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Poll: Patients Unhappy With Rx Drugs

Consumer Reports Survey Shows People Frustrated by Drug Costs and Worry About Safety
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

prescription_drug_poll_2.jpg

Aug. 24, 2010 -- Nearly half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug on a regular basis, and they have concerns ranging from economics to safety to whether the doctor prescribing the drug is unduly influenced by pharmaceutical companies, according to a new poll.

Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted the poll, in which 2,022 adults aged 18 and older were surveyed by phone in May 2010.

''Consumers are not finding out about the safety issues of drugs," says researcher John Santa, MD, MPH, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center. The poll results also suggest people are concerned about the expense of drugs, and as a result, are sometimes not taking them as prescribed.

Since 2004, Santa tells WebMD, Consumer Reports has been following the prescription drug market from a consumer’s point of view, conducting surveys about prescribing practices and other factors.

Survey Highlights

The researchers narrowed down the 2,022 adults to 1,154 who currently take prescription drugs.

Among the findings:

  • Patients are trying to save money on drugs, sometimes in ways that could be hazardous. In the past year, 39% took action to reduce costs (such as switching to generic, a good idea in Santa's view). But 27% failed to take prescription drugs properly -- for example, taking a pill every other day instead of daily.
  • Average out-of-pocket cost for those on prescription drugs is $68 a month, but 14% spend more than $100 monthly.
  • Patients complain that doctors don't consider their ability to pay when prescribing a drug, with 51% feeling the expense isn't considered.
  • Even though many poll respondents took generic drugs, 43% had some misguided concerns about them, such as generics not working as well as brand-name drugs.
  • More than two-thirds said they think pharmaceutical companies have too much influence on a doctor's decision about which drug to prescribe. And half said their doctors are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider other treatment options. About 47% said they think gifts from drug companies influence doctors to prescribe specific drugs.
  • 20% of those surveyed said they have asked their doctor for a drug they saw advertised, with 59% of doctors honoring the request.

 

The Marketing Issue

In an interview with WebMD, Santa focused on the advertising issue, using as an example overactive bladder drugs. "Last year the industry spent $126.9 million for five overactive bladder drugs," he says. "The most popular three had total revenues of more than a billion."

He takes issue with the ads themselves. "They give you the impression the problem is more serious [than it typically is] and that treatment with drugs should be the first thing you do, when in fact for most of the people who have problems with incontinence it's a mild to moderate problem that almost universally gets better with exercise programs [such as Kegels] or bladder training."

Side effects, he says, are downplayed in ads and commercials.

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