People over 50 in the U.S. that are likely to vote in the 2020 Presidential election are keenly interested in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, according to a survey conducted by AARP in February and March 2019.

Most people over 50 take prescription drugs daily; one-third take two or three Rx’s regularly, and one in five older people take six or more prescription medicines regularly.

Thus, prescription drugs are part of most older Americans’ daily life-flows and household spending considerations.

About two-thirds of older people who are likely to vote say that Rx prices are “unreasonable,” including 67% of Democrats, 70% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans.
Strikingly, 71% of likely older voters told the AARP that cost was a reason for not filling a prescription drug. This medicine self-rationing behavior due to cost is common among a majority of older voters across party-identification: 74% of Democrats, 67% of Republicans and 72% of Independents.

Older voters are making trade-offs to be able to buy Rx medicines: currently, one in four older people has delayed getting a prescription filled as they didn’t have enough cash to do so; and, one in four older people took less medicine than prescription to make it last longer.

Looking to the future, 4 in ten older voters told AARP they may have to cut back on necessities like food, fuel and utilities to afford an Rx drug, or delay filling the prescription due to lack of available funds to pay for it. Four in ten older voters would look to purchase an over-the-counter medicine to treat a condition.

It’s a rational response, then, that 9 in 10 older voters agree that pharmaceutical companies “make too much profits,” once again consistent — equally felt — by older voters across all three political parties, shown in the second bar chart.

Furthermore, 8 in 10 older U.S. voters contend that Rx companies spend too much on advertising, and that they are “too concerned about making profits, not concerned enough about helping people.”

85% of older voters also believe that U.S. consumers pay more for prescription drugs compared with peers in other wealthy countries.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  The third chart illustrates that pharma pricing is a unifying force across older voters across the three political parties. Fully 9 in 10 people over 50 who intend to vote favor a wide range of prescription drug price lowering strategies such as faster generic approvals, allowing Federal Medicare and State governments to negotiate for lower prices as Americans’ fellow patients in other countries benefit from, and allowing U.S. consumers to import cheaper prescription drugs from other countries.

While deep understanding of how U.S. health care “works” eludes so many Americans, one common area of health system literacy is older patients’ comprehension of prescription drug pricing at the point of person-and-purchase. The AARP study findings confirm the premise in my book, HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizens — that the patient is now a consumer and payor, looking for value at the N of 1 — for themselves and their families. There’s an opportunity for pharma companies, health plans, and Payors (employers, unions, and government plans) to surround health consumers with the mantra of “value around the pill.” Collaborations can be struck to help people help themselves when it comes to self-care and engaging in making health. Yes, there’s the issue of price which the President and Secretary of HHS continue to discuss. But there is much the private sector can do to address costs, transparency, and value-added services to re-gain patient trust and health engagement.

Between “now” and the 2020 Presidential election, it’s clear this issue will be top-of-mind for likely voters over 50 years of age: the biggest health consumers of prescription drugs.