Leading health journalists slam pharma's 'terrible' image

The pharma industry has a 'terrible' image and media coverage is too focused on conflicts over expensive drugs, leading health journalists said this week.

Outspoken: BBC Scotland’s health correspondent Eleanor Bradford
Outspoken: BBC Scotland’s health correspondent Eleanor Bradford

Speaking at the PRWeek Pharma Communications Conference on Wednesday, BBC Scotland’s health correspondent Eleanor Bradford said: ‘The problem that you have is the public is sceptical – pharma has connotations of big business making loads of money, basically. What they don’t think of is people spending a whole lifetime to develop a drug to prevent a disease.

‘It would be nice to reflect more on this and less on whether an expensive drug is justifiable.’

On breast cancer drug herceptin, which was labelled a ‘wonder drug’ by some parts of the media that successfully campaigned for NICE to overturn its original decision not to recommend it for the NHS, she said: 'The media learned a lot from herceptin. It wasn’t quite as good as the media portrayed.'

Kevin Grogan, World News online editor, Pharma Times, said the industry’s reputation as a whole was 'terrible'.

He said: ‘The industry has been very arrogant. Pharma is a dirty word and that will take a long time to get over. Companies are doing great work but it has a reputational issue.’

Rebecca Creamer, commissioning editor of the Health Service Journal, said: ‘I think in trade press it is getting better, but the industry has baggage in the national press.'

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