Despite Media Carping, Americans Largely Trust Drug Companies

     Seven out of ten Americans believe prescription drugs developed over the past 20 years have made life better for their fellow Americans – in spite of journalists’ incessant attacks on pharmaceutical companies – a new survey by USA TODAY, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health shows.


      A majority of Americans (59 percent) believe prescription drugs, costly as they may be, help reduce the need for more expensive medical procedures. A majority (55 percent) also believe drugs are tested and monitored vigorously enough to ensure safety.


     An overwhelming majority of Americans trust drug companies to develop new and effective drugs (80 percent trust the companies “somewhat” or “a lot”), offer reliable information about the side effects and safety of the drugs (72 percent), inform the public quickly of a safety concern (55 percent) and offer reliable information about how well the drugs work (71 percent).


     The only negative views of the drug companies came from profits and advertising. Sixty percent of respondents said companies spend too much money advertising their drugs. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) said drug companies make “too much” profit. Seventy-nine percent said the costs of prescription drugs are “unreasonable.”


     Yet those “overpriced” drugs contribute to a better life for most Americans, according to the same survey. They could also help prevent further spending on expensive medical procedures. So why do Americans think drugs are overpriced, or that companies make “too much” profit?


     Could it be caused in any way by the consistently negative coverage of pharmaceutical companies by the media?


     The Business & Media Institute Special Report “Prescription for Bias” found that network news shows focused on the cost of drugs to consumers 11 times more than they mentioned the costs associated with developing those drugs. Only 2 percent of stories examined in the study dealt with the costs of research and development.


     The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimated the cost of developing one new drug is more than $800 million before it is even approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And with other countries – such as Canada – setting price ceilings for prescriptions, American patients bear a bigger share of the research and development costs.