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The reputation of the pharmaceutical industry may be wilting under intense criticism of its pricing policies, but a new survey indicates that drug makers have, nonetheless, improved their overall corporate reputations among patient groups.

Nearly 45 percent of 1,075 groups surveyed believe the industry had an excellent or good corporate reputation last year, up from a low of 24 percent in 2012. And 72 percent said drug makers did an excellent or good job of producing high-quality products.


As a result, 28 percent of the groups felt that the industry’s overall reputation improved from 2014, according to PatientView, a research firm that queried groups in 72 countries between November and January. A total of 48 drug companies were ranked based on integrity; transparency; providing needed information; emphasizing product safety and selling needed drugs.

Despite an overall belief that industry reputation improved, pricing is an issue. Just 15 percent of the groups maintained the industry had excellent or good pricing policies. And 45 percent said these policies were poor. Patient groups in France were the unhappiest, where 79 percent criticized pricing. In the United States, 52 percent of the groups were critical of industry pricing.

We should note that there are some limitations to interpreting the data. For one thing, some patient groups accept industry funding, which may skew their responses. And some patient groups are more familiar with some drug makers than others depending on geographic location, or if they are devoted to diseases for which only some companies make products.


Beyond pricing concerns, the most unacceptable practices mentioned by patient groups were bribery or corruption; a lack of transparency, specifically, in marketing activities; pay-for-delay schemes that prevent patients from accessing cheaper generic medicines; mismanagement of confidential patient data; and a failure to publicize information about side effects.

Specifically, just 26 percent of patient groups believe drug companies were transparent in all corporate activities; only 28 percent practiced philanthropic activities; 34 percent of the groups said drug makers have patient-centered strategies; and a mere 35 percent said the pharmaceutical industry acted with integrity.

On the other hand, drug makers scored relatively high in several categories. For instance, 69 percent of the patient groups said the companies were excellent or good at innovation; 58 percent gave the same responses concerning patient safety; and 48 percent said they believed drug makers provided high quality information for patients.

As for individual companies, the most reputable drug maker is ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture devoted to HIV medicine that is largely owned by GlaxoSmithKline; Pfizer and Shionogi are minority partners. ViiV scored highest in 4 of 6 categories — focusing on patients, providing information, product safety, and useful medicines. This marks the fourth consecutive year that ViiV captured the top ranking.

Rounding out the top five are AbbVie; Lundbeck; Janssen, which is a unit of Johnson & Johnson; and Novo Nordisk. And who scored lowest? The honors went to Hospira, which is now owned by Pfizer. Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which is infamous for buying older medicines and then jacking up the prices to previously unseen heights, captured the second-to-lowest ranking.