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Poll: Majority Of Americans Agree That The FDA Should Review Drug Ads Before They Air

There’s been a bipartisan outcry over the rising cost of prescription drugs – for instance, presidential candidates from both parties have identified high drug prices as a major concern. But there’s been far less discussion surrounding government oversight of how those medications are marketed to consumers and doctors.

According to a poll released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost 90 percent of people surveyed think the Food and Drug Administration should review prescription drug ads before they air – something it currently doesn’t do – to make sure they’re clear and accurate. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) Those findings held true across political affiliations.

Respondents were split on the amount of government regulation.

About 43 percent said there should be more government regulation to make sure drug commercials are accurate and not misleading, while 45 percent said the government does enough. Seven percent said the government did too much. Political identification mattered in this question, with Democrats more often saying they wanted greater oversight, and Republicans generally wanting less.

About half of the poll’s respondents think prescription drug advertisements are mostly good, compared with 39 percent who don’t. But at the same time, a majority – just under 60 percent – said they think pharmaceutical companies spend too much money advertising to patients. Slightly more than 60 percent said drug companies also spend too much advertising to doctors.

Though respondents reported seeing these advertisements, this awareness didn’t always translate into a prescription. Eight in 10 said they’ve seen ads for prescription drugs, while 28 percent then discussed with a doctor a drug they had seen advertised. About 12 percent of those polled said the doctor then prescribed that specific medication; 11 percent were advised to take an over-the-counter drug instead, and 14 percent got a different prescription altogether.

These findings are consistent with a 2008 Kaiser poll.

While 50 percent of poll respondents said advertisements do a good job conveying what condition specific drugs are meant to treat, 65 percent said they don’t make clear how much medication will cost.

Meanwhile, the poll found that people still want federal action when it comes to drug costs and access: 77 percent of respondents said that it should be a top priority to make expensive medications for chronic illnesses available to those who need them. About 63 percent thought the government should work to lower prescription drug costs.

In other findings, though most people oppose the so-called Cadillac tax – which taxes more generous employer-sponsored coverage and is meant to help pay for the health law – only 30 percent think repealing the tax should be a priority. Meanwhile, attitudes regarding the health law as a whole are evenly distributed: 42 percent said they approve it, while 42 percent expressed disapproval.

The poll was conducted from Oct. 14 to Oct. 20, surveying a nationally representative sample of 1,203 people. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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