By Wide Margin, Americans Blame Drug Makers for High Prices, Poll Finds

The consensus that drug manufacturers are at fault for high prescription prices comes even though only half the respondents said they were taking medication themselves.

Drug prices are far too high and most Americans put the blame squarely on the companies that make them, according to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking poll.

Released today, the poll found that 73% of the public find the cost of prescription drugs “unreasonable.” In this group, 76% said pharmaceutical companies charge too much for prescriptions, while another 10% say the blame rests jointly on drug manufacturers and insurance companies.

Another 10% say consumers pay too much for drugs because insurance companies charge too much.

The cost of prescription drugs is both a consumer issue and a public health concern, because studies have consistently linked high out-of-pocket costs with poor medication adherence; in turn, the latter is blamed for unnecessary emergency department visits and high hospital costs. A study presented just last week at the American Diabetes Association found that increased co-payments led to poor adherence and higher medical costs among Medicare patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, conducted most months by the Kaiser Family Foundation since April 2010, also tracks public opinion on the Affordable Care Act. The poll found 39% had a favorable view of the law, while 42% had an unfavorable view, with opinion sharply divided by party registration. Over time, the numbers viewing the poll favorably have shifted from month to month, but the overall divide and the ideological split have remained intact.

The wide margin of Americans who see high drug costs as a problem—and who blame drug manufacturers—comes even though only half of the respondents said they were taking prescription medication themselves. Of those who take medication, 76% said they can afford it, but 21% said paying for it is difficult. One quarter—25%—reported that they or a family member did not fill a prescription in the past year due to cost, while 18% reported cutting pills in half or skipping doses to save money.

While there was a consensus to pin blame on drug manufacturers for high prices, respondents were divided on underlying causes: 77% cited company profits, 54% listed marketing and advertising, and 49% blamed the cost of lawsuits against drug companies.

Respondents were equally split on what to do about the problem. Just over half (53%) said drug prices did not have enough regulation, while 12% said there is too much, and 28% said the level of regulation is about right. The ideological divide showed up here, too: Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say there was too much government regulation (19% to 8%).

KFF conducted the poll from June 2-9, 2015, among a nationally representative sample of 1200 adults.