Drug pricing concerns cross party lines to become 'core value' for voters, pollsters say

Concern over the cost of prescription drugs is becoming less of a policy issue and more of a “core value” for voters across party lines.

That’s the conclusion reached by Democrat Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, after a recent survey commissioned by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, which found that a “vast majority” of voters (almost 70%) are worried about the cost of their medicines.

The live-caller interview tracked responses from 900 registered voters in the U.S., who were polled toward the end of July.

Aside from the high level of concern about prescription drug costs, the poll underscored four other pertinent points, explained Republican Erik Iverson, president of the Moore Information Group, who also worked on the report.

First, a third of respondents said they’re having trouble affording their medications. Next, voters are clearly laying the blame for these high costs on pharmaceutical companies. Further, voters support various pieces of legislation that aim to tackle high drug costs. And finally, the voters' response is largely bipartisan.

“We see voters, whether they’re Republican, Democrat, Independent—men, women, all ages, all income groups—basically supporting [legislation] to lower prescription drug prices and importantly, increase list price transparency,” Iverson said.

Iverson and Lake laid out the results of the poll on a call with reporters on Tuesday.

Among the 70% of respondents who voiced concern over prescription drug costs, 37% said they were “very concerned,” Iverson and Lake explained.

The survey also sought opinions on specific drugs, such as AbbVie’s Humira, which brought home $21.2 billion in sales last year. Over the years, the company infamously sought hundreds of patents on the drug and repeatedly raised prices. Overall, 89% of voters polled were disturbed by AbbVie’s tactics.

“This is becoming such a prevalent concern that it’s almost not a policy debate in the voters’ minds anymore,” Lake added. “Everybody believes that prescription drug prices are too high—that it’s arbitrary and that something needs to be done about it.”

When it comes to laying the blame, 58% of respondents said pharmaceutical companies were at fault for high drug costs. Another 18% blamed the government, while just 8% of patients blamed health insurance companies.

The poll results come a year after Congress and the Biden administration passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which has garnered intense industry pushback because of its Medicare pricing negotiation measure.

Under the IRA, the federal government is set to begin negotiating prices on certain drugs in 2026. The new law also enables the government to dish out penalties for price hikes that outpace inflation.

Companies are putting up a unified resistance to the new law, with Merck calling the negotiation setup “extortion” in one court filing. Aside from Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson and Astellas have filed lawsuits challenging the law.

Meanwhile, politicians may start to look at polls like this one when they formulate strategies for next year's high-stakes presidential and congressional elections. With so many voters on one side of an issue, that may provide an impetus for more tough talk on drug prices and, potentially, more legislative action.

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been able to wield its influence to create favorable outcomes for drugmakers, but the IRA's passing last year was a noteworthy loss for the industry. Now, the industry and its lobbyists have their hands full as they gear up for yet another political cycle.