Nearly half of Americans believe that how a pharmaceutical company communicates with them is just as important as the effectiveness of their treatments, according to a recent report by M Booth Health.
In addition, more than half of respondents indicated that the company that manufactures their medicine matters to them.
Unsurprisingly, the shift in perception of pharma mainstays – from healthcare-specific brands to lifestyle brands – can be attributed to the pandemic. The race to produce effective vaccines, antivirals and treatments for COVID-19 has raised consumer awareness and expectations, says Mark Westall, senior vice president of strategy, insight and innovation. at M Booth Health.
“Pharmaceutical brand awareness has increased with the level of understanding of the differences between these brands, from simply being a treatment to having a message,” he explained. “That plays out in terms of what it means for actual treatment selection among patients.”
Westall said that as consumers increasingly recognize pharmaceutical brands as lifestyle brands — think Nike or Amazon — patients have become more empowered. The study found that a third of respondents refused a treatment recommended by their doctor. Notably, African American and Latino patients reported being more confident and vocal than the general population.
This newfound confidence has inspired consumers to research the science behind their treatments and voice their opinions to doctors. While patient empowerment is generally a good thing, nearly all healthcare professionals surveyed said they encountered misinformation from their patients.
While awareness of pharma triumphs has grown in recent years, affinity with the brand only extends so far.
Tayla Mahmud, executive vice president of health equity and multicultural strategy at M Booth Health, noted that while companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have improved their reputations during the pandemic, those brands will be judged on their actions. in the future. She said the generational traumas and deep-rooted experiences with the medical community that affect some health care consumers, especially people of color, have lasting ripple effects.
“People of color have been the hardest hit by COVID-19, which comes with a new set of expectations for these pharmaceutical companies,” Mahmud noted.
When asked to list their expectations of pharmaceutical companies, respondents indicated that they wanted help with handling health information, as well as more transparency and information about drug development and clinical trials. They also expressed a desire for more compassionate communications.
More than ever, consumers are asking brands to clarify how certain drugs and treatments impact their lives, Mahmud said.
“Sentiment has changed, but expectations have increased in terms of what consumers want from this relationship,” she added.