Oct 12, 2021 - Health

Poll: Most Americans aren't convinced by pharma's leading argument

Data: KFF; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Americans are more convinced by the arguments made in favor of allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices than they are by those made against the policy, which the drug industry argues would lead to fewer new drugs, according to new KFF polling.

Between the lines: Just because the measure is popular with the public doesn't mean it'll pass, and it's currently in serious hot water with moderate Democrats.

What they found: The poll asked respondents whether they found two different arguments convincing.

  • The first argument was that allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices "would have the government too involved and will lead to fewer new drugs being available in the future," which is the argument being made by pharma and its allies.
  • A third of respondents said they found this argument very or somewhat convincing.
  • The second argument, which is made by advocates of the measure, was that "this is needed because Americans pay higher prices than people in other countries, many can’t afford their prescriptions, and drug company profits are too high."
  • 84% of respondents said they found the argument very or somewhat convincing.

By the numbers: More than half of respondents — including 44% of Republicans — said they strongly favored the measure before hearing the arguments for and against it, and another 31% somewhat favored it.

  • Strong support slid a few percentage points to 45% after hearing the arguments, but the portion of respondents who said they somewhat favor the measure rose to 37%, leaving overall favorability unchanged.
  • One in five seniors said they struggle to afford their prescription drugs.

What we're watching: Democrats are currently seeking a version of Medicare negotiations that can pass the House and Senate.

  • Of course, if they're successful, public opinion today isn't an indicator of public opinion in the future, nor is it indicative of how the policy would play out in real life.
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