Public trusts supermarkets more than pharma – poll

A new poll has revealed that the public trusts supermarkets more than pharmaceutical companies – and while governments were the least trusted organisations in the survey, the results will be disappointing for an industry where reputation is all-important.

The survey by Ipsos/MORI was commissioned by Roche, as part of an event in London that discussed the issue of public trust in pharma companies, as well as governments, healthcare systems, and the corporate world in general

Results showed that 48% of more than 18,000 people across 23 countries think that pharmaceutical companies will treat them fairly.

It’s a poor result compared with supermarkets, which came out top in the survey, with a 69% trust rating.

According to the survey pharma is in the middle of the pack with broadband and cable service companies, but outperformed national governments (36%) and foreign governments (29%) in trustworthiness.

Pharma also fared worse among those with personal experience, with 12% saying the experience was better than expected and 17% saying it was worse than expected.

Supermarkets were more likely to exceed expectations, with 18% saying that they had exceeded expectations, and 13% saying they were disappointed.

And results are disappointing compared with a similar survey by Edelman 10 years ago – in that 55% of people in the developed world, and 70% of people in the developing world trusted pharma.

Rebuilding trust after Tamiflu

At the event Roche said it wanted to take a lead in the debate about how to build public trust in pharma.

Almost a decade ago Roche faced strong criticism when it dragged its feet when asked to provide unpublished trial data on flu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), when the Cochrane Collaboration wanted to reassess its efficacy.

After a lengthy battle, Cochrane scientists finally got the evidence they needed. The resulting review concluded Tamiflu only had a small effect when used to alleviate flu symtoms, although it did reduce risk of developing flu when used as prophylaxis.

But this was after the UK government had spent hundreds of millions of pounds stockpiling the drug to combat swine flu and other epidemics.

Representatives of Roche said the company is also keen to lead the debate into how to improve trust in pharma companies, and a key part of this is communicating findings of clinical studies with the public.

Rav Seeruthun, Roche’s medical director, said an important issue that must be addressed in the UK are regulations on how pharma interacts with patients.

Some pharma companies have been unwilling to sign up for the campaign calling for publications of all trial data because of fears that complex study data may be misinterpreted.

This a matter which in Seeruthun’s view is made worse in the UK by restrictions on how pharma can interact with patients.

There have been few requests from members of the public about clinical trial data, and he said restrictions on communicating findings of clinical studies in the UK are frustrating.

UK regulations must be reformed

Under UK laws, and the voluntary Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry code, pharma companies cannot advertise medicines and can only provide raw clinical information to the public on request.

Interpretation of clinical data is left to doctors, and while Seeruthun says this should remain the case, there is no way for pharma to receive feedback from either doctors or patients about the outcome of the information requests.

Seeruthun said he would prefer a situation where doctors, pharma companies and patients meet to discuss the information, if requested.

“I think the regulations need to change because as it stands we are not able to talk to people. If the public ask us a question we need to be able interpret facts as they expect an answer,” Seeruthun told pharmaphorum.

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