Patient EngementHIT: Patients Say US Drug Prices “Unreasonable,” Need Gov’t Attention

2 min
September 14, 2018

By Sara Heath

In addition to lamenting high drug prices, most patients do not approve of government policies for addressing costs.

Seventy-seven percent of patients believe US drug prices are “unreasonable,” but most don’t approve of current government solutions to combat high drug costs, according to a recent survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago on behalf of West Health Institute.

The survey of just over 1,000 adult patients found that 78 percent of patients are generally concerned about rising costs in healthcare. That category outranked patient concerns about jobs and the economy, the environment, national security, immigration, and trade.

Chief among those healthcare concerns are high drug prices. In addition to the three-quarters of patients who deemed US drug costs unreasonable, another 65 percent said they are extremely or very concerned about their ability to pay drug bills. Only 11 percent of patients are unconcerned about drug costs.

Patients believe policymakers should likewise be concerned about rising drug costs. Eighty-eight percent of respondents said lowering drug costs should be a priority for Congress; 30 percent said cutting drug costs should be Congress’ top priority.

And currently, the government is falling short of patient expectations for combatting high drug costs, the survey respondents said.

“The rising cost of prescription drugs is a growing economic and public health crisis that hurts the U.S. economy and threatens individual health and financial security, and Americans want solutions. Unfortunately, they don’t feel like they’re getting them from Washington,” Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of the West Health Institute, explained in a statement. “Our representatives in Washington D.C. need to make lower drug prices a reality instead of simply an empty campaign promise.”

Only 23 percent of patients approve of the President’s Drug Price Blueprint released earlier this year. Forty-six percent of respondents disapprove of the blueprint while the rest have no opinion.

Additionally, patients are unhappy with how Congress is handling the drug pricing issue, regardless of political party. Eighty percent of respondents disapprove of Democrat action plans and 84 percent disapprove of Republican plans.

The survey investigated popular strategies for tackling high drug prices, with most patients supporting proposals to allow Medicare to negotiate prices directly with drug manufacturers. Current law prohibits Medicare – which is the largest payer of prescription medications – from doing this.

However, 82 percent of respondents said they’d like to see Congress overturn this regulation. Such a move could have considerable industry-wide implications, according to Tim Lash, chief strategy officer of West Health Institute.

“As the largest buyer of prescription drugs, Medicare should be able to leverage its purchasing power with drug companies to get better prices for its beneficiaries,” Lash said. “This is a common-sense policy whose time has come.”