The research draws on the views of 88 HIV/AIDS patient groups around the world, including 11 in the UK, and reveals that just 39 per cent stated that the pharma industry had an "excellent" or "good" corporate reputation in 2018.
The report, released last week, shows how pharma’s image is subject to significant swings. In 2017 only 31 per cent of patient groups were positive about the pharma sector’s reputation.
However, the previous year 44 per cent described its image as "good" or "excellent".
Attitudes towards the pharma industry "have varied considerably" in recent years, according to the report.
"The explanation for the HIV/AIDS patient groups’ attitudes towards the pharma industry as whole appears to be linked to their perceptions of the industry’s ability to provide high-quality products capable of curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic," it stated.
"Although the majority of HIV/AIDS patient groups are confident that pharma can innovate and provide useful products, these levels of confidence have varied over the past six years," the report said.
It cited how in 2015 some 76 per cent of groups believed pharma to be "good" or "excellent" at providing high-quality, useful products. But by 2018 this figure had dropped to 57 per cent.
"Such highs and lows appear to reflect the course of pharma’s history in tackling HIV/AIDS – from the introduction of breakthroughs, and a respite in the levels of infections and deaths, followed, more lately, by a resurgence in the spread of HIV/AIDS."
A dozen firms are profiled in the report: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Gilead, GSK, Janssen, Merck & Co/MSD, Pfizer, Sanofi, Teva, and ViiV Healthcare.
Their reputation rankings are based on their performance, as perceived by patient groups, on a series of measures ranging from patient-centricity, patient information, transparency of pricing and clinical trial data to integrity, and engaging patients in R&D.
ViiV Healthcare was the top-ranked firm, coming top in 11 of the 12 individual indicators of corporate reputation. Gilead was ranked 2nd, while Janssen was 3rd. The lowest-ranked was Boehringer Ingelheim.
A spokesperson for ViiV Healthcare commented: "Being recognised by patients’ groups as a leader in delivering on our commitment to put people living with HIV first is testament to our mission to leave no person living with HIV behind. We will continue to innovate and challenge the status quo to ensure we put at the heart of our work."
Calls for transparency
While the report does not make any recommendations, it does include comments from patient groups on how pharma companies can improve their reputations.
One UK group stated that companies should: "Be clear in their communications about their programmes and products, and transparent in pricing and access protocols. Engage with community organisations."
It added that they should also be "transparent in relation to their research, publishing negative outcomes, as well as positive".
Commenting on the findings, Jill Pearcy, director, ABPI Code engagement, at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), said: "Companies and patient groups working together have helped pioneer the sorts of medical breakthroughs that have transformed HIV/AIDS into a chronic, manageable condition. These partnerships are vitally important, and the need for trust and integrity goes without saying."
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