More Expensive Medicine Wrongly Perceived Safer According to Study

A study to be released in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research shows that consumers generally believe that more expensive medicine is safer than medicines costing less. Articles on the pre-released study appeared in Science Daily on January 4, 2013, and December 11, 2012, as well as on Futurity on January 7, 2013.

Researchers noted that prior studies showed that consumers believe that items that cost more are of better quality. Additionally, studies have shown that people believe that more expensive medicine is more effective. However, they point out that no research has looked at people’s perception of the safety of medications as it relates to the price of the medicine.

In one part of the study one group of consumers were told that a flu vaccination costs $25, while another group were told that the vaccinations would cost $125. Both groups were told that the vaccinations would be covered by insurance. The study showed that the group that was told the higher price felt that they were less likely to get the flu.

Janet Schwartz, study co-author and assistant professor of marketing at Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business commented, “Your chance of winning at blackjack has nothing to do with how big the payout is and most people know that,” Schwartz says. “But when it comes to understanding what prices reflect for medicine, people look at the price and they do think that it somehow tells them something about their own risk of getting a disease. In reality, those two factors are completely independent.”

The researchers also concluded that consumers erroneously believe that higher medical prices mean that this is less of a need while lower prices suggest that the medical need is greater and therefore the price is more accessible. “Price and risk should be very independent from one another, when you think about consumers making informed health care choices”, stated Janet Schwartz.

The study authors concluded, “Low prices for life-saving products may increase perception of risk and intention to consume care, even when unnecessary. However, high prices may make consumers feel less at risk, and thereby less likely to seek beneficial treatments. In short, prices may influence how consumers seek medical care in a way that doesn’t accurately reflect real risk.”

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