Roughly 8 in 10 Americans believe that prices for prescription drugs are unreasonable and support various ideas to lower costs, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug makers and enforcing price caps on high-priced medicines for certain illnesses such as cancer, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Moreover, two-thirds of Americans are in favor of creating an independent group to oversee prices, 71 percent believe they should be able to import medicines from Canada, and nearly 9 in 10 support the notion that drug makers should be required to disclose information on how prices are set.
The survey, which queried more than 1,200 Americans, was conducted in mid-September, shortly after controversy erupted over Mylan Pharmaceuticals and its pricing strategy for EpiPen. But outrage has hardly been confined to any one type of company or treatment.
Pricing concerns have spread to generics, which are traditionally lower-cost alternatives to brand-name medicines, as well as new drugs for hard-to-treat diseases, notably hepatitis C and some forms of cancer. And prices for some older medicines, such as multiple sclerosis treatments, are also climbing.
The issue has become so highly charged that drug prices are a talking point in the presidential campaign, and federal and state lawmakers have introduced legislation to contain rising costs, which 77 percent of Americans believe are unreasonable. This is up from 72 percent a year ago, according to Kaiser.
The survey, in fact, canvassed Americans on their reactions to some of the proposals — old and new. For instance, 66 percent are in favor of creating an independent group that would oversee pricing, a notion that Hillary Clinton recently proposed.
The survey also found that 86 percent of Americans believe drug makers should be required to disclose data used to set prices. In Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this month, just as the survey began, to disclose costs and justify certain price hikes. More than a dozen states have introduced similar bills, although only Vermont has passed such a law.
Yet there is less enthusiasm for other notions that have been floated.
Only 47 percent of those surveyed favor eliminating prescription drug ads, which gained considerable attention last year when the American Medical Association publicly called for a ban on such advertising. And only 42 percent support any policy that would encourage consumers to purchase lower-cost drugs by requiring them to pay more for similar, but more expensive medicines.
Paradoxically, few Americans say they have trouble paying for medicines. Fifty-five percent reported taking prescription drugs and, of those, 73 percent say affordability is not an issue. But 42 percent who say their health is fair or poor did report having difficulty. And 37 percent of those currently taking four or more medications say cost is a problem, compared to 19 percent taking less than four medications.
Despite their concerns over cost, 56 percent of Americans say that prescription drugs developed over the past 20 years have generally improved lives.