Voters of all parties: let the federal government negotiate drug prices

October 01, 2015, 1:37 PM GMT+0

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support the federal government and insurers negotiating with drug companies to set prescription prices

Late last month a young businessman with a history of ruthless behavior shocked much of the country by hiking the price of a lifesaving drug by 4,000% overnight after he bought the rights to produce the drug. The move quickly attracted widespread attention, from industry reps who disowned the move to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who promised to tackle similar price hikes if she became president. The price change highlights, however, that unlike patients in the rest of the developed world sick Americans are unusually vulnerable to the prices of drugs and many end up not taking necessary drugs because they cannot afford to.

The latest research from YouGov shows that the vast majority of Americans (78%) think it is wrong that people could go without necessary drugs because they cannot afford to pay for them, while only 10% think it is right. Only 13% of Republicans think that it is right that poorer people cannot afford their prescriptions, even though 50% of Republicans say that it is right that people with more money can buy themselves better healthcare, something 46% of the overall public thinks is wrong.

Under laws governing the prescription drug benefit for Medicare, the federal government is forbidden from negotiating over the price of drugs, rather they must pay the price drug companies name. A large majority of Americans (64%) support a proposal under which universal prescription drug prices would be set through negotiations between the federal government and health insurance companies on the one hand, and the drug manufacturers on the other hand. Support for the measure is bipartisan, as strong support among Democrats (76%) is matched by majority support among Republicans (57%).

Attitudes towards prescription drug pricing are almost certainly a result of the widespread belief that drug companies should not set the highest price that they think they can get for their drugs. 71% of Americans say that drug companies should not charge much more for their medicines than their, admittedly large, development and production costs. When it comes to good in general only 45% say that companies should limit the price of their goods while 37% think it's OK to charge whatever they think the market will bear.

43% of Americans say that they have not filled a prescription before because they lacked the money to get it filled. Most people (52%) in households with incomes under $50,000 have had to do this, compared to 17% in households with incomes over $100,000.

Full poll results can be found here and topline results and margin of error here.