Thursday, 19 Sep 2019

You are here

U.S. Pays 10 Times More for Prescription Drugs than Other Countries

Prescription drugs may cost up to 10 times more in the United States than they do in other countries, according to a 2013 Comparative Price Report was released last month by the International Federation of Health Plans (IFHP). Results are based on surveys of the prices of prescription drugs from member plans.

The US has the highest drug prices and costs associated with medical care that bears no relation to health outcomes. For example, while the average monthly cost of Enbrel and Humira in the US was ~$2200, but averaged $880 to $1000 in Switzerland. Similarly, Nexium cost $215 in the US, but was a mere $23 in the Netherlands, $42 in England, and $58 in Spain. The average price of the multiple sclerosis medication Copaxone stood at $3,903 in the US, but only $862 in England, $898 in New Zealand, and $1,191 in Spain. The depression drug Cymbalta was sold for $194 in the US, but for only $46 in England, $52 in the Netherlands, and $110 in Canada.

The survey also compared the average hospital costs along with the prices of a number of medical procedures. The average hospital cost per day in 2013 was $4,923 in the United States, while it was $481 in Spain, $702 in Argentina, and $1,308 in Australia. The average cost of bypass surgery was $75,345 in the US, compared to $15,742 in the Netherlands, $16,247 in Spain, and $42,130 in Australia. And while an angioplasty would run patients $27,907 on average in the US, it would only be $5,246 in Argentina, $5,295 in the Netherlands, and $8,477 in Australia. In 2013, the year in which the survey data was drawn, the prices of 227 of the top branded drugs widely used by older patients in the United States went up by an average of 12.9 percent—eight times higher than the rate of inflation, according to a report presented to the Senate last year.

Most in the US recognize that they pay higher prices than those in Canada, Mexico, and Western Europe for the same prescription drug. Yet a Kaiser poll also found that 72 percent of those polled thought that the cost of prescription drugs was unreasonable. Unfortunately these costs were not associated with outcomes as the US consistently underperforms on most measures of health outcomes relative to other industrialized countries, often ranking last in comparison to other countries - Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

Add new comment

More Like This

Rise in Fatty Liver Disease Linked to Obesity and Diabetes

Gut has published population results from NHANES population study showing that the prevalence of fatty liver disease is rising in the US and is driven by obesity and diabetes.

Employed Physicians Outnumber Self-Employed

For the first time in the United States, employed physicians outnumber self-employed physicians, according to a newly updated study on physician practice arrangements by the American Medical Association (AMA). This milestone marks the continuation of a long-term trend that has slowly shifted the distribution of physicians away from ownership of private practices.


Dr. Harold E. Paulus (1929-2019)

Dr. Harold “Hal” Paulus lives in the annals of Rheumatology as a major contributor, mentor, researcher and clinical trialist. He passed away last week, one day after his 89th birthday. I met Dr. Paulus as a fellow in 1985, when he easily included me in his discussions and research on rheumatoid arthritis. I admired his easy demeanor, wry humor and every man character. Most remark on his calm recessive and kind personality that was complemented by a body of work that was large, impactful and usually at the cutting edge. Many of Dr. Paulus’ colleagues and friends have contributed their testimonies and fond memories of this great man.

RheumNowLive On Demand: The History of Steroids - Dr. Eric Matteson

A clip from RheumNow Live On Demand. You can access the full library of content from the meeting.

Mourning the Loss of NIAMS Director Stephen Katz, MD, PhD

The following tribute to the late Dr. Steven Katz appeared on the NIH website.