Can pharma gain the trust of the public?

UnknownSUMMARY: Trust is not given it has to be earned every day and all it takes is one headline to turn an angry public against an industry that has provided so many benefits to so many people.

I can’t remember a Presidential election with so many “angry” people.  Candidates, vowing for headlines, are saying things that get more outrageous every day. So why should pharma take note?  Because that anger is also pointed at our industry as headlines tell the public that “profits are more important than patients”.


In addition to the election circus research shows that patients are paying more for healthcare coverage which is taking a bite out of their paychecks.  This is moving more patients to be consumers of healthcare and part of that transition is learning everything they can about available treatments and choosing ones THEY want, sometimes against the advice of their doctors.

For the most part pharma companies are acting like nothing has changed.  DTC ads are still everywhere and even BMS is advertising a cancer drug on TV.  However, there is a bigger disconnect between awareness of new treatments and taking action because patients have a lot of resources to “fact check” DTC marketer claims.


Can pharma still engage consumers of healthcare?  The answer is yes, but it requires a strategic and tactical approach.  Remember, that according to PR Week, eight out of ten people only read the headline of online stories.  So when they read that Gilead put profits ahead of patients you can pretty well determine that most are going to believe it and it’s going to further sour their views on pharma.

How does pharma regain trust?

1ne: It starts at the top. CEO’s have to put patients first and make sure that it becomes a KRA of all rank and file people within the organization.

2wo: Pharma has to listen more to what their customers are saying and respond without hiding behind the lack of FDA guidelines.

3hree: Numbers don’t mean a lot.  Issuing press releases about the number of people who qualify for free medications doesn’t mean anything.  Gilead, for example, should have contacted the veteran who has severe liver disease and can’t get medication because the VA can’t afford it and offered free treatment.  CEO’s need to find a way to get medication to people who can’t afford it.

4our: Stop the hard sell and offer a more personalized approach to patients.  One website does not get it for all the segments of patients you are targeting.

5ive: Use patient opinion leaders and earn their trust.  We can’t ignore them as their collective voices are too loud.

6ix: Listen to patient needs and find a way to help them navigate the confusing world of health information.  Stop thinking that everything we do has to “go to the bottom line and provide an ROI”.

Pharma had better learn the lesson about earning trust with patients because if they don’t there is going to be hell to pay.