Pfizer was the highest among 27 pharma firms ranked by patient groups for people suffering from autoimmune conditions, in a new report drawing on the views of 293 such groups in 54 countries, including the UK.

Pfizer rose from fourth place in 2020 to take the top spot in the 2021 rankings. AbbVie, which had previously been in first place, dropped to second, while Novartis dropped from second to third.

Companies were scored on 10 indicators, ranging from supporting patients during the COVID-19 pandemic to transparency of pricing and clinical trial data. Acting with integrity, engaging patients in R&D, patient-centricity and patient information were also among the indicators.

On a wider level, patient groups ranked the pharma industry’s corporate reputation as higher than that of all other healthcare sectors, including biotech, retail pharmacists, generic drug and medical-device companies.

Some 63 per cent of patient groups rated pharma as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ – a significant increase since 2018, when it stood at just 47 per cent.

The increase is partially due to the “support provided to patient groups by the pharma industry during the COVID-19 pandemic”, according to the report. Some 79 per cent of patient groups rated the pharma’s industry’s response to the pandemic as ‘very effective’ or ‘effective’, compared to 61 per cent in 2020.

The standing of pharma is also a reflection of an “improvement in pharma’s patient-group relations”, it said.

Work to do

“While making clear how much they value the investment and success the industry has had in developing new drugs for many autoimmune conditions, they also enunciate their desire to be more involved in research and development,” the report said.

And many patient groups remain negative about prices, with just 12 per cent rating the pharma sector as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ when it comes to fair pricing policies. 

In addition, only 33 per cent of groups believed the pharma industry to be ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ at ensuring access to medicines. 

Although the report does not make any recommendations, it includes suggestions from patient groups on how pharma companies can improve their reputations. One UK group states: “All of them are trying to do the same thing, which feels like a ‘tick-box’ exercise to make them look good. Most pharma will only offer support beyond the medications to those on their drug. What is truly needed is public awareness about early diagnosis – and, ideally, supporting those people who are not on the really expensive drugs.”

This article originally appeared on PRWeek US.