The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries have taken a serious reputational beating in the past few years, in no small part due to political pressure on the sector. 

Here’s just how serious. Pharma was dead last in a Gallup poll measuring how Americans view major industries, with 58% having a negative view and only 27% taking a positive one. That’s even worse than the public’s opinion on the federal government, which came in last in the survey from 2011 to 2018. The healthcare industry ranked just above the federal government, with 48% having a negative view.

Next up was the advertising and PR industry, with 34% of Americans viewing it negatively, so no matter where healthcare marketing falls, it’s not in an enviable position. 

Pharma’s reputational freefall into last place began in 2015, around the time that politicians began making drug prices and the opioid epidemic central to their campaigns and priorities. In 2015, pharma’s net positive rating — the percent of people with positive views minus the percent with negative views — was only 4, but one year later, it dropped precipitously to -23, according to Gallup.

The net positive, or net negative in the industry’s case, has stayed in negative double-digits since then, with -17 in 2017, -23 in 2018 and -31 this year. 2019 marks the lowest pharma’s reputation has fallen since Gallup began the survey in 2001.

Gallup noted that other industries with overwhelmingly negative reputations have bounced back, like oil and gas and electric. Between 2007 and 2009, the net positive for oil and gas was hovering around -60, but this year it edged into the positive side with a net positive of 3.

“The industry’s rating likely will not recover until its role in the opioid epidemic is addressed and the political pressure on the industry for high prices and massive profits subsides,” Gallup wrote about the survey.
The survey was conducted in the first half of August, following Democratic Party presidential debates in which candidates lashed the healthcare industry, as well as Oklahoma’s opioid trial against Johnson & Johnson.