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Drug Prices Weigh on Older Americans

Consumer Views on Prescription Drugs Survey

Most Americans ages 50 and older rely on prescription drugs for their health, yet many worry about their ability to pay for them. Thus, coming out of this reality is a certain consensus: Lawmakers should take action to make medications more affordable—and the sooner, the better.

spinner image Spilling the Pills

That's the takeaway from a recent AARP survey of registered voters conducted by phone in June.

The issue of prescription drug affordability touches the lives of many Americans, and more so as they age. While 70% of those ages 50–64 in the U.S. regularly use prescription drugs, 86% of those over age 65 do. 

The main reason people don't fill a prescription they need is the cost. Those younger than 65 tended to worry more about price than those who were over, AARP finds. No matter what their political affiliation, about two-thirds of voters believe American consumers pay more for prescription drugs than people in other countries.

To address this problem, 87% of respondents believe that the U.S. Congress should take action, and 70% say finding solutions to lower drug prices this year is very important, according to the survey. The successful negotiations with drug companies for the COVID-19 vaccine has made many voters more likely to agree that the government should negotiate lower prices for other drugs.

When asked about legislative proposals to provide relief, 87% agreed that Medicare (the largest prescription purchaser in the U.S.) should be allowed to negotiate with drug companies. Also, more than three-quarters of respondents support putting a cap on the amount older adults have to pay for medications as well as preventing drug companies from charging American consumers more than those in other countries. Support for the various remedies was consistently high across party lines.

AARP finds that 77% of Democrats and 57% of Republicans say they would view a member of Congress more favorably if they supported legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

Any concerns that lowering drug prices might interfere with industry advancement were not reflected in the AARP research. Eight in 10 Americans over 50 say that drug prices can be lowered without harming innovation of new medicine — with little variation across political parties.


The AARP survey reached out to registered voters age 50-plus in early June 2021. The respondents were reached by phone — 60% on landlines and 40% on cell — and interviewed for about 10 minutes in English and Spanish. The national sample was weighted by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education.

For more information, please contact Teresa A. Keenan at For media inquiries, please contact

Suggested citation:

Keenan, Teresa A. Consumer Views on Prescription Drugs Survey. Washington, DC: AARP Research, July 2021.