Consumers anxious about drug costs, industry influence

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A fifth of consumers have asked their doctor to prescribe a drug they learned about through advertising, and fully two-thirds have received free samples of prescription drugs from their doctor – but they worry about the industry's influence on physicians, according to a Consumer Reports survey.

The phone survey of 1,154 US adults who currently take prescription drugs posed assertions about industry bias of physician prescribing, and found nine in 10 in agreement with at least one, including statements that: "companies have too much influence on the drugs doctors prescribe" (69%); docs "are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider alternate methods of managing a condition" (50%); docs "are influenced by gifts" from pharmas (47%); and "tend to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs" (41%). When respondents were quizzed about their concern over a list of industry marketing practices, some dubious, 81% said they worried about companies rewarding docs for writing a lot of prescriptions for their products.

Other unpopular practices included “paying docs to provide testimonials or serve as spokespersons for a drug" (72%), “Paying doctors to speak at industry conferences" (61%), “Buying meals for the doctor and their staff" (58%) and "providing free samples of their drugs" to docs (41%)? Not so concerned that they wouldn't take a sample themselves, apparently.

Leading questions about industry bias aside, the survey revealed widespread concerns about drug costs and an alarming rate of non-compliance, largely due to affordability issues. Four in 10 reported taking some action to reduce costs, and more than a quarter (27%) said they'd failed to take a drug as prescribed, whether by not filling a prescription (16%), taking an expired medication (12%) or sharing a prescription with someone else to save money (4%).

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