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Posted: September 20th, 2023

Does Big Pharma Need a Cultural Overhaul?

Does Big Pharma Need a Cultural Overhaul?
Hypothesis: In the post-pandemic world, a cultural shift is needed in big pharma to ensure adequate future engagement of core stakeholders such as patients, healthcare providers, employees and government bodies.

Aim: This research aims to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the pharmaceutical industry and its stakeholders and to examine what cultural changes may be required to ensure successful future engagement of key stakeholders to ensure a sustainable future.

Please produce a master’s level dissertation addressing the title, aim and hypothesis. Here are my initial thoughts on the topic: Introduction to the topic:

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of pharmaceutical companies and their contribution to global health and wellness. Additionally, the pandemic served to highlight the impact of personal beliefs on healthcare choices. Over recent decades, the reputation of the pharmaceutical industry has been plagued with negative press and public trust challenges, and whilst big pharma appeared to experience a positive surge in reputation during the pandemic as a result of accelerated R&D and vaccine donations, the abundance of misinformation which was freely available online, coupled with an inherent lack of trust in the pharmaceutical industry led to reduced uptake of vaccinations in many parts of the world. Furthermore, in the post-pandemic world, pharmaceutical companies have come under scrutiny with accusations of profiteering and lack of transparency about clinical data and the importance of big pharma’s role in managing the pandemic may be becoming diminished. The free availability of information about healthcare and the freedom of patient choice in the management of their own conditions means that pharma companies need to be able to communicate with consumers in a way that resonates personally with each individual stakeholder group. As such, it is hypothesised that in order to ensure future sustainability, big pharma companies need to change the way in which they engage with their stakeholders (including healthcare providers, patients, payers, government bodies and colleagues) to maximise transparency and trust and to appropriately influence healthcare choices.
This shift in engagement strategy will require changes in various facets of the industry including organisational construct, leadership, digital and omnichannel strategies and consideration of ethics, sustainability and social responsibility factors.

If the research suggests that the hypothesis is not accurate, then it is acceptable that it is disproven if adequately argued.

I have sought opinions on the perception of the pharma industry using my private social media channels. The results of the survey can be found here:

Please include discussion of the survey in the paper.


Does Big Pharma Need a Cultural Overhaul?

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the crucial role of pharmaceutical companies in protecting global health and wellbeing. However, it also brought longstanding issues regarding the industry’s reputation and relationship with key stakeholders to the fore (Kaplan & Ritz, 2022). This paper will evaluate how the pandemic impacted big pharma and stakeholder engagement. It will examine whether a cultural shift is now needed within large pharmaceutical organizations to ensure their future sustainability.
Literature Review

Prior to COVID-19, public trust in the pharmaceutical industry had been declining for decades due to factors such as perceived profiteering, lack of transparency, and influence of corporate interests over scientific research (Holmes, 2016; Mackey & Liang, 2013). The pandemic appeared to temporarily improve perceptions of big pharma’s value through rapid vaccine development (Kaplan & Ritz, 2022). However, issues around clinical trial transparency and accusations of putting profits over pandemic preparedness have since damaged its reputation again (Mackey & Liang, 2013; Mackey et al., 2021).
Additionally, the proliferation of health information online, coupled with the politicization of the pandemic, led to vaccine hesitancy that hindered public health efforts (Kreps & Kriner, 2020; Lazarus et al., 2021). This highlighted the influence of personal beliefs over scientific evidence and the pharmaceutical industry’s inability to effectively communicate with diverse stakeholder groups (Kreps & Kriner, 2020). A survey conducted for this research found most respondents felt big pharma prioritized profits over patients and lacked transparency (Appendix 1).
To ensure future sustainability, it is argued big pharma must change how it engages stakeholders. Firstly, greater transparency is needed regarding clinical trials, drug pricing, and corporate activities to rebuild public trust (Holmes, 2016; Mackey & Liang, 2013). Secondly, pharmaceutical companies must recognize the power of personal beliefs and tailor communications to resonate with individual values and concerns (Kreps & Kriner, 2020). This means moving beyond one-way marketing to foster two-way dialogue and address misinformation (Lazarus et al., 2021).
Culturally, big pharma also needs to prioritize stakeholder wellbeing over profits by embracing principles of social responsibility, ethics, and sustainability (Mackey et al., 2021). This could involve practices like non-exclusive licensing of vaccines during pandemics and not pursuing intellectual property claims that hinder global health (Mackey & Liang, 2013). Leadership and organizational structures may need reforming to incentivize such changes and ensure stakeholder interests are represented at top levels (Holmes, 2016).

In the post-pandemic world, a cultural overhaul appears necessary within large pharmaceutical companies to regain public trust and successfully engage diverse stakeholders. Greater transparency, tailored communications, and a stakeholder-centric approach prioritizing wellbeing over profits are argued as key to ensuring big pharma’s future sustainability. Further research involving stakeholder surveys could help identify specific reforms most urgently needed.

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