Pharma selling itself short, Portland research reveals

Pharma is punching well below its weight when it comes to communicating its actual importance to people, according to the first ever Total Value Index.

Pic credit: Moussa81/Getty Images
Pic credit: Moussa81/Getty Images

Developed by Portland Communications and released today, the index aims to "help businesses manage risks and externalities and identify opportunities."

It analyses nine sectors: automotive, banks, food, pharma, oil and gas, real estate, retail; technology, media and telecommunications; and water.

Metrics ranging from profits and dividends, R&D levels, employee diversity and satisfaction to records on corporate tax and environmental performance are used to assess and rank the total value of each sector, drawing on more than 1,700 pieces of information from 67 data sets.

This is set against an analysis of 1.4 million items of data relating to how audiences, including media, policymakers, business leaders, academics and influential consumers, perceive the value of each sector.

The index is the first comprehensive framework to measure the value generated by business in Britain today and how well organisations are recognised for the role they play in society, the agency claims.

The 'opportunity gap'

The majority of businesses are not getting the recognition they deserve for the contribution they make to the economy and society, in what is an 'opportunity gap' between real and perceived value, according to Portland.

On this basis, pharma is among the worst performers. It has the second-largest opportunity gap, at 15 points, just behind real estate on 16 points.

By comparison, the opportunity gap for banks is just one point, and four points for oil and gas. The technology, media and telecommunications sector has a gap of seven points, while automotive and water have gaps of 10 and 13 points respectively.

Retail and food are the only sectors where the perceived value is more than their actual value, at eight and nine points respectively, in what is described as the 'halo effect'.

Need for change

Dr Jane Brearley, senior partner and head of health at Portland, said: "These findings show that the pharmaceutical industry can no longer rely on old narratives of large R&D investment to raise its reputation."

She added: "To cut through to payers and the public, individual companies must centre their value story on the life-changing effects of their treatments for patients, and their ability to provide the NHS with the headroom it sorely needs."

And Mary Pollard, partner and head of purpose at Portland, said: "Through the Total Value Index, we found that too many companies and some sectors as a whole are failing to act. And among those who are, businesses are not getting the recognition they deserve for the contribution they make to the economy and society. They must address this perception gap if they are to rebuild widespread trust in business and avoid reputational and regulatory risk."


The publication of this research comes just months after Keith Jordan, policy, access and communications director at Roche UK, told PRWeek that 'big pharma' has a reputation problem and that part of the problem is that the industry is fundamentally misunderstood, not least by the general public.

A current example of how the sector is trying to communicate its value is the 'Valuing Medicines' campaign launched by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry earlier this month to show how the pharma sector works with the government and NHS to ensure access to new medicines.

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