Customer choice plays bigger role in prescription drug selection: survey

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The U.S. pharmaceutical industry should brace itself for change as Americans become more involved in choosing their own prescription drugs, according to a new study from infoUSA Inc.'s Opinion Research Corp.

More than two-thirds of respondents surveyed said they are "very comfortable" deciding on the brand name of drug they receive, and one in ten even asks their physician to prescribe a specific brand.

"The wealth of information easily available and frequently promoted to consumers is making them more comfortable when it comes to selecting their own prescription drugs," said Linda Shea, senior vice president at Opinion Research USA, Princeton, NJ. "This transformation is largely attributed to the changes in advertising regulations and the mass exposure that these demographics have to drug commercials."

While nearly half of those polled said they rely on the Internet and television to learn about health-related ailments and potential treatments, only 56 percent who responded this way thought pharmaceutical companies should be allowed to promote drugs directly to customers.

Physicians remain consumers' top resource (71 percent), with pharmacists playing a much smaller role in a patient's drug research.

As drug costs increase, insurers are also taking more steps to intervene in the drug selection process, Opinion Research said.

Seven percent of respondents reported that their health insurer specified which brand of drug they should receive. The intervention of insurers was not popular with the vast majority of respondents, with 72 percent saying that insurance companies should not be able to dictate the brand of drug they are ultimately prescribed.

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