PP05-45: What Pharmaceutical Company Leaders Say and What Patient Leaders Think: Quantitative and Qualitative Analyses
We investigated: 1) the frequency and context of the use of the word ‘patient’ by leaders of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies (based on 2018 sales), 2) whether this usage changed from 2008 to 2018, and 3) how this usage might relate to patient groups’ views of these companies.
We used summative content analysis to quantify the frequency and contextual use of the word ‘patient’ in Board Chair annual reports (2008, 2018) from the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies. We compared results to PatientView rankings of these companies from 1500 patient groups in 78 countries.
We examined Board Chair reports for Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co, Sanofi, AbbVie, GlaxoSmithKline, Amgen, and Gilead Sciences.
In 2008, use of the word ‘patient’ in Board Chair reports was low. The mean (min-max) word count for the reports overall was 1627 (193-4004), the mean count for the word ‘patient’ was 7.5 (0-21), and the mean frequency of use was 0.44% (0.00-1.12%). In 2018, use of ‘patient’ increased, but was still low. The mean (min-max) word count for the reports overall was 1390 (182-4320), the mean count for the word ‘patient’ was 10.1 (1-45), and the mean frequency of use was 0.69% (0.12-1.35%). The relative increase was driven by 6 of the 10 companies (Pfizer, Novartis, Merck & Co, Sanofi, AbbVie, Gilead Sciences).
In 2008, contextual use of the word ‘patient’, based on definitions adapted from UK INVOLVE, was primarily as a passive recipient (ie, something done ‘to, about or for patients’; 88.14% of usage) rather than as an active partner (ie, something done ‘with or by patients’; 1.86% of usage). In 2018, use of ‘patient’ as an active partner increased (3.87%), but was still primarily used as a passive recipient (96.13%). The relative increase was driven by 3 of the 10 companies (Johnson & Johnson, Amgen, Gilead Sciences).
Of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies that we examined, 7 were included in the top 10 companies that had the ‘best corporate reputation’, as ranked by patient groups familiar with the companies (n = 1218). Only 5 of the top 10 companies we examined were included in the top 10 companies that had the best ‘Net Promoter Score’, as ranked by these patient groups. There was no apparent relationship between rankings on the use and context of the word ‘patient’ by Board Chairs and the rankings of these companies by patients. This could be due to the low and passive use of the word ‘patient’ in Board Chair reports and the multidimensional indicators used in the PatientView rankings.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate how Board Chairs of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies refer to patients in their annual reports.
We found that the use of the word ‘patient’ by Board Chairs increased in the past 10 years, but remains low. Their contextual use of ‘patient’ as an active partner in medicines development also increased, but remains low. We recognize that companies may describe successful patient partnerships in other communications and that staff beyond the Boardroom (eg, in medical affairs, clinical, market access) can drive such partnerships. However, we focused on Board Chair reports given the importance of leaders in directing cultural change, the visibility, influence and reach of these reports, and the ability to analyze these reports robustly.
Our results, which may contribute to a novel, low-cost, repeatable, and transparent patient-focused benchmark, have practical implications for Board Chairs. Pharmaceutical leaders are being encouraged to drive a patient-focused cultural shift in their companies. Employees and other stakeholders need strong and visible signals as to why a patient-focused culture is critical to successful medicines development. An opportunity exists for Board Chairs to accelerate this cultural shift, in an authentic, but easy and low-cost manner, by prioritizing the importance of patients in their reports. This importance could be reflected by more frequent use of the word ‘patient’ and increasing the contextual use of ‘patient’ as an active partner. This ‘top down’ approach would not have to be tokenistic; words from Board Chairs matter. Their words could send a strong and visible signal to employees globally that their leaders are prioritizing patient partnerships. Further, a change in frequency and context could also signal to patient groups that pharmaceutical company leaders are proactively supporting their call to be involved as active partners in medicines development.