With presidential primaries right around the corner, the cost of prescription drugs is at the top of the public’s healthcare priority list for the President and Congress, according to polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions, such as HIV, hepatitis, mental illness and cancer, are affordable for those who need them was named as the top priority by respondents in Kaiser’s October health tracking poll, picked by more than three quarters of the public (77 percent). It was the top priority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike, with at least seven in 10 of each group citing it.
The public ranks government action to lower prescription drug costs second, with 63 percent saying it is a top priority, including a majority of Republicans (56 percent). That’s similar to the share of Republicans who say repealing the entire Affordable Care Act is a top priority (58 percent).
Other priorities picked by more than half of the public in the Kaiser poll include assuring provider networks are adequate, protections against surprise out of network bills, and increasing price and quality transparency.
The Kaiser survey also probes the public’s experiences with drug advertisements. A large majority (82 percent) report they have seen or heard such advertising, and 28 percent say they have talked with a doctor about a specific drug they saw advertised. One in eight adults (12 percent) say they were given a specific drug after asking a doctor about its advertisements, while 15 percent say the doctor recommended changes in their behavior or lifestyle, 14 percent say the doctor recommended a different prescription drug, and 11 percent say the doctor recommended an over-the-counter option. These findings are similar to the results of previous Kaiser polling in 2008.
About half of the public (51 percent) say prescription drug advertising is mostly a good thing. Half (50 percent) also say drug advertisements do a good or excellent job of telling consumers which condition or disease the drug is designed to treat, and nearly as many say the ads do at least a good job telling consumers about the potential benefits (47 percent) and potential side effects (44 percent). About a quarter (24 percent) say the advertisements do at least a good job of informing consumers of how effective the drug is in treating a specific condition compared to other treatments. Just 11 percent say the ads are good or excellent at informing the public of the typical cost of the drug, while 20 percent say they do a fair job and a majority (65 percent) say they do a poor job.
The Kaiser poll also found that a majority (57 percent) believe that drug companies spend too much money advertising to patients. A similar majority says the same about money spent marketing to doctors (62 percent), and two thirds (67 percent) say drug companies have a lot of influence over what doctors prescribe to their patients. In addition, 89 percent of the public favor having FDA review drug ads for accuracy and clarity before the public sees them, something it does not do now.