A 2017 global survey by Ipsos/MORI found that only 48% of the public believe that pharmaceutical companies will treat them fairly. Three years earlier, only 19% of respondents to a YouGov British attitudes survey said that the pharmaceutical industry was “trustworthy”. To say that pharma has an image problem is putting it mildly.
Steps taken to remedy this have not been greatly successful. UK companies have been required to disclose payments to healthcare professionals publicly for more than two years, yet half of the UK public still think that doctors are paid by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe particular drugs, and there is also suspicion around the growing profits the industry enjoys.
While pharma’s push for transparency is to be applauded, there is such a negative feeling around the financial side of the business already that perhaps drawing further attention to it, even in a way that proves no wrongdoing, does not do the industry any favours. It is clear that we need another approach to gain the public’s trust, and embracing patient centricity could be the solution.
There is a lot of talk about pharma being increasingly patient-centric, but much of the engagement is superficial. While focus groups and advisory boards are fine, if our industry wishes to earn the public’s support we need to engage fully and authentically with patients and their families. It is in understanding patients as people within the context of their own lives that we can build mutual trust and respect.
We can do this by spending time with patients, listening to what matters to them outside of a strict pharma context, and inviting them to influence and shape how our industry works. We must involve patients in our work from the very beginning, making sure that what we aim to achieve with our products aligns with patients’ own goals. Co-discover, co-design, co-create, co-evaluate: this is how we will build trust in the industry.
And if we fall short, do we have any right to call ourselves truly patient-centred?