The Drug-Cost Crunch

Here's what you said about why prescription remedies are so expensive -- and what can be done about it

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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