The pharmaceutical industry’s reputation remains low, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that 70% of Americans believe that drug companies put profits before patients. Just 24% of those surveyed thought that pharmaceutical firms were most concerned with developing new drugs that save lives and improve quality of life.

Drug companies are also held to account for rising health-care costs. Fifty-nine percent said that prescription drugs increase overall medical costs because they are so expensive – compared with 23% who said that drugs lower medical costs by reducing the need for expensive medical procedures and hospitalisations. In addition, some 50% of all Americans said they had an unfavorable view of drug companies, while 44% say they have a favorable opinion. Overall, drug companies are viewed more favorably than oil companies, and tobacco companies, but favourably than doctors, hospitals and banks. “Rightly or wrongly, drug companies are now the number one villain in the public’s eye when it comes to rising health-care costs,” said KFF president, Drew Altman.

On the bright side, 78% of those surveyed believe that prescription drugs have had a positive impact on the lives of Americans, and 91% agreed that drug companies make an important contribution to society by researching and developing new drug. In addition, Americans expressed confidence in the US Food and Drug Administration’s ability to ensure the safety of prescription drugs, with 77% of adults saying they are “very” (22%) or “somewhat” (55%) confident in the agency’s ability to ensure drug safety.