Pharma’s reputation remains high among patient groups and the general public — but patients are hoping to see more companies embrace changes when it comes to at-home care, digital therapeutics and health inequities.

ViiV Healthcare, Horizon Therapeutics and Pfizer top the list when it comes to corporate reputation, according to the recently released PatientView Corporate Reputation of Pharma survey.

The report questioned some 2,150 patient advocacy groups about the reputations of 47 pharma companies.

“One of the main areas that emerges — particularly with moves toward patient-centricity in the industry — is the need to understand from a patient perspective how well companies are doing or not doing,” Alex Wyke, CEO of PatientView, said.

After suffering low public perception for decades, the pharma industry saw that shoot up in 2020 when COVID-19 hit and drugmakers like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson turned vaccines around quickly.

Since then, the industry has enjoyed improved public perception compared to pre-pandemic levels. The survey found that among 240 U.S. patient groups, 67% reported that the industry had an “excellent” or “good” corporate reputation — compared to 57% in 2020.

Wyke noted the leading companies by reputation — ViiV Healthcare, which specializes in HIV treatments, Horizon Therapeutics and Pfizer — excelled largely due to how patient groups perceive what those organizations are doing to change their approach to care.

“Pfizer came on top, obviously, because of its contribution to the vaccine area,” Wyke said. “But Horizon and ViiV have gone to extraordinary lengths to understand the dilemmas of patients they provide treatments for. Examples include developing treatments in the home rather than having a patient go into a hospital, more digital connections, or packaged information that’s suitable. This is the sort of thing that companies have been doing more, and some have been doing it well.”

Even with positive developments in the industry, the survey found there’s still work to do. Patient groups are increasingly concerned about a variety of issues, including the disruption of care during the pandemic.

“Clinical trials have been put on hold, there have been drug shortages, and there’s a growing level of impatience among patient groups and the patients they represent,” Wyke said.

Patient groups also pinpointed health inequities, high drug prices, patient safety and the industry’s lack of transparency as issues that need more attention.

Wyke said pharma’s improved reputation due to the pandemic comes with greater expectations. Both the public and patients have higher expectations for pharma when it comes to developing other drugs as quickly as COVID-19 vaccines were sent through the pipeline, he added.

“The way the vaccines were approved so rapidly, [patients are asking] ‘Why can’t they do that for cancer care or other [diseases]?’” Wyke said. 

Ultimately, the survey found that many patient groups are ready to move on from the pandemic and its effects — and instead see the industry take on new challenges.

“In the U.S. as opposed to elsewhere, there’s this feeling now that [people] want to put COVID behind them and address other situations,” Wyke said.