Public Opinion Mixed on Medical Device Firms

Public Opinion Mixed on Medical Device Firms

April 24th, 2012 // 2:03 pm @

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Generally, we confine ourselves to matters concerning the pharmaceutical industry. Every now and then, though, we tiptoe into related fields for a couple of reasons – there are overlapping regulatory issues or some of the biggest drugmakers also play in other sandboxes where their fortunes are affected. And so we thought it would be interesting to share a recent survey on how patient groups view device makers, which include Johnson & Johnson and Abbott Laboratories.

Specifically, the survey looks at corporate reputation and the results are a proverbial mixed bag. The outcome is worth noting, because patient groups are not only growing in number, but increasingly trying to influence regulatory and payer decisions through assertive lobbying. Corporate reputation, by the way, was defined as meeting expectations of both patients and patient groups, according to Patient View, the research firm that conducted the survey.

Despite the many scandals surrounding the device industry – allegations that some device makers failed to inform physicians and patients properly of product failures; kickbacks paid to doctors or safety data that was not fully disclosed; various product recalls and Congressional probes – 52 percent of the patient groups believe device makers have a good or excellent reputation. The poll queried 300 patient advocacy groups from various countries.

At the same time, 33 percent believe the reputation has improved over the past five years, 33 percent say it has worsened and 32 percent say nothing has changed. However, only 32 percent believe device makers are good or excellent at having ethical marketing practices and just 30 percent report the industry is transparent in all of its corporate activities. On the other hand, 57 percent say device makers have a good record when it comes to ensuring patient safety (read more here).

The patient groups, which represent a wide range of therapeutic areas, were not identified, but the survey notes that 43 percent have a “working relationship” with one or more device makers. To some, this is likely to suggest that the views expressed were not wholly independent of corporate influence. Some of the other 18 device makers that were named in the study were Medtronic; Boston Scientific; St. Jude Medical; Roche Diagnostics; and Smith & Nephew.

By comparison, global drug makers received the same rating from just 40 percent of patient groups in a separate survey conducted by Patient View late last year (see here). How to explain the difference? This is open to speculation, of course. Perhaps, the Vioxx scandal several years ago somehow resonated more widely at the time, but some experts believe device makers may be entering the same zone as a result of increased media coverage.

Meanwhile, US public opinion is in favor of more rigorous product testing in light of several scandals and a debate in Congress over the FDA approval process. A recent poll by Consumer Reports found that 82 percent of Americans believe that preventing safety problems is more important than limiting safety testing in order to prevent delays and encourage innovation. And 91 percent said each implant should be tested for safety before being sold, even when similar implants were in use. The poll did not query patient groups, only individuals


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