What do Americans want done about our high prescription drug prices?

High Prices, Broken Promises

NORC at the University of Chicago, September 13, 2018

Three-quarters of Americans consider the cost of prescription drugs in the United States to be “unreasonable,” and despite promises from the President and members of Congress to rein in prices, few approve of either’s handling of the issue, according to a new national poll from the West Health Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit healthcare research organization, and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.

The survey found the high cost of healthcare is a top public policy issue for Americans. When presented with a list of six issues, 78 percent said addressing healthcare costs was their highest priority, similar to the number who say the same about jobs and the economy (76 percent), and ranking higher than national security (71 percent), the environment (63 percent), immigration (51 percent), or trade (38 percent).

High prescription drug prices are a particular worry for most Americans. Sixty-five percent said they are extremely or very concerned about the issue. Another 88 percent said lowering medication costs should be a top priority for candidates running for Congress.

From the Survey:

To reduce the cost of prescription drugs, should...?

82% - Medicare be allowed to directly negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices on prescription drugs

82% - More lower-cost generic prescription drugs be allowed to compete with the equivalent high-cost brand name prescription drugs

80% - Drug companies be required to release information to the public on how they set their prices

65% - Americans be allowed to buy prescription drugs from Canada

52% - Prescription drug advertisements be eliminated

31% - Drug companies be required to set the price for a drug based on how well it works

Press release:

Full issue brief and results:




By Don McCanne, M.D.

Not only do Americans object to the high prices of prescription drugs, they also feel that the President and members of Congress have failed us in not doing more about it.

When offered a list of various options on what we can do, to no surprise at the top was that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices (along with more generic drug competition and more transparency in the setting of drug prices). Again, Americans support a major government role in drug pricing.

With the current popularity of Medicare for All it would have been interesting to see how strong the support would have been for including drugs as a benefit of an improved Medicare that covered everyone, but they didn't ask that. Regardless, if we already had in place a comprehensive, single payer, improved Medicare for all that included a drug benefit, there is no question that it would be extremely popular.

We hear the opponents of reform talk about how bad the systems in Canada and Great Britain are, yet we hear from their people that they would never consider transforming their systems into one like ours. Since the majority of our politicians continue to fail us, it seems that we should replace them with leaders who can hear our message.

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