Reputation – General Public Overview

Read more about the reputation of pharmaceutical companies operating in the UK among the general public

Public sentiment towards the Pharmaceutical industry has marginally improved since May 2022

The reputation of pharmaceutical companies operating in the UK is consistent with last year, though it has made some marginal improvements. Half of members of the public have a favourable opinion of the sector, around a third trust it and a similar proportion are prepared to speak highly of it.

However, the other sectors tested have also seen some reputational improvements, indicating that the pharma industry’s position is not unique, but in line with broader trends in public opinion.

I'd like to think in the UK we're on the forefront of new research and testing and things like that, where we're ahead of other countries around the world, compared to others. So, there is good work being done.

The pharmaceutical sector seems to have maintained reputational gains, rather than returning to pre-pandemic levels. There is increased agreement that the sector creates lots of jobs, contributes positively to society and is committed to sustainability. Furthermore, public perceptions that the sector plays a leading role discovering new medicines, produces effective medicine and employs highly skilled staff remain overwhelmingly positive.

Views of the sector’s interactions with the NHS are increasingly positive. Three in five members of the public agree that the industry supports the NHS with treating patients and four in five believe it should work closely with NHS doctors to develop new medicines.

The tireless work put in to find a vaccine and get it out to us was remarkable

Trust in pharmaceutical companies operating in the UK continues to be driven by the sector’s role in tackling the pandemic, R&D activities and by faith in regulation. Distrust in the sector remains driven, at least in part, by the view that profit is the primary motivation of pharmaceutical companies, rather than people and patients.

Their collaborative work and fast response to the pandemic was a great insight into their world

However, qualitatively, there are signs that as the pandemic recedes further in the rear-view mirror, views are returning to a pre-pandemic status quo; a sector that is little known or understood – and in the periphery of people’s day to day interests or concerns.

Unless you're, really invested in medicine, are you really ever going to hear much about pharmaceutical companies?...they're so restricted in what they can say, what they can publicise.

Perceptions of a lack of transparency or unfair pricing continue to underpin public criticism of the sector. These remain the most reputationally challenging issues for the industry. These views are mirrored in a high level of agreement that the NHS pays too much for medicines (more than half agree with this, -4pp since May 2022).

Publish the true costs of the medicine and how much profit has been made to supply them to the public and NHS

Nevertheless, a similar proportion disagree that the NHS should use less effective treatments if it helps reduce the costs and more than two in five disagree that the UK healthcare system should ration access to new medicines to keep NHS costs down.

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023