2015 Survey on Prescription Drugs

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1 2015 Survey on Prescription Drugs AARP Research January 26, 2016 (For media inquiries, contact Gregory Phillips at or

2 Objectives To understand consumers prescription drug use and opinions regarding cost. To learn what struggles, if any, consumers face with regard to the cost of their prescription drugs. To gain insight into the views of 50+ adults on the regulations in place for prescription drugs and pharmaceutical companies, the influence they perceive the drug companies have over politicians and health care professionals, and what can be done to control the costs of the drugs. 2

3 Methodology An online survey fielded December 1-11, 2015 among a nationally representative sample of 1,834 adults age 50+. Additional interviews conducted to reach: 400 Hispanic/Latino adults age African-American adults age 50+. The data was weighted by age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, Census region, metropolitan status, household income, and primary language (Hispanics/Latinos only). The margin of error for the national sample of 1,834 adults age 50+ is +/- 2.8%. The margin of error among subgroups is higher. Percentages may not equal 100% due to rounding. 3

4 Summary of Key Findings (continued) Three-quarters of 50+ adults take prescription medication on a regular basis, the percentage is even higher for seniors. Overall, among adults who take prescription medications regularly: Over eight in ten take at least two drugs More than half of seniors take four or more drugs African-American/Black adults and adults with less education and income also take more prescription medications. Nearly three in ten say their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs are increasing and the monthly expenditure for one-third is $50 or more. For those who say their out-of-pocket drug costs are increasing, most say it is due to changes in their prescription drug coverage. Most 50+ adults think prescription drugs are too expensive and most say it is important for politicians to support efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable. Over four in ten 50+ adults are concerned about being able to afford their medication. More adults with lower incomes and lower levels of education are concerned about affording their medication. Adults age are struggling more than seniors to pay for their prescription drugs: More than one-quarter have decided not to fill a prescription in the last two years compared to one in six seniors; overall, the predominant reason was the cost of the drug. A higher proportion report facing difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs compared to seniors (e.g., delayed filling a prescription or not filled a prescription due to cost, taken less medication to make it last longer, and skipped a dose to save money). Nearly half are concerned about being able to afford their medication in the next two years compared to just over four in ten seniors. 4

5 Summary of Key Findings (concluded) Over half of 50+ adults believe that drug companies have a lot of influence over Congress/state legislatures and health care professionals but just over one-third believe they have influence over their own health care professional. 50+ adults want more regulation. Three-quarters of 50+ adults think there is not enough regulation when it comes to limiting the price of prescription drugs. Over four in ten think there is not enough regulation when it comes to making sure statements about prescription drugs are accurate and half think there is not enough regulation making sure prescription drugs are safe. While most 50+ adults think that pharmaceutical companies spend too much money on advertising to patients and health care professionals, less than half of African- American/Black 50+ adults feel this way. Over eight in ten 50+ adults think that drug companies make too much profit and that they should be required to publicly explain how they price their products. A large majority of 50+ adults say it should be legal to buy prescription drugs in Canada and Europe. Over nine in ten 50+ adults support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. Over eight in ten oppose the efforts of drug companies to delay the availability of lowercost generic substitutes. 5

6 Use and Cost of Prescription Drugs 6

7 Three-quarters of 50+ adults regularly take prescription medications and over four in ten(43%) take four or more medications. 100% 80% 60% 75% of 50+ adults say they take prescription medications on a regular basis. 40% 39% 20% 17% 23% 20% 0% 1 Prescription Medication 2-3 Prescription Medications 4-5 Prescription Medications 6+ Prescription Medications Q1: Are you currently taking prescription medications on a regular basis, i.e. daily, weekly, monthly? Q2: Approximately how many different prescription medications do you take on a regular basis? 7

8 Not unexpectedly, over eight in ten (86%) seniors regularly take prescription medications compared to two-thirds (67%) of younger adults. Additionally, more than half (53%) of seniors take four or more regular medications compared to one-third (34%) of younger adults. 100% 86% of seniors take prescription medications on a regular basis compared to 67% of adults % 60% 40% 20% 22% 12% % 35% 29% 18% 16% 24% 0% 1 Prescription Medication 2-3 Prescription Medications Q1: Are you currently taking prescription medications on a regular basis, i.e. daily, weekly, monthly? Q2: Approximately how many different prescription medications do you take on a regular basis? 4-5 Prescription Medications 6+ Prescription Medications 8

9 Minority populations, lower income and less educated 50+ adults tend to take more medications. Number of prescription medications taken on a regular basis All 50+ Adults Race/ Ethnicity AA/B H/L HS or Less Education Some College BA or more <$40K $40K- $74,999 Income $75K- $99,999 >$100K 1 17% 11% 15% 13% 19% 22% 12% 20% 18% 20% % 39% 40% 38% 41% 40% 35% 38% 45% 43% % 23% 21% 24% 22% 24% 26% 23% 22% 22% 6 or more 20% 28% 23% 26% 17% 14% 27% 18% 16% 14% Subtotal: 4 or more 43% 51% 44% 50% 39% 38% 53% 41% 38% 36% Q1: Are you currently taking prescription medications on a regular basis, i.e. daily, weekly, monthly? Q2: Approximately how many different prescription medications do you take on a regular basis? 9

10 One-third of 50+ adults spend $50 or more per month on prescription medications and nearly three in ten (29%) say the costs are increasing. Amount spent per month on prescription drugs Nothing - $0 23% 50+ adults say their outof-pocket prescription drug costs are: >$0 but less than $10 $10 but less than $50 16% 26% Staying the same 64% Increasing 29% Decreasing 5% $50 but less than $100 $100 but less than $200 $200 but less than $500 $500 but less than $ % 8% 8% 3% 33% spend $50 or more per month More than $1000 per month 1% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Q3: In the past 12 months, approximately how much have you spent out of your own pocket for prescription drugs? Q4: Thinking about what you currently pay in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, would you say this amount is increasing, decreasing, or it has remained the same? 10

11 Changes in prescription drug coverage is the most common reason for an increase in out-of-pocket costs cited by over half (52%) of 50+ adults. About one in seven (14%) say their increase in out-of-pocket costs is due to an increase in the cost of the drugs. There were changes in my current prescription drug coverage 52% I have different prescription drug coverage I purchase more prescription drugs I purchase different prescription drugs Price increases/cost of drugs keeps going up I no longer have prescription drug coverage Not covered by insurance Do not take prescription medication 3% 1% 1% 22% 21% 20% 14% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Q5: The list below includes possible reasons why your out of pocket costs for prescription drugs may be increasing. Please check all the reasons that apply to you. 11

12 About one-quarter (23%) of 50+ adults did not fill a prescription they were given within the last two years. More adults under 65, with some college or less, and a household income under $40,000 per year said they did not fill a prescription within the last two years. 23% of 50+ adults decided not to fill a prescription within the last two years Age Education Income Percent who did not fill a prescription: 27% (50-64) 17% (65+) Percent who did not fill a prescription: 25% (HS or less) 26% (Some college) 17% (BA or more) Four in ten who said their out-of-pocket prescription drug costs are increasing chose not to fill a prescription compared to 16% who said their costs have stayed the same or decreased. Nearly four in ten (38%) with fair/poor health chose not to fill a prescription compared to 14% with excellent/very good health. Percent who did not fill a prescription: 31% (<$40K) 20% ($40K-$74,999) 17% ($75K-$99,999) 18% (>$100K) Q6: In the last two years, did you ever decide not to fill a prescription that your doctor had given you? 12

13 For 50+ adults who chose not to fill a prescription within the last two years, cost is the number one reason. 44% of 50+ adults with a Bachelor s Degree or more thought the drug wasn t necessary compared to only 22% of those with HS or less. Top Ten Reasons 50+ Adults Chose Not to Fill a Prescription in the Last Two Years Reason Prescription Was Not Filled Percent Cost of the drug 32% said this was the MAIN reason 55% Did not think drug was necessary 28% Side effects of drug 24% I don t like taking prescription drugs 19% Drug concerned me 19% Used/looked into other treatments 18% Drug did not help 16% Condition improved 14% Thought drugs wouldn t help much 13% Already taking too many prescription drugs 13% Q7: People may choose to not fill prescriptions for many reasons. Which of the following reasons apply to you? You many select all that apply Q8: Which is the MAIN reason that you didn t fill your prescription? 13

14 Fewer than one in five 50+ adults have been faced with difficult decisions when buying prescription medications. Percent who said yes they have been faced with the following decisions Decided not to fill a prescription because of cost of drug Delayed filling prescription because didn't have enough money Taken less medicine to make it last longer 15% 14% 18% Skipped a dose to save money Asked drug company for help paying for prescription Cut back on food, fuel, or electricity to afford drug Asked pharmacist for help paying for prescription 12% 8% 7% 4% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Q9: Many people face difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs. In the past 12 months, have you or someone in your house hold 14

15 Adults age are struggling more with the cost of drugs than seniors. Additional characteristics of 50+ adults who are likely to face difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs include adults who: Earn less than $40K per year Have a high school education or less Regularly take prescription medications Find that their out-ofpocket prescription costs are increasing Rate their health as either fair or poor Percent who have been faced with difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs Decided not to fill a prescription because of cost of drug Delayed filling prescription because didn't have enough money Taken less medicine to make it last longer Skipped a dose to save money Asked drug company for help paying for prescription Cut back on food, fuel, or electricity to afford drug Asked pharmacist for help paying for prescription* Age Age 65+ 8% 15% 7% 9% 6% 10% 4% 5% 3% 22% 11% 20% 18% 10% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Q9: Many people face difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs. In the past 12 months, have you or someone in your house hold * Results are not statistically significant 15

16 About four in ten 50+ adults expressed concern about affording their prescription drugs in the next two years and over eight in ten (81%) think the costs of these drugs are too high. 100% Concern about affording prescriptions over the next two years 80% Costs of prescription drugs are: Too high (81%) Right price (17%) Too low (<0.5%) 60% 40% 20% Total Concerned: 44% 14% 30% 30% Total Not Concerned: 55% 25% 0% Very concerned Somewhat concerned Not very concerned Not at all concerned Q10: How concerned are you about being able to afford the cost of needed prescription drugs over the next two years? Q11: Do you think the costs of prescription drugs are? 16

17 About half (48%) of 50+ adults with a high school education or less and over half (53%) of those with an income under $40,000 per year are concerned about paying for their medication compared to those with more education and income. 100% 80% Percent who are very or somewhat concerned about being able to afford their prescription medication over the next two years Age Education Income 60% 40% 47% 41% 48% 49% 33% 53% 49% 41% 30% 20% 0% Age Age 65+ HS or less Some college BA or more <$40K $ K $75K-99.9K $100K+ Q10: How concerned are you about being able to afford the cost of needed prescription drugs over the next two years? 17

18 Nearly nine in ten (87%) 50+ adults think it is important for politicians especially those running for president -- to support efforts to control prescription drug costs. 100% 80% 60% 59% Total Important: 87% 94% of AARP members say it s important, 70% say VERY important 40% 28% Total Not Important: 12% 20% 0% Very important Somewhat important Not very important Not at all important 8% 4% Q12: How important is it to you that politicians -- especially those running for President support efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable? 18

19 More African-American/Black and Hispanic/Latino 50+ adults believe it s very important for politicians to support making prescription drugs more affordable. 100% Race/Ethnicity 80% 60% 59% 70% 75% 56% Age 63% Gender Education Income 64% 62% 63% 53% 53% 50% 40% 20% 0% Gen Pop AA/B H/L Age Age 65+ Male Female HS or less BA or more <$40K $100K+ Q12: How important is it to you that politicians -- especially those running for President support efforts to make prescription drugs more affordable? 19

20 Influence of Prescription Drug Companies 20

21 Most 50+ adults believe drug companies have at least some influence over politicians and health care professionals, in general, but believe they have less influence over their own health care professional. A lot of influence Some influence Only a little influence No influence at all 100% 80% 60% 4% 2% 5% 6% 4% 12% 29% 38% 44% 40% 20% 59% 88% 91% 53% 36% 80% 0% Congress/state legislatures Health care professionals Your health care professional Q13: How much influence do you think prescription drug companies have over members of Congress and state legislatures? Q14: How much influence do you think prescription drug companies have over what drugs health care professionals prescribe? Q15: How much influence do you think prescription drug companies have over what your health care professional prescribes? 21

22 Government Regulation of Prescription Drugs 22

23 Three-quarters (76%) of 50+ adults believe there should be more government regulation limiting the price of prescription drugs and half believe there should be more regulation to make sure these drugs are safe. Few see too much regulation on prescription drugs. Too much regulation Not as much as there should be Right amount of regulation 84% of AARP members say there is not as much regulation as there should be Limiting the price of prescription drugs 9% 76% 13% Making sure statements about benefits and side effects made in advertisements for prescription drugs are accurate and not misleading 7% 44% 47% Making sure prescription drugs are safe 8% 50% 39% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Q16: We would like to get your opinion of current government regulation of prescription drugs. For each area below, do you think there is too much regulation, not as much regulation as there should be, or about the right amount of regulation? 23

24 African American/Black 50+ adults and adults with less education and income are more likely to believe that more regulation is needed. Demographic Group Percent who say there is not as much regulation as there should be Ensuring prescription drugs are safe to use Ensuring statements made about prescription drugs are accurate and not misleading Limiting the price of prescription drugs General population 50% 44% 76% African-American/Black 66% 53% 73% Hispanic/Latino 46% 44% 58% Male 45% 42% 74% Female 54% 46% 77% HS or less 56% 49% 75% Some college 52% 44% 77% BA or more 39% 36% 76% <$40K 54% 48% 72% $40K-$74,999 55% 49% 80% $75K-$99,999 53% 41% 77% $100K or more 38% 35% 77% Q16: We would like to get your opinion of current government regulation of prescription drugs. For each area below, do you think there is too much regulation, not as much regulation as there should be, or about the right amount of regulation? 24

25 50+ adults who rate their health less favorably say there is not as much regulation as there should be when it comes to ensuring prescription drugs are safe to use and that statements about prescription drugs are accurate. Adults with increasing out-of-pocket costs say more regulation is needed to limit the cost of the drugs. Demographic Group Percent who say there is not as much regulation as there should be Ensuring prescription drugs are safe to use Ensuring statements made about prescription drugs are accurate and not misleading Out-of-pocket prescription drug costs Limiting the price of prescription drugs Increasing 51% 46% 81% Decreasing/staying the same 50% 43% 74% Health status Excellent/very good 42% 39% 75% Good 55% 47% 76% Fair/poor 56% 49% 79% Q16: We would like to get your opinion of current government regulation of prescription drugs. For each area below, do you think there is too much regulation, not as much regulation as there should be, or about the right amount of regulation? 25

26 Prescription Drug Advertisements 26

27 Most adults have seen a drug advertisement recently and a majority think that pharmaceutical companies spend too much money on advertising. 100% 80% 60% Too much Too little About the right amount 19% 6% Majority (82%) of 50+ adults have seen a drug advertisement in last 30 days. Nine in ten (89%) AARP members have seen an ad in the last 30 days. 28% 8% 40% 20% 73% 61% 0% Advertising to patients Advertising to health professionals Q17: Have you seen or heard any advertisements for prescription drugs in the past 30 days? Q18: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to patients? Q19: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to health professionals? 27

28 50+ adults with a higher level of education and income are more likely to think that pharmaceutical companies spend too much on advertising. African-American/Black and Hispanic/Latino adults are less likely to say drug companies spend too much on advertising. Demographic Group Percent who have seen ads for prescription drugs in last 30 days Percent who think pharmaceutical companies spend too much on advertising to patients Percent who think pharmaceutical companies spend too much on advertising to health care professionals General population 82% 73% 61% African-American/Black 75% 44% 42% Hispanic/Latino 68% 55% 48% HS or less 75% 65% 55% Some college 88% 75% 66% BA or more 86% 83% 66% <$40K 76% 64% 55% $40K-$74,999 82% 72% 61% $75K-$99,999 86% 77% 59% $100K or more 88% 83% 70% Q17: Have you seen or heard any advertisements for prescription drugs in the past 30 days? Q18: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to patients? Q19: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to health professionals? 28

29 50+ adults who take prescription drugs on a regular basis and whose out-of-pocket drug costs are increasing, pay more attention to prescription drug advertisements. 50+ adults experiencing an increase in their out-of-pocket prescription costs say that pharmaceutical companies spend too much on advertising to patients (79% vs 71%) and health care professionals (70% vs 58%) 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Percent who have seen or heard drug advertisements in the last 30 days 86% 71% Regularly taking prescription drugs? 88% 80% Out-of-pocket costs are: Yes No Increasing Staying the same or decreasing Q17: Have you seen or heard any advertisements for prescription drugs in the past 30 days? Q18: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to patients? Q19: Do you think pharmaceutical companies spend too much, too little, or about the right amount of money on advertising to health professionals? 29

30 A large majority of 50+ adults think drug companies make too much profit and should be required to explain their drug pricing. 100% 80% 60% 83% Over eight in ten (84%) 50+ adults, and over nine in ten (91%) AARP members, think drug companies should publicly explain how they price their products. 40% 90% of AARP members think drug companies make too much profit 20% 0% 2% 14% Too much profit Not enough profit About the right amount of profit Q20: In general, do you think pharmaceutical or drug companies make too much profit, not enough profit, or about the right amount of profit? Q21: Do you think drug manufacturers should be required to publicly explain how they price their products? 30

31 50+ adults who regularly take prescription drugs, have increasing out-of-pocket costs, have decided not to fill a prescription, and who rate their health less favorably are more likely to believe drug companies make too much profit and say they should explain their product pricing. Demographic group Percent of adults who think drug companies make too much profit Percent of adults who think drug companies should publicly explain their product pricing Regularly takes prescription medications Out-of-pocket drug costs Decided not to fill a prescription Health rating Yes 84% 87% No 79% 75% Increasing 88% 88% Staying same/decreasing 81% 82% Yes 91% 89% No 81% 83% Fair/poor 90% 92% Good 82% 85% Excellent/very good 81% 80% Q20: In general, do you think pharmaceutical or drug companies make too much profit, not enough profit, or about the right amount of profit? Q21: Do you think drug manufacturers should be required to publicly explain how they price their products? 31

32 Virtually all 50+ adults say it is important for consumers and health professionals to be able to compare the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs. 100% 80% 84% Total Important: 98% 60% 40% 20% 0% 14% 0% 1% Very important Somewhat important Not very important Not at all important Q22: How important is it to you for consumers and health professionals to have access to information that compares the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs? 32

33 Overall, eight in ten 50+ adults say it should be legal to buy prescription drugs from Canada and Europe. Differences were seen by age, gender, and education level. Who says it should be legal to buy prescription medications overseas? More seniors (83%) compared to those age (78%). More men (85%) than women (77%). More 50+ adults (84%) with a Bachelor s degree or more compared to adults with a high school education or less (77%). More 50+ adults (86%) who are experiencing an increase in their outof-pocket drug costs compared to adults whose costs are staying the same or decreasing (78%). Q23: Currently U.S. law bans people from buying prescription drugs from Canada or Europe. Some people believe that the laws should be changed to all Americans to order prescription drugs from other countries as long as they are as safe and effective as those bought in the U.S.. Do you believe that it should be legal for people in the U.S. to order drugs from Canada and Europe or not? 33

34 Two-thirds (66%) of 50+ adults strongly support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug costs. 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 66% Total Support: 93% 75% of AARP members strongly support allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices (total support=98%) 27% 0% 3% 2% Strongly support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Strongly oppose Q24: Currently Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Some policymakers have proposed allowing Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. Do you support or oppose allowing Medicare to use its bargaining power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs? 34

35 There is little support (13%) for drug companies to delay the availability of lower-cost generic substitutes. 100% 80% Total Oppose: 85% 60% 58% 40% 27% 20% 0% 3% 10% Strongly support Somewhat support Somewhat oppose Strongly oppose Q25: Some drug companies with patents that are nearing expirations enter into agreements with other drug companies that delay generic versions of these drugs from becoming available. Do you support or oppose such agreements? 35

36 Demographics (continued) D1. Are you registered to vote at your current address, or not? Yes 87% No 11% D2. Would you say that you always vote in presidential elections, usually vote, sometimes vote, rarely vote, or never vote? Always 74% Usually 9% Sometimes 4% Rarely 3% Never 9% D3. Regardless of how you might have voted in the past, what do you usually consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican, or some other party? A Republican 29% A Democrat 38% An Independent 24% Other 6% D4. Are you or your spouse, currently, a member of AARP? Yes 41% No 59% 36

37 Most 50+ adults rate their health as good or better. 100% 80% 60% More than half (56%) of 50+ adults with annual household incomes of $100K or more say their health is excellent or very good compared to one-quarter (24%) of adults with a household income under $40K. 40% 31% 41% 20% 0% 10% 14% 3% Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor D5:Overall, how would you rate your health? Would you say it is.. 37

38 Type of health insurance Medicare Current employer Former employer Spouse's current employer Individually purchased plan Medicaid Medi-gap supplemental Tricare/Tricare for life None Spouse's former employer Other government program 11% 10% 10% 9% 9% 5% 5% 4% 4% 24% 38% 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% D6: Which of the following best describes your sources for health coverage? (Multiple responses allowed) 38

39 Demographics (concluded) Gender Male 47% Female 53% Age % 65 and over 42% Race/Ethnicity White, non-hispanic 74% Black, non-hispanic 10% Other, non-hispanic 5% Hispanic 10% 2+ Races, non-hispanic 1% Education Less than high school 12% High school 33% Some college 26% Bachelors degree or higher 29% Income Less than $40k 37% $40K to less than $74,999 24% $75K to less than $99,999 14% $100K or more 26% 39

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