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Drug prices top Americans' list of health care concerns

Published:Wednesday | October 28, 2015 | 9:49 AM
Activists hold signs containing the image of Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli in front the building that houses Turing's offices, during a protest in New York highlighting pharmaceutical drug pricing, earlier this month.


Americans from across the political spectrum are worried about the cost of prescription drugs for serious diseases, following weeks of news coverage about companies hiking prices for critical medicines.

Keeping drugs for cancer, hepatitis, HIV and other conditions affordable is the top health priority for Democrats, Republicans and independents, according to a poll released yesterday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall, 77 per cent of those surveyed said the issue was their number-one health concern, reflecting recent outrage over drug pricing that has spilled over into the presidential campaign.

Condemnation by patients, doctors and insurers has been mounting for several years, then escalated last month over news that Turing Pharmaceuticals and a handful of other drugmakers have been hiking prices of old drugs many times over their prior cost.

Turing increased the price of Daraprim, the only approved treatment for a life-threatening parasitic infection, more than 5,000 percent. After a public outcry, letters from government investigators and condemnation by politicians, Turing's CEO Martin Shkreli said he would lower the price. But the former hedge fund manager has not yet followed through on that pledge.

A majority of Americans support government action to lower prescription drug costs, with 63 percent saying it would be among their top priorities. Those results are consistent with previous polling by Kaiser released in August, but reflect steady support for government intervention.