Americans Want Government Regulation For Prescription Drugs, Poll Finds

| by Kathryn Schroeder

Americans think prescription drug costs are unreasonable, and many want to see government regulation help curb the price they pay, according to a new poll released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that 72 percent of respondents think prescription drug costs are unreasonable, with 74 percent believing drug companies put profits before people.

Of those who are currently taking prescription drugs, 77 percent find the cost of the medication unreasonable, and 66 percent of those who are not taking a prescription drug agree.

But 7 in 10 people said the cost of their prescriptions are easy to afford, except for those who are in poor health and have low incomes.

Seventy-four percent of respondents think U.S. citizens pay higher prices than people in Canada, Mexic, and Western Europe, for the same medication. Seventy-two percent want to be allowed to get prescriptions filled in Canadian pharmacies.

"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," Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for information on the health care system, told AP. "Even Republicans seem to support aggressive action by government."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who represents the drug companies, argues that government price controls would suppress innovation in a field that is delivering cures for life-threatening illnesses and providing those with chronic diseases the ability to lead productive lives.

The poll found that 62 percent of respondents value the role pharmaceutical companies play, and 62 percent think the drugs developed in the past two decades have made U.S. citizens’ lives better.

In order to keep prescription drug costs down, companies should release information on how prices are set, according to 86 percent or respondents, or 8 in 10 Americans. This method was the most popular among respondents.

A close second was the allowing of the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications for people on Medicare.

Other methods polled included placing limitations on what a company may charge for medications that treat serious illnesses, like hepatitis or cancer; allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs imported from Canada; and encouraging people to purchase lower cost drugs or require them to pay a higher share of the cost of a similar, but higher cost version of the drug.

When it comes to whether respondents think federal government regulation or competition in the marketplace would do a better job in keeping costs down, they chose competition in the marketplace —51 percent to 40 percent.

The decision had a clear split across party lines.

Fifty-seven percent of Democrats favored government regulation, while 76 percent of Republicans favored market competition.

Independents were nearly divided equally, with 43 percent favoring regulation and 46 percent choosing market competition.

As for the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, 44 percent view the program as favorable while 41 percent do not. Twenty-eight percent want to see a full repeal of the healthcare program.

Sources: AP, Kaiser Family Foundation

Photo Source: Chris Potter/Flickr, Wikipedia