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Survey: Most Americans Say Drug Costs Are ‘Unreasonable’

Respondents cite drug company profits as No. 1 reason for high prices

Nearly three in four Americans say the costs of prescription drugs are “unreasonable” — and most blame drug-makers for those prices, according to a new poll released June 16.

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 74% of those taking prescription drugs felt that the costs were unreasonable, as did 72% of those not taking such drugs.

The poll builds on the results of a Kaiser survey in April that identified high drug costs as the public’s top health-care priority for Congress and the president. Drug costs have gained attention in the past year partly as a result of controversies surrounding Sovaldi (sofosbuvir, Gilead) and other new hepatitis C drugs, which can cure most cases of the deadly liver disease but at a price of $84,000 for a 12-week treatment. The high cost has strained Medicaid and Medicare budgets and left private insurers scrambling.

Half of the survey respondents said they take prescription drugs. More than three quarters of those said they were easy to afford, with only one in five saying they had difficulty paying for them. But about a quarter of respondents said they or a family member has not filled a prescription in the past year, whereas 18% had cut pills in half or skipped doses to save money, the poll found.

More than three-quarters of the respondents cited drug company profits as the number 1 reason for the high costs, followed by the expense of medical research (64%), the cost of marketing (54%), and the cost of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies (49%).

About 10% of the respondents also blamed insurance companies, saying they required enrollees to shoulder too great a share of drug costs.

The survey also found that most respondents were not paying attention to the latest challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a case called King v. Burwell. The Supreme Court is expected to decide this month whether to cancel government subsidies to millions of people in about three dozen states that rely on a federal insurance marketplace rather than on a state-based marketplace. About 72% of respondents said they have heard little or nothing about the case.

However, the survey found that more than half of respondents were “very” or “fairly closely” following news about the 2016 presidential campaign. About 39% of respondents said they were closely following news about the House of Representatives banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — the most closely-followed health policy issue.

The poll of 1,200 adults was conducted from June 2 to June 9.

Sources: Kaiser Health News; June 16, 2015; and Kaiser Health Tracking Poll; June 16, 2015.


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