Americans have conflicting thoughts on drug prices

Americans have deeply conflicted views about the pharmaceutical sector, grateful that the prescription medications help improve their health, but generally skeptical as to the reasons behind their cost increases, according to a new tracking poll by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Seventy-two percent of Americans believe that drug costs are unreasonable, according to the poll. Seventy-four percent also believe that drug companies also place profits before people. Altogether, 42 percent of those surveyed say they have a favorable view toward drug companies, far lower than their views toward doctors.

Drug company practices have contributed to rising costs in the hospital environment, such as the purchasing of rights to older but widely used drugs and increasing their prices by as much as 500 percent. Some cancer patients who have insurance also wind up with six-figure medical bills to pay, primarily due to the costs of their drugs. The trends have caused a bit of a backlash against the pharmaceutical sector.

Yet at the same time, 62 percent of those surveyed say that prescription drugs developed in the past two decades have made the lives of Americans better, with 42 percent saying the improvement has been significant. And among those taking drugs, 72 percent say they are relatively easy to afford.

But those surveyed also have strong views about how the United States could regulate drug prices. Eighty-six percent say drug companies must release information to the public regarding how they set their prices; 83 percent say the federal government must negotiate lower prices for drugs in the Medicare program; and 76 percent say that there must be a cap on prices for drugs that cause high-cost illnesses such as hepatitis or cancer. 

Altogether, 1,200 people were polled by telephone between Aug. 6 and Aug. 11. 

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser tracking poll