Most Americans think drug prices are unreasonable

More than 70 percent of Americans believe drug prices are unreasonable and nearly 25 percent have trouble paying for their prescription medications, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released on Aug. 20.

The results coincide with a growing concern in the U.S. about prescription drug costs, including for new cardiovascular medications.

On July 24, the FDA approved alirocumab (Praluent, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi Aventis), the first proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor. The wholesale acquisition cost of alirocumab is $40 per day or nearly $15,000 per year.

Although alirocumab has been shown to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, patients are required to take the drug for the rest of their lives, so the costs could escalate. Later this month, the FDA is expected to approve evolocumab (Repatha, Amgen), another PCSK9 inhibitor that could have a similar price tag as alirocumab.

The Kaiser poll included 1,200 U.S. adults who were interviewed via telephone from Aug. 6 to 11.

Of the respondents, 72 percent said the cost of prescription drugs was unreasonable, including 77 percent of the people who were currently taking prescription drugs. The poll also found 24 percent of respondents had trouble paying for their medications, including 33 percent of those who were currently taking prescription drugs and had household incomes of less than $40,000.

In addition, 86 percent of respondents said they were in favor of requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to release information publicly about how they set their drug prices. Further, 76 percent were in favor of limiting the amount companies could charge for high-cost drugs for illnesses such as hepatitis C and cancer.

The poll also found 83 percent of respondents favored allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications for people on Medicare, while 72 percent favored allowing Americans to purchase prescription medications imported from Canada.

Of the respondents, 42 percent had favorable views of pharmaceutical companies, which was similar to oil companies (40 percent favorable) and health insurance companies (44 percent) but lower than doctors (78 percent), food manufacturers (58 percent), banks (58 percent) and airlines (55 percent).