The cost of health care has been on the rise for years, and much of that has been driven by large increases in the price of prescription drugs. Now, it seems that concern over these upticks is reaching a fevered pitch, especially as concerns over changing federal health care laws linger.
Rising drug prices these days have little to do with the development and production of the pharmaceuticals, but relate more to direct-to-consumer marketing efforts, according to a report from USA Today. Since 2012, the amount of money spent by pharma companies on advertising is up 62 percent. In contrast, for all other industries, there was effectively no difference in ad spending. Moreover, the drugs advertised are more likely to be expensive or have marginal improvement for the average patient, potentially costing consumers a lot more.
A big controversy
The issue of cost became such a talking point that the American Medical Association called for a ban on drug advertisements back in 2015. It was acknowledged that a ban is unlikely to occur, USA Today reported. According to a Kantar analysis, it is estimated that in 2016, drug companies spent about $6.4 billion on this type of advertising, up 5 percent from the previous year. Media companies have a large vested interest in drug advertisements.
All these advertising efforts have a big impact on health care as a whole, the report said. For instance, a recent poll found more than 3 in 5 doctors say they might prescribe a drug if a patient asks for it directly, even if the doctor knows it will have little or no impact on the patient's symptoms.
Older people particularly concerned
The people most likely to be affected by rising drug prices are senior citizens, and many now feel the pinch that comes with paying for their various prescriptions, according to a new poll from AARP. Among those 50 and older, more than 3 in 4 say they think high prices are the result of business dealings like monopolies and lobbying, and nearly 4 in 5 support allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with these companies to help bring prices down.
In all, 81 percent think prices today are too high, and almost 90 percent believe politicians should do something to help bring costs down, the poll found.
"The public is making it increasingly clear that profiteering by drug companies at the expense of Americans is unacceptable," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president. "People are worried about high drug prices, and many are struggling because they can't afford their medications."
Meanwhile, other experts say prices could be lower if the U.S. was allowed to import prescription drugs from other countries, according to Kaiser Health News. There is a new bill in Congress to allow this process. However, four former commissioners of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently argued against drug importation stating the process is too risky to permit. To address safety concerns, the new Congressional bill includes several strategies to improve outcomes including safety.
These are pressing concerns, and consumers might want to look into the ways in which they can work to lower their prescription expenditures such as asking their doctor to prescribe generic medications or initially trying low cost brand name drugs.