Tuesday 8 October 2019 5:32 pm

Johnson & Johnson battles reputation crisis amid opioid epidemic

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is battling a reputation crisis worsened by its involvement in the opioid crisis sweeping the US, according to the latest research. 

The brand has fallen from 8th position in 2014 to 57th place this year on a ranking of 58 global pharmaceutical companies. 

Read more: Johnson & Johnson fined $572m in landmark opioid crisis ruling

Reputation intelligence firm Alva also said the “erosion” of J&J’s promise to put customers ahead of shareholders is cutting into the firm’s reputation among consumers. 

Last week the company paid $20.4m to settle claims by two Ohio counties, although J&J said the settlement does not admit liability. 

Earlier this year was ordered to pay $572.1m to Oklahoma state for its role in fuelling the epidemic by deceptively marketing addictive painkillers.

Several other pharmaceutical companies have been caught up in lawsuits connected to the issue. 

A high profile controversy linking the use of J&J’s baby powder to cervical cancer has also chipped away at the brand’s ethos of “putting the customer first”,  Alva said. 

Read more: Johnson & Johnson share price falls amid baby powder scandal

Research by the company showed media and social media discussion around the pharmaceutical giant has increasingly focused on concerns over the safety or danger of its products over the last 12 months. 

Alva chief strategy officer Alastair Pickering said: “So far we have seen clear evidence that J&J’s reputation has been negatively affected by the issues it is facing.

“The company is less well regarded than it previously has been and therefore can correctly be described as facing reputational risk.

“The key risk beyond the lawsuits and settlement costs is clearly the erosion of the company’s brand promise to be primarily responsible to doctors, nurses and patients and mothers and fathers. So, the very visibility of the J&J brand – the halo effect that has served the company so well over the decades – may actually now work to undermine it.

Read more: Johnson & Johnson defies baby powder asbestos concerns to beat first quarter forecasts

“While investors and business leaders may not be unduly concerned at the moment, negative consumer perceptions of the brand are the real immediate reputational threat, especially if they start voting with their wallets.” 

Johnson & Johnson did not respond to requests for comment. 

Main image credit: Getty