Public Approves of Pharma Products, Dislikes Cost

March 12, 2008
Pharmaceutical Executive
Volume 0, Issue 0

A Kaiser Foundation study finds that although most Americans look favorably upon pharmaceuticals, they generally think drugs are too expensive and that most of the cost is blown on advertising.

A new study reveals that although people value the products produced by pharmaceutical companies, they think negatively of the cost of prescription drugs. The Kaiser Foundation surveyed 1,700 adults in January to better understand the public's perception of the healthcare industry.

"Pharma has this two-sided challenge," said Mollyann Brodie, vice president for public opinion and media research at Kaiser Family Foundation. "On one side, their products are really loved, but on the other, people worry a great deal about the cost of medication."

Cost Concerns
Some key findings of the study:

  • Four in 10 Americans have trouble paying for drugs and cut doses or skip treatment to save money.
  • The more-impoverished respondents also need the most drugs. A third of people with a household income of less than $25,000 need four or more. prescription drugs, while only 12 percent of people earning $75,000 or more require that many drugs.
  • Ironically, 55 percent of respondents making less than $25,000 have a favorable view of pharma, compared with 44 percent with incomes more than $25,000.

"Industry has half the public thinking favorably of them, but the other half thinks unfavorably of them," said Brodie. "And the unfavorable side is very clear about the reasons why they are upset?cost and profit."

Brodie told Pharm Exec that the majority of the public thinks pharmaceuticals are safe and drug companies do a good job testing them. More than 70 percent of people interviewed said they think prescription drugs developed in the past 20 years have made people's lives better; while only 10 percent said they made their lives worse.

Of the 47 percent who said they have a favorable opinion of pharma, 64 percent said the main reason was that companies provide important drugs to society. In general, respondents believed that if there were a problem with their drugs, companies would immediately address them.

"There are a lot of areas where the public could have come down harder on pharma because of the news as of late, but they didn't," said Brodie. "Most of the negativity is aimed at the perception that pharma is profiting off of the high cost of drugs."

Some negative opinions include:

  • 79 percent feel the cost of drugs is unreasonable.
  • 74 percent feel drug companies make too much profit.
  • 79 percent said profit is the biggest driver of drug costs.

Advertising Aversion
The study also includes some good news/bad new for pharma on the advertising front. Although may people think that drug ads reduce the stigma of mental health conditions, they also think that the ads are hiking up the cost of drugs.

"On the one hand, people think there are too many ads on television, but many fewer said that it bothered them," Brodie said. "We also found that 32 percent of people actually talk to their doctors after seeing a drug ad and, of that third, many ended up with some kind of prescription."

Sixty-seven percent of those interviewed said that prescription drug ads are a good educational source. However, 40 percent think that drug ads are a "bad thing." More than 75 percent believe that drug ads are one of the reasons why prescription medication is expensive, while another 68 percent feel that drug ads encourage people to go on medications that aren't necessary.