I’m passionate about the value the pharmaceutical industry brings to patients…but I never cease to be amazed by just how bad the industry’s reputation is.

The media, members of the public and even some healthcare professionals themselves tend to view the industry in a negative light. In the last few months alone there have been two major high-profile articles in the lay press about ‘rip off pharma’ increasing the prices of anti-epilepsy and oncology drugs. These almost certainly reinforced the negative views of the industry in the minds of the general public!

The industry does so much that is good. The level of investment in research and development (R&D) is colossal and the failure rate at every phase of the clinical development programme punishing. Companies continue to focus on areas of high unmet clinical need. The research landscape in littered with dementia trials. So far all have failed to alter the course of the disease, but with time effective treatments will be found. How much of this do we communicate?

There have been so many major wins in the last 20 years, let alone the last 100. To highlight but a few of these: as a result of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) HIV is now seen as a chronic condition rather than a death sentence; the introduction of effective treatments for wet age-related macular degeneration has saved the sight of many older people; and there are an ever-expanding list of available treatments for haematological malignancies. Why doesn’t the press pick up these stories?

In part it is our own fault. As an industry our image management is poor. We don’t invest in it, we don’t prioritise it and as a result you could argue that we get what we deserve.

Perhaps we need to take a lead from the consumer sector. Bodyform’s CEO Caroline Williams witty ‘apology’ video to Richard Neill who had complained that the company was misguiding people into thinking that women’s periods were ‘happy’ times of the month may not be directly relevant to pharma but it does demonstrate just how important consumer companies take their image management. We need to more actively manage the press and continually work with the media to seed the positive stories.

So, what we need is more ‘Breaking Bad’ to turn negative publicity around. Don’t wait to become ‘the’ news, talk about the good things your company is doing. Get out more and shout about your great achievements and products. In short, get into the press and the press off your back.

To talk to us about how we can help you to manage your corporate image and improve the image of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, why not drop us a line david.ballard@insight2implement.com or sandra.laird@insight2implement.com. Alternatively give us a call on +44 1252 702850.