A Little More Respect

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-06-02-2020, Volume 44, Issue 6
Pages: 5

Pharma’s reputation is being boosted in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic efforts.

Editor’s Note: This article was published in Pharmaceutical Technology Europe’s June 2020 print issue.

The pharma industry’s reputation with the global public has been patchy at best, with various scandals being highlighted in the press over the years giving rise to scepticism over the integrity of companies, particularly ‘Big Pharma’, working to develop therapies. However, in light of the recent efforts to combat COVID-19, some polls are showing an upswing in the public’s perception of the industry.

A long-term issue

The issue of reputation in the bio/pharma industry has been considered for many years now. Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm, for example, has evaluated the opinion of the pharma industry since 2001, finding that the view of the industry by Americans has been overwhelmingly negative in nearly two decades (1).According to research from GlobeScan, stakeholders have a tendency to believe that the pharma industry’s reputation is poor, with a particularly negative environment seen in Canada and the United Kingdom caused by campaigns from non-governmental organizations or films (2).

In one of the latest polls from Gallup, published in 2019, the pharma industry had dropped to the bottom of the list in terms of public opinion in the United States (1). And, the problem of pharma’s reputation is not isolated to North America. In Europe, and particularly focusing on the UK, PatientView highlighted that factors, such as Brexit, were causing lower public opinion of the industry’s reputation in 2018 (3).

Opinion is softening

According to Talking Medicine’s Pharma Reputation Thermometer, there has been a ‘softening of negative public opinion’ in the UK towards the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic (4). Results of the health-tech data company’s research, which will be repeated on a monthly basis to track changes in attitude to the industry, has shown small improvements across each reputation measure-trust, transparency, product usefulness, patient-centricity, and overall industry recommendation-from before COVID-19 to May 2020 (4).


“For many reasons, the pharmaceutical industry has always suffered from negative perceptions among the general public. However, these latest findings show that there have been improvements on a number of key reputation measures,” said Jo Halliday, CEO and founder, Talking Medicines, in the press release (4). “Maybe we should not be too surprised, given the situation we find ourselves in, pinning our hopes on the industry finding a vaccine and antigen tests and drugs to be able to create a ‘new normal’ for society. However, based on these results, it seems as if pharma has an opportunity to develop a closer and more open relationship with people and communities.”

Great effort required

As pharma companies continue to forge ahead, collaborating with others that may be considered as competitors in a ‘normal’ situation, there is a chance that the overall reputation of the industry can be further improved. However, the task of developing and delivering an effective vaccine for COVID-19 is by no means a small feat and will require great effort from the industry as a whole. 

“Not only does the science have to be on our side if we are to quickly find a coronavirus vaccine, but we also have to find ways of being able to produce hundreds of millions, possible billions of doses of the new vaccine,” said Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), in a press release (5). “The only way to deliver on our promise of safe, equitable, affordable coronavirus vaccines is for science and collaboration on a global scale to prevail. Be in no doubt, our member companies are fully engaged in the race to find a vaccine. We are fully committed to playing our full role within existing partnerships on the basis that we wholeheartedly embrace the goal of providing new coronavirus vaccines for all.”

Stay alert, safe, and healthy.


1. Gallup, “Big Pharma Sinks to the Bottom of US Industry Rankings,” Press Release, 3 Sep. 2019.
2. GlobeScan, “The Pharmaceutical Industry; Issues & Reputation,” Intelligence eBrief, 4 July 2013.
3. PatientView, “Pharma Reputation in 2018-Among UK Patient Groups-Falls Due to Brexit and Other Factors,” Press Release, 16 July 2019.
4. Talking Medicine, “Pharma’s Reputation Shows Uplift During Pandemic,” Press Release, 27 May 2020.
5. IFPMA, “Pharma Partners in Efforts to Give Coronavirus Vaccine for Everyone,” ifpma.org, Press Release, 28 May 2020. 

Article Details

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe
Vol. 32, No. 6
June 2020
Page: 5


When referring to this article, please cite it as F. Thomas, “A Little More Respect,” Pharmaceutical Technology Europe 32 (6) 2020.