressures.

Ms Pearcy said: “This is the third year we’ve published the index, and it’s great that we have built such a rich bank of data on our industry’s reputation for anybody to use. These insights are particularly useful in demonstrating the value our industry adds to the health system and research community, and highlights areas where we can improve.”

As well as surveying the general public, Ipsos spoke to HCPs, who also continue to have a generally positive
view of the pharmaceutical sector. Four out of five expressed familiarity with UK pharmaceutical companies, and 50% would speak highly of the sector. HCPs also valued their relationships with industry, citing positive experiences during interactions, especially concerning the adoption of innovative practices and access to educational resources.

Additionally, HCPs voiced strong support for the industry’s commitment to innovation, research, and adherence to ethical, quality, and safety standards. Four in five believed companies invested in high-quality research using cutting- edge technology.

While there has been an improvement in perceptions of pricing fairness over the long term, challenges remain regarding concerns of profit-driven motives and the need for increased transparency.

Survey data indicates a desire among the public for more information and greater understanding of how medicines are funded, with the connection between research costs and company profits remaining unclear to many. Effective communication from scientists regarding the trustworthiness of the leading pharmaceutical companies is seen as vital, along with an ongoing demand for greater transparency in the sector.

Overall, while the industry’s strong positive reputation has been maintained, the need for transparency and effective communication remains in order to ensure continued positive perceptions and support from all stakeholders.

Thomas Fife-Schaw, Research Director at Ipsos, said: “Though the pandemic recedes further away in the rear-view mirror, the legacy of the sector’s actions to fight Covid-19 continues to shape its reputation today.

“The public tend to be clear about the benefits of its work; they recognise the value of medical innovations on individuals, society and the economy. With this in mind, there is much optimism – and great expectations – about pharma’s ability to tackle future crises.”

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