Why U.S. Consumers Pay More For Medications

The NY Times has highlighted the high cost of medical care in the U.S. in a series of articles.  While only affecting about 10% of the total U.S. health cost, the wide variation in the cost of medicines between the U.S. and other countries leaves the U.S. consumer feeling ‘ripped-off.’

Here’s the link:  bit.ly/17p8kKR (from Jay Bookman) and here’s an excerpt:

Pulmicort, a steroid inhaler, generally retails for over $175 in the United States, while pharmacists in Britain buy the identical product for about $20 and dispense it free of charge to asthma patients. Albuterol, one of the oldest asthma medicines, typically costs $50 to $100 per inhaler in the United States, but it was less than $15 a decade ago, before it was repatented.

“The one that really blew my mind was the nasal spray,” said Robin Levi, Hannah and Abby’s mother, referring to her $80 co-payment for Rhinocort Aqua, a prescription drug that was selling for more than $250 a month in Oakland pharmacies last year but costs under $7 in Europe, where it is available over the counter…

Unlike other countries, where the government directly or indirectly sets an allowed national wholesale price for each drug, the United States leaves prices to market competition among pharmaceutical companies, including generic drug makers. But competition is often a mirage in today’s health care arena — a surprising number of lifesaving drugs are made by only one manufacturer — and businesses often successfully blunt market forces….

On the same topic, in Forbes: forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2013/10/15/-expensive-new-drugs/ …

In the U.S., the FDA must deem a drug safe and effective before allowing it on the market.  But at that point, there are no economic barriers to the use of those medications.  By contrast, drugs in the United Kingdom must go through economic analyses by a unit known as NICE—United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.  Being safe and effective is not enough to pass muster with NICE.  The drug must also be cost effective. …

Should we demand proof of cost effectiveness before allowing drugs on the market?  Or before agreeing to pay for them in Medicare and Medicaid?  Doing so would undoubtedly reduce healthcare expenses.  With medical spending threatening our fiscal future, it makes no sense that Medicare is prevented by law from considering the cost of care when making coverage decisions.  You heard that right—forbidden by law!

Related Blog Post:

Should Physicians Dispense Drug Coupons? | gutsandgrowth