The Drug-Cost Crunch


Americans now spend nearly $170 billion a year on drugs, and the cost has been rising much faster than overall inflation -- by 14% to 18% annually in recent years. That trend will almost certainly accelerate as the huge Baby Boom generation ages, as people live longer, and as drug companies try for expensive miracle cures: Already, some cancer drugs cost $60,000 a year.

Sooner rather than later, the U.S. could face a health-care crisis in which the rising cost of drugs hurts everyone from patients to the corporations and insurers that foot much of the bill (see BW Cover Story, 12/10/01, "Drug Prices: What's Fair?").

What do you see as the causes of this looming problem? What do you think the solutions should be? Those are the questions raised in this BusinessWeek Online survey.

Please remember that this isn't a scientific poll. It simply gathers the opinions of everyone who chooses to respond. Still, it give you a chance to weigh in on this important issue.

Please check back on Friday, Mar. 22, to see the results. Or catch them on our Sunday TV show for investors, BusinessWeek Money Talks.

1. What do you see as the primary reason for rapidly rising drug costs?

Failure by the government to regulate drug prices

Unreasonably high pricing by drug companies

The unhealthy lifestyle of Americans, which leads to increased drug usage

The high cost of developing new drugs

An aging population, since older people use more medical care

Drug-company ads aimed at persuading consumers to ask their doctors for expensive prescription drugs

All of the above

None of the above

Don't know

2. When you buy pharmaceuticals, do you comparison shop to find the

lowest price?

Yes (or my health plan does it for me)

No

Don't know

3. What step would you personally be most willing to take to deal with

rising drug prices?

Pay them. My health is more important than money

Eat better and exercise more to stay healthier and use fewer drugs

Insist on generic (i.e., lower-cost) substitutes for brand-name drugs whenever possible

Vote for politicians who say they'll use government to limit drug prices

All of the above

There's nothing I can do about high drug prices

Don't know

4. What influence do you think the federal government should have over

drug prices?

More than it has now

Less than it has now

The same as it has now

It should intervene only selectively (for example, in crisis situations such as the shortage of anthrax vaccine)

Don't know

5. Some experts have proposed that Washington create an independent

"pharmaco-economic" institute that would inform consumers, doctors, and

insurers about which drugs deliver the most benefit for the money. Do you agree?

Yes

No

Don't know


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