Jun 29, 2021

How COVID-19 Changed Americans' Thinking Of Pharmaceutical Companies and Beyond

Let’s rewind for a moment to the days before words like COVID-19, pandemic, and Coronavirus were a part of our everyday vocabulary, when it wasn't required to wear a mask to go grocery shopping. And we wouldn't ever even dream of a reality in which our kids spent an entire year learning virtually. 

Now, fast forward to where we are currently, finally beginning to make our way out of a historic pandemic, the worst of which most of us have ever faced in our lifetimes. As we reflect on what we have learned since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, it seems that one of the most significant lasting changes will be how Americans now view and continue to view pharmaceutical companies, and their involvement in their own personal healthcare decisions .

Pre-COVID Mindset

A Gallup study released in September 2019 found that 58% of Americans had unfavorable views of the pharma industry. In 2019, the drug industry also became the most disliked industry by U.S. citizens, replacing what was previously a spot taken by the Federal Government. 

Researchers reported that pharma had the lowest reputation score since Gallup started surveying public opinions of industries back in 2001. The reviews in the report took into account the public opinions of pharma's exorbitantly high drug costs, lobbying politicians, and the pharma industry's role in the U.S. opioid crisis. 

Increased Dismay During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought new concerns and worries amongst American consumers regarding their views on the drug industry. As a result, Gallup and West Health came together in May 2020 to conduct a survey and found several adverse developments in regards to public opinions on healthcare that seemed to stem as a result of the pandemic. 

One of the three questions participants were asked was, "How concerned are you that the pharmaceutical industry will take advantage of the current COVID-19 pandemic to increase drug prices?" 

The results show that "nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults are "very" (55%) or "somewhat" (33%) concerned that the pharmaceutical industry will leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to raise drug prices". 

The same study also found that almost the same number of people were also concerned about increasing healthcare costs and insurance premiums. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Brings About Shift

With the vaccine rollout, what seems to be a transformation in Americans’ thinking in regard to the pharmaceutical industry has since begun. This shift began when the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as well as various cities and states across the U.S. began to somewhat relax their previously mandated COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and restrictions.  

Increased Proactiveness to Take Control of Personal HealthCare 

It may have started with a panic, as U.S. citizens saw an upheaval in life as they knew it, and fear swept throughout the country as people tried to grapple with a new normal during the pandemic. However, as people have been able to become vaccinated against COVID-19, their previous fear has now begun to transform into feelings of empowerment. Personal healthcare interests are now moving beyond the desire to just be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

During the pandemic, people spent time and energy educating themselves on science and medicine as they attempted to inform themselves as much as they could to deepen their understanding of the virus and its volatility to protect themselves and their loved ones. With pharma’s direct role in bringing what seems to be hopefully life-saving vaccinations against COVID-19, Americans have begun to better recognize the potential of the pharmaceutical industry, especially in its ability to bring to market innovative new medications, developments in vaccines and medicine. 

Previously, people would have given little consideration to the pharmaceutical industries behind the medications they take. Now, people are taking more notice, recognizing these pharmaceutical industries individually. As a result they are also becoming more proactive in their own healthcare decisions and more involved in their healthcare and overall medical needs.

A recent study conducted by M Booth Health found that 57% of people they interviewed are more likely to read up on the science behind any vaccine or medication moving forward. In addition, 55% said they'll ask their doctors about all therapeutic options instead of accepting the first recommendation they receive. 

Enhanced Name and Brand Recognition of Pharmaceutical Companies

In the past year, the CDC reports that while 55% of people received the flu vaccine, a survey found that only 3% could name a company that manufactures a flu vaccine.

Undoubtedly, now with all the COVID-19 and vaccine news coverage that have inundated Americans’ tv screens this past year, recognition of individual pharmaceutical companies and their names throughout the United States has grown. Certain pharmaceutical companies are now even becoming what seem to be household names. 

Ninety percent of the people polled by M Booth Health were familiar with the Pfizer brand name, while 80 percent recognized the brand name Moderna in regards to their respective vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine too, has also now brought even more familiarity to an already well-known drug brand. 

As people’s familiarity with pharmaceutical companies grows, they are also starting to develop preferences for one company over another. And they are now taking these preferences with them as they head to the drugstore and doctor's offices. Consumers are accounting for their brand preferences in various healthcare decisions from what dose of vaccine they wish to take to which over-the-counter pain medication they will choose. 

What Does This Mean for Pharmaceutical Companies?

As U.S. consumers change their thinking, pharmaceutical companies will likely adapt their marketing strategies they use to advertise medications and drugs. It is expected that the pharmaceutical industry will now cater their campaigns more directly to consumers. We can also expect to see more transparency from these various drug companies, with their marketing openly reflecting their work and products they make, and the values they stand for. These changes should help facilitate stronger relationships between individual pharmaceutical companies and consumers, as well as hopefully deepen consumers’ trust in these companies. 

Moving Forward

From clinical trials to vaccine rollouts, there has begun to be a shift in Americans' opinions and thinking in regards to the pharmaceutical industry, and its individual companies and how they navigate through their own healthcare decisions and journeys. We will see the result of these changes in years to come. 

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