A recent Gallup poll has revealed that the US public takes a dim view of the pharmaceutical industry. Every year, Gallup asks people in the US whether they have positive or negative views of 25 different industries. In the most recent survey, the pharma sector fell from 19th to 23rd (ahead of the oil and gas industry, and the federal government).
Gallup believes that politics certainly plays a large part in pharma's poor reputation – first from its support of the Affordable Care Act and most recently because of rising drug prices.
But is this fair?
I suspect a lot of the problem lies in the way different aspects of healthcare are portrayed in the media.
Let’s look at doctors and nurses… There are some negative stories around malpractice or downright psychopathic behaviour. However, they don’t tend to be perceived as anything more than isolated incidents. Even hospital-wide failings are often blamed on poor funding or incompetent administration, rather than the hard-working doctors and nurses themselves.
Everyone can think of a nice, positive story that involves a helpful doctor or nurse – and why not. They devote their lives to the care of others after all.
On the other hand, greedy, over-secretive or plain dishonest drug companies always make a good story – everyone like to see a rich organisation squirming in the spotlight.
Even the most spectacular of drug developments are usually linked to the researchers who did the work or publicised with comments from charities or independent experts. So doctors get the kudos whereas the good press rarely seems to benefit big pharma, without whom these innovations would never reach the patient.
You can argue that we get the press (and politics) that we deserve. In the ever more competitive digital news landscape, stores increasingly pander to a reader’s pre-conceptions rather than trying to challenge those ideas or even present a 100% unbiased picture.
I’m not saying that we should feel too sorry for one of the richest industries in the World – but maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start sticking up for the big guy!