The Drug-Cost Crunch


A majority of consumers try to shop for the lowest price when purchasing pharmaceuticals, many are willing to buy generic drugs to hold down costs, more than half think the blame for rapidly rising drug prices rests primarily with drugmakers, and more than half think the federal government should exercise more influence over drug prices.

Those are some of the findings of a BusinessWeek Online Reader Survey that appeared from Mar. 13 to Mar. 20. Approximately 460 people responded to the survey, which gauges the opinions of readers but isn't a scientific poll.

Among the specific reponses:

At least 53% of readers blamed "unreasonably" high pricing by drug companies, the expense of developing new drugs, or aggressive drug-company marketing for pharmaceutical prices that are rising 14% to 18% annually.

Some 65% of respondents said they price-shop for drugs, while 33% said they don't. About 38% said they insist on generic versions of brand-name drugs when possible, and 22% said they're willing to eat better and exercise more to help hold down spending on drugs.

More than 78% of those who responded said the federal government should have more influence over drug prices than it currently does -- including 28% who think Washington should intervence only selectively, in crisis situations, to influence the supply and price of drugs.

About 58% of readers thought it makes sense for Washington to create an independent institute to help everyone who uses, prescribes, or pays for drugs determine which ones deliver the most benefit for the money.

Here are the complete results of the survey:

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

Option

Total

%

Failure by the government to regulate drug prices

26

5.66 %

Unreasonably high pricing by drug companies

84

18.3 %

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

34

7.41 %

The high cost of developing new drugs

114

24.84 %

An aging population, since older people use more medical care

24

5.23 %

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

45

9.80 %

All of the above

115

25.05 %

None of the above

13

2.83 %

Don't know

4

0.87 %

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

lowest price?

Option

Total

%

Yes (or my health plan does it for me)

295

64.69 %

No

151

33.11 %

Don't know

10

2.19 %

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

rising drug prices?

Option

Total

%

Pay them. My health is more important than money

51

11.14 %

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

105

22.93 %

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

170

37.12 %

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

48

10.48 %

All of the above

68

14.85 %

There's nothing I can do about high drug prices

9

1.97 %

Don't know

7

1.53 %

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

drug prices?

Option

Total

%

More than it has now

226

49.78 %

Less than it has now

46

10.13 %

The same as it has now

41

9.03 %

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

131

28.85 %

Don't know

10

2.20 %

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?

Option

Total

%

Yes

263

57.3 %

No

156

33.99 %

Don't know

40

8.71 %


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