Seniors want drug prices in ads. Young people? Eh, whatever: survey

Pills in dollar sign (Photo: Eric Palmer)
An overwhelming majority of older Americans are on board with U.S. President Donald Trump and HHS' plan to force drug prices in pharma ads. (Eric Palmer)

Who wants drug prices in ads? Older people, that’s who. A recent survey by Wells Fargo Securities found that 77% of people 65 and older think pharma companies should be required to disclose prices in ads. That compares with just 40% of people 18 to 24 who think the price should be included.

Younger people also tended to be more indifferent. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 41% of chose the middle ground in Wells Fargo's query, not picking a definitive yes or no, but rather that “it wouldn’t matter to me.”

It’s a stark generational difference, although not entirely unexpected considering older Americans take more prescription drugs on average and watch more TV where drug ads proliferate. Overall, the survey found that the majority (56%) of all Americans agree that drug companies should be forced to include the price in advertising.

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The proposal to require drug prices in DTC advertising is relatively new but has quickly gained steam with legislators and consumers. The idea was initially pitched as part of the Trump administration’s drug pricing blueprint, announced in the spring, and by October, advanced to an HHS proposed rule currently under comment period until Dec. 17.

“As we have indicated when the proposed rule first came out, we do not see how this will result in lower drug prices and could have the unintended consequence of patients not seeking treatment because of perceived high list prices. That said, based on our survey, the results indicate that majority of people agree with the administration’s idea of including drug prices in ads, and it is an issue that especially resonates with older individuals,” Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a recent research note.

In the Wells Fargo survey of 1,510 adults, fielded in mid-October, women were slightly more likely to favor drug prices in ads, with a comparative 59% of women to 52% men who agreed.

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The heightened concern specifically among seniors relates to the fact that older adults take more prescription drugs than others. Research shows that 90% of adults aged 65-plus take at least one prescription drug, while 39% take five or more drugs every month.