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money falling out of prescription drug bottle
Anne Law

Drug Costs Top American Health Worries

by Anne Law | Dun & Bradstreet Editor

August 21, 2015 | No Comments »

money falling out of prescription drug bottleA majority of Americans believe drug costs are unreasonable and favor strong policy changes to help curb prices, according to a new survey from Kaiser Family Foundation.

More than half of the US population takes some kind of prescription drug. Of those Americans, 77% believe drug costs are unreasonable. For Americans not currently taking any medications, 66% still believe costs are too high.

A similar number of respondents (74%) think that people in the US pay more for prescriptions than residents of Canada, Mexico, and Western Europe, where governments typically have direct control over drug prices.

For pharmaceutical manufacturers, public opinion is grim. Only 42% of Americans have a favorable view of drug companies, despite a 62% belief that prescription drugs are good for people.

Most survey respondents (74%) feel that the industry is too focused on profits, and not enough on helping people.

The issue of high drug costs is gaining media attention as a growing number of people — including patients with health insurance — struggle to pay for high-priced cancer drugs and medicines for other hard-to-treat illnesses.

Physician groups, insurers, and politicians are pushing for change, and Americans overwhelmingly support government action on the issue. According to Kaiser’s survey results:

  • 86% of Americans think drug companies should be required to disclose how they set prices.
  • 83% think Medicare should be able to negotiate pharmaceutical prices on behalf of seniors.
  • 76% favor limiting what companies can charge for high-cost medications for cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • 72% think Americans should be allowed to buy medicines from Canada.

The Obama administration took a step in the right direction by proposing to give Medicare the power to negotiate with drugmakers over high-cost prescriptions. A number of states have also introduced drug transparency legislation that would require drugmakers to report production costs to the state and make the data available to the public.

So far no laws have been passed, but the issue is becoming more of a political hot topic as surveys indicate that public drug-price concerns outweigh current objections to the Affordable Care Act.

Industry Impact

Drug companies cite a range of expenses that prompt high drug prices, including R&D and production costs. The advancement of modern medicine depends on sufficient funding for drug R&D programs. The vast number of research candidates don’t make it to clinical trial stages, further magnifying costs. Large drugmakers are also scrambling to recoup lost income from patent expirations, largely through increased revenues from newer medicines.

Despite the industry’s challenges, the renewed focus on drug costs will force pharmaceutical manufacturers to examine pricing strategies. Pharmaceuticals will be at the center of future health-reform efforts as a number of recent studies indicate prescription costs as the fastest-growing US health expenditure.

Anne Law has been a member of the D&B editorial department for more than a decade, providing content for the Hoover’s and First Research products. She currently covers the health care and insurance industries for First Research. For industry news, follow Anne on Twitter.

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