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Americans believe prescription drugs are improving their lives, but most also say that the drug industry cares more about profits than people, according to the latest Kaiser Health Poll Report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation.


Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) adults say that prescription drugs have had a positive impact on the lives of Americans, and 9 in 10 (91%) say that drug companies make an important contribution to society by researching and developing new drugs, the new survey finds based on February 2005 polling. However, 7 in 10 (70%) say drug companies put profits ahead of people, compared with about a quarter (24%) who say drug companies are most concerned with developing new drugs that save lives and improve quality of life.


People also blame drug companies for rising healthcare costs. Nearly 6 in 10 (59%) say prescription drugs increase overall medical costs because they are so expensive-compared with less than one in four (23%) who say drugs lower medical costs by reducing the need for expensive medical procedures and hospitalizations. These results are consistent with an earlier poll showing that people are now more likely to cite drug company profits as the major cause of rising healthcare costs than any other cause-with 69% of people saying it is a "very important" factor, including 24% saying it is "the most important factor." More people cited drug company profits as the most important factor than cited greed and waste in the healthcare system (20%), the number of malpractice lawsuits (20%), the aging of the population (7%), or the use of expensive, high-tech medical equipment and treatments (7%).


Overall, half (50%) of all Americans say they have an unfavorable view of drug companies, while 44% say they have a favorable opinion. Drug companies are viewed more favorably than oil companies (36% favorable) and tobacco companies (17%), but less than doctors (82% favorable), hospitals (78%), and banks (75%).


Almost two thirds (65%) say there should be more government regulation limiting the price of prescription drugs, compared with 14% who say there is too much regulation. Nearly half (46%) of all adults continue to support more regulation of prices even if they heard that it might lead to less research and development of new drugs, while 15% would switch to oppose more regulation after hearing this argument.


In 2005, most adults (90%) have seen or heard advertisements for prescription medications, up from 2000 when about three in four adults (76%) said they had seen drug ads. Just over a quarter of the people who have seen drug ads (26%, or 23% of all adults) say they have talked to a doctor about a specific prescription medication as a result of an advertisement. Of those who talked to a doctor as a result of an ad, three of four (75%, or 18% of all adults) say they received a prescription for either the advertised drug or another drug as a result.


Half (50%) of US adults report taking a prescription drug daily.


Prescription drugs account for a modest but rapidly growing share of the nation's health-care expenses. In 2003, the nation spent an estimated $179 billion on prescription drugs, nearly 11% of all healthcare spending in the United States. Since 1993, prescription drug spending has increased faster each year than the spending on hospitals or physician services.


Survey data on attitudes toward drugs and the pharmaceutical industry comes from the Kaiser Health Poll Report, a bimonthly tracking poll that captures the public's views on healthcare issues. The survey of 1201 US adults was conducted from February 3 to 6, 2005.


The full report is available at