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How Can Pharma Companies Build Consumer Trust in a Time of Doubt?

Despite industry-wide strides to increase transparency, overall trust in pharma is astonishingly low. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 49% of the mass population trust businesses are acting in the best interest of the consumer. For a different segment of the market the Edelman Trust Barometer calls the informed public, trust is at 65%. This 16-point gap poses a big threat for pharma companies whose general consumers possess little knowledge of the products and services they consume.

There are multiple ways in which the industry can bridge the gap and attempt to turn the skeptical mass population into the less skeptical informed public. Doing so should not only improve consumer trust in the pharma industry but could likely increase overall revenues as well. These methods for increasing trust include – but surely are not limited to – providing more consumer centered experiences, teaming up with non-profits and advocacy groups, and improving transparency.

Providing Consumer-Centered Experiences

Today, customers remain loyal to businesses that provide them with a simple yet effective buying experience. In fact, 51% of people state that convenience and accessibility as their most important factors regarding pharma (Heath 2018). For most, it is not about having the highest quality product, but rather having a consistent and predictable experience. The industry should be placing a greater emphasis on the overall experience of their consumer (like consistency and after-sale services), rather than their initial buying behaviors. By focusing more on creating this positive consumer-centered experience, pharma companies can expect to improve overall consumer trust.

Teaming Up with Non-Profits & Advocacy Groups

Due to the lack of trust in for-profit pharma companies, non-profit pharmaceutical companies have seen an increase in popularity. Companies like Civica Rx and Harm Reduction Therapeutics are attempting to comfort consumers with their affordable generic drugs and commitment to transparency (Betz 2018). These groups are trailblazers for the industry, and aim to put the consumer at ease. On top of that, it is forcing the for-profit sector to change their ways and make strides to improve consumer trust.

Improving Transparency

It’s no secret that consumers are pushing for a more open and honest pharma industry. Multiple drug-price transparency and full disclosure of clinical trial bills are passing through Congress. Consumers are frustrated – and they want to know what they’re paying for. This frustration is diminishing trust, so it is imperative for pharma to readily educate and inform its consumers. Full disclosure legislation may help improve this trust, and companies like Bioethics International are developing indexes to score and rank new medicines based upon their clinical trial transparency.  This index, called the Good Pharma Scorecard (GPS), showed that of all FDA approved drugs in 2012, only 65% of trials were publicly available (Miller 2016). By keeping these trial results under lock-and-key, pharma companies are fueling distrust and failing to educate their consumers. By making these trials more readily accessible, the industry can expect to appeal more to skeptical investors and consumers and possibly mitigate looming legislation and regulations.

At the end of the day, the lack of trust is a huge threat for the pharma industry but also a massive opportunity for growth. If the present for-profit companies fail to adjust to increasing consumer desire for transparency, they run the risk of losing relevancy to the non-profit groups. However, if they emphasize building trust among their consumers and turning the mass population into the educated public, pharma companies can reduce present issues and reap the profits.


Betz, M. The New Nonprofit Pharmaceutical World: What’s Up with That? (2018, September 12). Retreived from

Heath, S. Adaptability Key in Consumer-Centered Healthcare, Patient Experience. (2018, December 20). Retreived from

Miller, J. How full disclosure of clinical trial data will benefit the pharmaceutical industry. (2016, June 15). Retrieved from

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. (2019, January 20). Retrieved from

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