Do Britons trust big pharma?
June 13th, 2024, Clifton Mark

Do Britons trust big pharma?

Is the purpose of pharmaceutical companies to protect the health of the public or to reward their owners with profits? Most Britons think it’s the latter. However, this does not necessarily mean that they don’t trust them.

Here are some key findings from a recent YouGov survey:

  • Only 4% of Britons believe that pharmaceutical companies put consumers’ health ahead of profits.
  • Younger consumers have a more positive view of drug companies.
  • Pharmaceutical companies are considered trustworthy compared to other companies in other industries.
  • 54% of Britons believe drugmakers make a positive contribution to society, 15% say it’s negative.

Pharma companies put profits above consumer health, say Britons

In a recent custom survey, we found that most Britons (57%) believe that drugmakers put profits ahead of consumer health, and another 27% said they pursue both equally. Only 4% of respondents believe that pharmaceutical companies put consumer health first.

Responses to this question varied with age. Younger consumers were less likely to pharma companies as purely profit-seeking. Of respondents in the 18-34 age group, 47% said that drugmakers put profits first. This proportion rises to 61% among those aged 35-54 and 62% for those 55+.

Younger consumers still positive towards drug companies

Even though most believe that profits come first for pharma companies, this does not necessarily mean that Britons distrust them. Half of respondents (53%) think that companies in the pharmaceutical industry are trustworthy. While this may not seem like a landslide majority, it’s enough to make pharmaceuticals the third-most-trusted industry of the 12 we asked about. Only hotels/hospitality and food/drink rank higher.

Younger consumers are more likely to trust drugmakers. Nearly three fifths (59%) of Britons aged 18-34 think that pharma companies can be trusted compared to only 46% of those between the ages of 35 and 54. Consumers aged 55 and older are about average, with 56% saying these companies can be trusted.

Slightly more than half of Britons (54%) also believe that pharmaceutical companies make a positive contribution to society. A little less than a quarter (23%) say their contribution is neither positive nor negative, and 15% say they make a negative contribution.

It may seem disturbing that only half of consumers believe that drug companies make a positive contribution. However, this is better than most of the 12 industries we asked about. Britons are only more likely to say that food and drink companies make a positive contribution.

On the other hand, when it comes to whether an industry causes harm to society, drug companies don’t do as well. Pharmaceutical companies are seen as making a negative contribution by 15% of Britons, which is more than five other sectors including retail and tech. Social media (55%) and advertising (42%) companies are the most thought to make society worse.

Again, age makes a difference. Younger consumers aged 18-34 are most likely to say pharmaceutical companies make a positive contribution (61%). Close to half of consumers between the ages of 35-54, say the same, the lowest of the three age cohorts. Respondents above the age of 55, who perhaps are using more products of drug companies, are more slightly more likely to view pharmaceutical companies in this positive regard.

Methodology: YouGov Surveys: Serviced provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on May 28-29, 2024, with a nationally representative sample of 2,003 adults in Great Britain (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education, social grade and region to be representative of all adults. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.

Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash