Majority of U.S. Residents Say Rx Drug Costs Are Too High, Poll Finds
Prescription drug prices have garnered increased attention recently as individuals have struggled with the costs. Particularly, some cancer drugs and medications for other difficult-to-treat diseases have come under scrutiny.
Drugmakers have defended the high prices, saying the drugs can significantly lower other health care costs, such as hospital admissions (Kaiser Health News, 8/20). In addition, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has said government-mandated cost controls would hinder innovation in the industry (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).
Survey Details, Findings
KFF surveyed 1,200 U.S. adults from Aug. 6 to Aug. 11. Overall, the survey found 72% of respondents feel drug costs are unreasonable.
According to the poll, 54% of U.S. residents were taking at least one prescription drug at that time (Kaiser Health news, 8/20). Of those respondents, about 70% said they can easily afford their prescriptions. However, about 25% of respondents said they have trouble paying for their prescriptions, including:
- 43% who reported being in poor health (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20);
- 38% who reported taking four or more prescription drugs (Owens, National Journal, 8/20); and
- 33% who said they had low incomes.
About 40% of respondents said they viewed drugmakers favorably (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).
However, survey respondents differed on what actions they thought should be taken to address the high costs (Kaiser Health news, 8/20). Overall, 51% of respondents favored bolstering market competition to help to lower prescription drug prices, while 40% said they think the federal government should regulate prices (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).
In addition, the survey found:
- 86% of respondents support reforms that would make drugmakers disclose their processes for setting prices;
- 83% support allowing Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers;
- 76% support placing limits on how much drugmakers can charge for prescriptions that are typically high-cost;
- 72% support allowing individuals to purchase prescription drugs from Canada; and
- Less than 50% support policies that would encourage patients to use lower-priced drugs by requiring them to shoulder larger portions of the cost when they choose higher-priced prescriptions (National Journal, 8/20).
KFF President Drew Altman said, "Unlike most things in health policy, there is bipartisan support for almost any action we have polled on that people think will control drug prices," including "aggressive action by government." He added, "The public is more focused on consumer issues like the price of drugs and out-of-pocket costs than the continuing political battles over the [ACA]" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/20).
High Prices of Diabetes Rxs Get Little Attention
In related news, the high costs of diabetes drugs largely have been absent from the discussion on growing prescription drug prices because of increased attention on drugs for other conditions, such as the hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi, Kaiser Health News/MedPage Today reports.
According to KHN/MedPage Today, 29 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, which is 10 times higher than the number of individuals diagnosed with hepatitis C. Price increases on both old and new diabetes treatments have caused some patients to struggle with paying for the medications.
According to Express Scripts' 2014 Drug Trend report, spending on diabetes treatments in 2014 was higher per patient than it was for any other traditional drug classes for the fourth year in a row. Further, the report showed less than half of filled prescriptions for diabetes medications were generic drugs.
Glen Stettin -- senior vice president for clinical, research and new solutions at Express Scripts -- said, "The cost of diabetes treatment has been increasing pretty rapidly." He noted various reasons for the spikes, such as:
- Price increases for brand-name medications;
- An increase in the number of people who need to be treated for diabetes; and
- A need for complicated treatment regimens, which can include three or four drugs.
Joel Zonszein, director of Montefiore Medical Center's clinical diabetes center, said the issue "is becoming year over year more of a problem" (Andrews, Kaiser Health News/MedPage Today, 8/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.