US opinion on prescription drug affordability

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In June 2021, non-profit organization, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) research, released the results of KFF Health Tracking Poll (18–25 May 2021) regarding public opinion on prescription drugs and their prices in the US.

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The results of the poll revealed that just over half of adults reported currently taking at least one prescription drug, with almost a quarter reporting that they currently take four of more prescription medications, see Table 1.

With regards to affordability, almost 80% of adults said that the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. However, the majority (74%) of those currently taking prescription drugs reported that affording their prescriptions is easy.

Table 1: Breakdown of the number of drugs taken by the 52% of poll contributors who currently take prescription drugs
Number of drugs taken by contributors % of poll contributors taking this quantity of prescription drugs
Take 1 prescription medicine 11
Take 2 prescription medicines 10
Take 3 prescription medicines 7
Take 4 or more prescription medicines 23

Overall, the poll has revealed that affordability is more of a concern for those taking more prescription medicines, those spending more on prescription drugs, those with low income and those in relatively poor health. For example, 35 % of those taking four or more prescription drugs say they have difficulty affording their prescriptions, whereas 17% of those who take three or fewer prescription medications report difficulty, see Table 2.

Table 2: Breakdown of the characteristics of poll contributors who report difficulty affording the cost of their prescription drugs
Characteristics % of contributors reporting difficulty affording medications
Number of medications taking
1 to 3 17
4 ore more 35
Monthly spending on prescriptions
Less than $100 17
More than $100 58
Health status
Excellent/very good/good 30
Fair/poor 49
Household income
Less than $40,000 35
Between $40,000–$89,999 21
More than $90,000 11

The poll has also revealed that almost 30% of adults reported not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year due to cost. Of these individuals, just under 40% reported not filing prescriptions or taking over-the-counter drugs instead, and over 10% reported halving or skipping doses.

In addition, the poll revealed that people believe more needs to be done in terms of regulation, to improve the affordability of prescription drugs [1].

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1. GaBI Online - Generics and Biosimilars Initiative. US opinion on prescription drug price and regulation []. Mol, Belgium: Pro Pharma Communications International; [cited 2021 Sep 24]. Available from: 

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