The Covid pandemic may have put the spotlight on drugmakers and even helped their reputation. But there’s still work to be done on pricing and transparency, says United Kingdom-based PatientView, in its Asia survey on the corporate reputation of pharmaceutical companies.

In fact, the pharmaceutical industry outshone its siblings, be it biotechnology companies or generic drug manufacturers, according to the survey that covered 300 Asian patient groups. These groups had collectively been in communication with nearly 2.7 million Asian patients during 2021, the survey said, and about 70 per cent of them had worked with at least one pharma company that year.

About 66 per cent of 2021’s respondents believed the pharma industry’s corporate reputation to be ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, outperforming other healthcare stakeholders in the Asian region, including biotechnology companies (55 per cent) and generic drug manufacturers (47 per cent), the survey found.

Boosting the drug companies’reputation was their ability to innovate and bring vaccines to the market in a year. “Covid had already given the pharma industry a huge opportunity in 2020 to prove its value, by contributing direct solutions to the healthcare challenges posed by the pandemic (and, in so doing, to heighten its corporate reputation),” said the survey, adding that the scenario continued into 2021.

Explaining the need for an Asia-centric (not global) study, Alexandra Wyke of PatientView, told BusinessLine, a global study was published in April. However, patient group needs differ significantly globally, and there was added value in examining regional and national patient perspectives. Twenty-five patient groups from India also participated in the survey that covered 31 companies in Asia, including India’s Sun Pharma, besides other global majors such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novartis, Roche, Gilead, GSK, Eli Lilly and Merck, to name a few.

Downside on pricing

The downside for the drugmakers was their poor score on issues like pricing. Just 16 per cent of 2021’s respondents rated the industry as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ at having fair pricing policies (versus 17 per cent in 2020), the survey found. This was true for patient groups worldwide, underlining the challenge the industry faces in creating pricing policies, which patient groups believe to be fair, it added. In New Zealand, drugmakers scored zero per cent on this indicator in 2021 and 2020.

Tansparency in pricing was the other issue where they scored low. And this too was standard across the globe, the survey noted, indicating the industry still had a long way to go in explaining its prices

A snapshot of the different rankings inlcude: Gilead Sciences, Pfizer and ViiV Healthcare, among the top three on corporate reputation. Interestingly, Pfizer, Roche/Chugai, and Novartis were the top three of 13 ‘big-pharma’ companies, ranked on overall corporate reputation. Responding to Moderna’s recent allegation on vaccine patents involving Pfizer, the representative clarified, the survey was before the incident.

PatientView is an independent organisation, funding its own research, the representative said. It’s revenues come from selling the reports to industry and drug regulators, she added.