Americans point fingers at Big Pharma over dramatic drug price increases

Rising drug prices have sparked the ire of lawmakers and presidential hopefuls, and unsurprisingly, the public also has a bone to pick with Big Pharma over the issue. More than three-quarters of American adults think that brand-name prescription drug prices are too high, and most people are placing the blame on pharma companies, according to a recent poll.

STAT and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that about 49% of Americans think that drugmakers are doing a good job, down from 79% 20 years ago. Around 41% of people said that pharma companies are doing a bad job. And the majority, or 53%, of Americans think that companies' desire for profit is driving drug price increases, the pair said in a statement.

Respondents also viewed recent cases of pharma increasing drug prices as part of the survey, although STAT and Harvard didn't spell out exactly which ones were presented. But when Americans looked at drugmakers' decisions to jack up prices, almost all of them thought that the companies acted unreasonably.

Many people thought the government should take a heavier hand in regulating pricing. A little more than two-thirds of those surveyed said that Medicare should be able to negotiate prices on prescription drugs, an idea that's often tossed around by presidential hopefuls such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Americans changed their tune a bit when the idea was presented as price controls, but more than half of individuals still supported price controls in some form.

The poll also looked at how individuals viewed drug pricing in light of the 2016 presidential election. Republican and Democratic candidates have been weighing in with price-fighting proposals, with Clinton and Sanders laying out stringent measures and Republican hopefuls recently jumping into the fray with a few ideas of their own. Individuals in the survey see both parties as being able to address the issue, with 39% saying that Democrats can better handle price increases compared with 30% saying the same thing about Republicans.

And dissatisfaction with drug price increases transcended party lines, with 80% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans railing against drugmakers' decisions to jack up prices.

This is not the first time the public has blamed drugmakers for skyrocketing prices, and it probably won't be the last. Back in June, almost three-quarters of respondents to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll said their medication costs too much. And about the same number--76%--said it's because pharma companies set prices too high. People steered most of the blame away from insurers, a group Big Pharma is quick to point to when warding off criticism over price increases.

The survey also comes as lawmakers push back at recent price increases from companies such as Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant ($VRX). Back in September, Turing bought toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim and jacked up the price from $13.50 per pill to $750, triggering immediate backlash from the industry and patients. Valeant is also coming under fire for increasing the prices on Isuprel and Nitropress by 525% and 212%, respectively. Two U.S. Attorneys' offices recently launched investigations into the company's price hikes, and members of Congress are also grilling Valeant over its price increases.

- get the poll results (PDF)
- read the statement