The public doesn’t trust pharma


  • The February 2019 KFF Health Tracking Poll finds a majority of adults, including seniors, are in favor of many policy options aimed at curbing prescription drug costs.
  • There is majority support – across party identification – for many current policy proposals like international reference pricing and transparency in drug advertisements.
  • Both of these policy proposals are supported by large majorities of Democrats and independents, and a majority of Republicans.
  • There is also bipartisan support for allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price for people with Medicare, which covers 60 million Americans.

The KFF tracking poll continues to shed light on a dark area of pharma companies: pricing of prescription drugs.

Among the findings:

  • Among those currently taking prescription drugs, one-fourth of adults (24 percent) and seniors (23 percent) say it is difficult to afford their prescription drugs including about one in ten (overall and among seniors) saying it is “very difficult.” Certain groups are much more likely to report difficulty affording medication, including those who are spending $100 or more a month on their prescriptions (58 percent), those who report being in fair or poor health (49 percent), those who take four or more prescription drugs (35 percent), and those with incomes less than $40,000 annually (35 percent). In addition, three in ten of all adults (29 percent) report not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost and one in ten (8 percent) say their condition got worse as a result of not taking their prescription as recommended.
  • While the public sees profits made by pharmaceutical companies as a major factor contributing to the price of prescription drugs (80 percent), a majority (63 percent) also say profits made by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), companies that manage prescription drug benefits for health plans, are a “major factor” contributing to the price of prescription drugs.

A majority of Americans (59 percent) believe prescription drugs developed over the past 20 years have generally made the lives of people in the U.S. better – with nearly four in ten saying they have made people’s lives “a lot better.” Yet, eight in ten (79 percent) say the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable.”

The public sees profits made by pharmaceutical companies as a major factor contributing to the price of prescription drugs. At least eight in ten – across party identification – say profits made by pharmaceutical companies are a “major factor” in the price of prescription drugs. This is followed by seven in ten (69 percent) who say the cost of research and development is a “major factor” contributing to the price.


1ne: The public knows that prescription drugs are helping them live longer and better lives but with the media and politicians so focused on the cost of drugs this issue is not going away.

2wo: It’s just a matter of time before the government starts negotiating drug prices for Medicare even with increased lobbying money.

3hree: Pharma has consistently demonstrated that shareholders are more important than patients although Novartis took a huge step in offering free insulin to patients whose wellbeing depends on the drug.

4our: Eventually there is going to be substantial pushback against pharma CEOs who make tens of millions of dollars.

5ive: Pharma companies that are not preparing for the “new age” of healthcare are in for a huge shock. They need to change the way they do business NOW rather than wait.

Pharma companies today still employ back-to-back meetings and require outdated processes to implement even small changes in anything. Pharma salespeople are becoming dinosaurs yet even with data that shows they are largely ineffective they are still the behemoth of expenses.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of pharma is hiring game-changing employees who can challenge the status quo and help companies better understand people and compete in an era of empowered patients.