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Why pharma needs to stand up and proudly re-state its purpose

Hannah Mann
Europe Managing Partner Health
Hall & Partners Health

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An experienced business leader, Hannah has expertise in market insight across healthcare, customer behaviour, advertising research and brand equity.

Having worked in the pharma industry for 20 years I’ve seen some truly incredible advancements, many of which have undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Yet if you asked the general public ‘what do you think about the pharmaceutical industry?’ there’s a high chance the answer won’t be positive.

Just the other day I was told a story about a young guy in his 30s damning the greedy pharma industry and spitting venom about how they make money out the old, ill and infirm. Yet this guy was a Type I diabetic. He’d failed to realise that the only reason he’s alive today is due to the incredible developments in diabetes driven by pharma over the last 20 years.

It’s the same with vaccines. As a mother of young children, I’ve seen first-hand the scaremongering of the anti-vaccination brigade on school email chains, branding pharma companies unethical for pushing unnecessary vaccinations on our children's delicate immune systems. Yet there’s no mention of the huge reduction in childhood mortality since the use of life saving vaccines such as DTaP and polio.

‘The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world’s health are clean water and vaccines’ WHO

Why is this? With a rising desire of the younger generations to live cleaner and more wholesome lives, and an expectation that large corporations should openly give back to society, it seems that at some point pharma got branded the bad guy. There seems to be a mismatch between people’s own personal values and their perceptions of what the pharma industry stands for.

A mixed-race group of three young adults pauses for a break on their bike commute. They rest with their fixie bicycles to laugh and talk in an urban setting while enjoying coffee. They sit together on a sidewalk and lean against a concrete wall. Horizontal with copy space.

So, what can we do about it? If we look at the banking sector, it’s arguably had an even harder knocking than pharma over the last ten years. But the banks are fighting back; many have worked hard to change their image by placing a greater focus on building trust, alongside a superior customer experience.

I feel the time could now be right for all of us in pharma to do the same. To come together and re-state our purpose; to shout out about the great achievements of the past ten years; and to start building relationships that really matter. It’s certainly a big challenge to change the reputation of a whole industry, but one I feel needs to be more confidently addressed.

Let’s step out from the shadows … who’s with me?