Tuesday, December 1, 2015
December 1, 2015
STAT-Harvard poll: Dismayed by drug prices, public supports Democrats' ideas
By David Nather
Most Americans believe that the prices of brand-name prescription drugs
have become unreasonable, and their dismay is leading to wide support
for government action to keep costs down, including letting Medicare
negotiate prices with drug companies, according to a new poll by STAT
and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
About 7 out of 10 Americans, including two-thirds of Republicans, said
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older and disabled
Americans, should be able to negotiate lower prices for all prescription
The poll found that the pharmaceutical industry's reputation has
suffered substantial damage. Barely half of all Americans now say drug
companies are doing a good job for their customers, compared with the
nearly 8 out of 10 who expressed that kind of confidence in a 1997
And they soundly rejected the industry's argument that government action
against rising drug costs would slow the development of new drugs.
Sixty-four percent said they did not believe that would happen if
Medicare negotiated lower prices, while 26 percent said they believed it
It also matters how potential government action on drug costs is framed.
When it's described as "price controls" under Medicare rather than
"negotiating prices," there's a sharp drop-off in support among
Republicans and senior citizens.
When given a choice of different options for dealing with extreme price
hikes and the most expensive new drugs, Americans were divided between
letting the government negotiate lower prices and approaches intended to
Government negotiations was the most popular option and importing drugs
came in second. Reducing regulations was the least preferred option,
with the support of 1 out of 5 Americans.
In follow-up interviews, people who participated in the poll expressed a
common theme: They're not sure what the best solution is — they just
want the government to do something.
The fact that the support for Medicare negotiations is so high, even
though few people are personally experiencing high drug costs, suggests
that their reactions are being driven by the perception that drug prices
have become "just unreasonable" for others, according to Robert Blendon,
a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard who
directed the poll.
"It's not people's experience. It's people's outrage," said Blendon.
Comment by Don McCanne
There is an important lesson here for single payer advocates. The public
now wants the government to do something about the large increases in
drug prices. It is not because of personal experience with these high
prices but rather it is due to the OUTRAGE over the injustice of
patients in need unnecessarily facing egregiously high drug pricing.
Much worse than the drug pricing crisis is the financial hardship,
outrageous physical suffering and even loss of life that is due to our
highly dysfunctional method of financing health care, even though we are
spending about twice as much per capita as the average of other wealthy
Our nation needs to understand that merely switching to a single payer
system would correct the injustices of the financing system that the
Affordable Care Act failed to rectify. With a well designed single payer
system we would not only get the pricing of pharmaceuticals right, we
would price correctly the rest of the system as well while improving
access and free choice of health care - all without spending any more
than we do already, yet spending it more equitably so as to eliminate
for everyone the prospect of financial hardship due to health care.
If it takes outrage to create a demand for government action, then let's
work on our framing so that people understand that they should be
outraged by the profound but remediable injustices that characterize our
health care financing system. Start with intensified efforts to educate
the media, since it has been the media that aroused the nation on
outrageous drug pricing.
at 1:51 PM