Every day we see drug ads on TV, on subway cars, and even plastered across public bus benches – but have you ever wondered how these ads affect the Americans who come across them? Just a few days ago, the October version of the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll – the Kaiser Family Foundation's signature service poll – was released.
Traditionally, the poll provides us with information that allows us to see what the American public thinks about specific issues within the U.S. healthcare system, and what's most important to them. This past month's survey discusses the impact of drug ads and how and why they may be good or bad for consumers. October’s poll also took a look at the high cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, and whether or not they should be made more affordable for the average American.
We'll break down the poll for you, below, which includes the opinions of 1,200 American adults (and was conducted in June of this year). With the 2016 presidential elections fast approaching, this opinion-data is critical for our presidential candidates to consider – as much of the data featured in the Kaiser Poll may play a big role in shaping public health proposals and/or healthcare-reform measures. Further, it might also help the American public understand whether or not they are being heard by their political leaders.
Keeping Down the Cost of Prescription Drugs
After dissecting the data in the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, one thing is resoundingly clear: Americans want cheaper drugs. In August, prices skyrocketed over 5000% on a medication called Daraprim®. A single dose of Daraprim® – a drug used to treat some AIDS, malaria, and cancer patients – suddenly went up in price from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, and Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals responsible for the monstrous spike, said that the company would use the profits to research new treatments. Shkreli’s rationale fell thin and the media jumped all over the 32-year-old “boy genius.” The victims were of course the consumers, as many people who found the drug crucial for treating their infectious diseases would not be able to afford it at this price.
Ensuring that all high-cost drugs for HIV, hepatitis, mental illness, and cancer are affordable for patients is a top concern for Americans, according to this poll.
Drug & Healthcare Prices Add Financial Strain
Since August, Shkreli is said to have lowered the price of Daraprim® so that it is more affordable for the Americans who need it. 62% of Americans believe that the government is not as actively involved as it should be in keeping the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs down, and that these high costs are adding financial strain to American families. But Daraprim® is not the only medication that's unreasonably priced in the U.S.
SOVALDI® (sofosbuvir), a hepatitis C drug that can cure most cases of this deadly liver disease, will cost a patient $84,000 for a 12-week treatment. 42% of Americans say it is very or somewhat difficult to afford the costs of healthcare; and in cases like these, no matter how families work their budgets, the cost of vital medications is still too high for them, and they feel strongly that the U.S. government should be actively involved in regulating costs for drugs like Daraprim® and Sovaldi®.
Drug Ads Impact Potential Patients
50% of the American public already takes prescription drugs, and then there are those persuasive drug ads that most of us see on TV. They pop up often on late-night programming, but also show up during regular viewing hours. It's nearly impossible to get through a sitting of any duration without seeing one of these infamous ads. 82% of Americans say that they have seen a drug ad, and 3 in 10 of these people have then spoken with their doctor about possibly being prescribed the advertised drug. This is a huge percentage of the population that's being swayed, for better or for worse, by what they see in drug ads.
This does not mean that the doctor will immediately recommend the drug, nor does it mean that the patient and doctor will decide to move forward with a prescription. Still, 51% of Americans think that these drug ads are a good thing, and that they portray the benefits and side effects of each drug in an accurate and informative way.
That being said, 89% of Americans do believe that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be more involved in reviewing drug ads before they air. The FDA does not currently review drug ads, but the American public would feel more comfortable with these drugs knowing that advertisements for them are accurate, clear, and approved by a governmental body.
Patients Have the Right to Choose Which Doctor They See
Another finding of this poll is that it is also very important for patients to have several options when it comes to choosing and visiting their healthcare physicians. Health plans should have substantial provider networks (available doctors, hospitals, nurses, therapists, etc.) and patients, themselves, should be able to decide which doctor they'd like to see. Transparency is crucial because it makes it easier to understand if your current or previous doctors are on your health plan's network, or if you’ll have to seek out new doctors.
Making Healthcare Pricing More Available to Patients
How often have you visited your doctor and come to realize that you have no idea what amount you'll be billed for the visit?
In looking at the data, it’s clear that transparency is extremely important to Americans when it comes to the cost of doctor visits and certain medical procedures. There is nothing nice or fair about being slapped with a high bill you weren't expecting and then scrambling to figure out how you're going to pay for it. 53% of the American public says that they'd prefer a health plan with a higher monthly, but a lower out-of-pocket cost when using healthcare services. It would ease a lot of stress and tension for patients if pricing information for doctors' visits and procedures were more readily accessible to patients in the U.S.
Though healthcare concerns vary a bit depending on income levels, political persuasion, and individual health issues, most Americans just want to see more transparency when it comes to drug treatments, drug ads, out-of-pocket expenses, and doctors' visits. If we can keep the cost of healthcare down while also providing accurate information about the drugs being prescribed and procedures taking place, it seems that Americans will be much more satisfied with the level and quality of healthcare available in this country.