The Companies Americans Love to Hate

When Hillary Clinton jumped on the pharmaceutical industry in September and then took her message to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire with an ad in which she says, “It is time to deal with skyrocketing out-of-pocket costs” for prescriptions, she was simply mimicking an incredibly negative view the public has about drug companies.

Pills

The companies that make the pills that allow millions to live longer are widely disliked by Americans.

A week before Clinton revealed her plan to lower prescription costs for average Americans, the Gallup organization released a poll that lists pharmaceutical companies as among the most reviled economic sectors. Only the oil and gas industry and the federal government are ranked lower in Gallup’s Business and Industry Sector Ratings poll of 25 groupings.

In the survey, Americans were asked to rate whether their overall views of specific economic sectors were very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.

The top-scoring sector was the computer industry, with a 59% favorable rating. That was followed in turn by restaurants at 50%; the Internet industry at 44%; the grocery industry at 39%; and, coming in at fifth place, farming and agriculture at 38%. Who could argue?

The bottom five sectors were, starting at the bottom with No. 25, the federal government, the oil and gas industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the health care industry, and, at No. 21, the legal field. That’s right, Americans hate pharmaceutical companies more than they hate lawyers.

The negative feelings about the pharma world are not new. The results of this poll going all the way back to 2001 are consistent, with the drug industry garnering a strong negative reaction year after year.

In some ways, investors seem to be mimicking public attitudes toward pharmaceutical giants. Of the top 10 pharma companies in terms of revenue for 2014, half are showing smaller market caps this year than last: GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Roche and AstraZeneca.

The five on the list that have shown increases include: AbbVie, Bayer, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi. AstraZeneca’s market cap fell so far that it wouldn’t be included on a top 10 list this year and would be replaced by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Johnson & Johnson, with a market cap of about $260 billion, still holds the title of largest pharmaceutical firm in the world.

To your health and wealth,

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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