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Why the United States has the Highest Drug Prices in the World?

The pharmaceutical industry in the United States has experienced a month of bad news. For many years its influence on politics has been very significant. But lately, everything seems to be developing in a different direction.

In mid-May, more than 40 states filed a lawsuit against large pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of conspiring to artificially increase the price of non-vital medications.

Shortly before, the Donald Trump government, which after its campaign promised to lower drug prices, announced that already in the summer, pharmacies should include prices in their ads. Last week the leaders of large pharmaceutical companies were interviewed in Congress in order to define the reasons for the price increase.

According to a study by the Commonwealth Foundation, the price of prescription drugs in the United States is more expensive than in any other country. In fact, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates that Americans spend an average of about $1,200 a year on prescription drugs, which is the highest drug cost in the world.Why the United States has the Highest Drug Prices in the World_

According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, per capita expenditures in other developed countries range from 466 to 939 US dollars.

To come to a conclusion, let’s compare Gleevec for leukemia costs $70,000 and the therapy lasts for a month, while in Mexico it costs about $2,000 and $1,100 in Colombia.

Humira, a popular medicine for several inflammatory diseases, costs around $822 in Switzerland, while $2,669 is paid for the same pills in the United States.

Insulin, which was discovered almost a century ago, is sold in Canada for about $38. South of the southern border, prices exceed $200.

Other next-generation drugs, such as Kymriah, used to treat one type of lymphoma, are $475,000, and currently, hemophilia treatment ranges from $580,000 to $800,000 per year.

In a statement sent to the BBC Mundo, Phrma, the association, representing the largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology research and manufacturing companies in the United States, denies that Americans tend to overpay.

International comparisons often compare the price in the United States, which almost no one pays, to artificially low prices set by governments in other countries.

According to Phrma, these prices do not include frequent discounts negotiated by insurance and the so-called pharmacy benefit administrators (PBMs), a third party that is responsible for lower prices between pharmacists and insurers.

The United States of America has a unique healthcare system that offers various government programs and private coverage options depending on the needs of the patient and solvency.

However, over the years, civil society organizations have denounced that the stratospheric price of medications in the United States leaves millions at risk of death.

According to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 27 million Americans do not have or cannot afford medical insurance, so they will usually have to pay out of pocket for the cost of prescription drugs.

But although about 90% of the population acquires health insurance that covers most of the costs, this does not mean that patients are free from payments.

In fact, according to different studies, the final price that you need to pay in pharmacies – the so-called franchises and surcharges – means that many prefer not to buy medications, but to travel abroad to buy them, or to take a lower dose than indicated.

According to Phrma, prices are largely justified by the costs of innovation and research by pharmaceutical companies. Professor Mundo Inmaculada Hernandez notes that one of the important factors is the fragmented health care system of the United States.

In many countries, there is a national health system that covers most patients, and so most drugs are sold through this health system.

In the United States, the situation is different: there is federal, state and private insurance, and in all cases, PBMs are responsible for negotiating with pharmacists about the price of medications for insurance.

This increases the opacity of the system in the sense that the insurer subcontracts another drug contract, therefore it makes the system very complex and very opaque.

Several critics have doubted that research, which gives way to many innovative treatments, is carried out by universities or research centers that are funded by taxpayers and whose results are later patented by pharmaceutical companies.

We are talking about the revolutionary gene therapy for cancer, known as CAR-T, which was developed by the University of Pennsylvania and then bought by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, which will now sell the drug for about $475,000.

However, according to Hernandez, there is also great ignorance about how much of each investigation is funded by public funds. However, according to the experts’ opinion, it is very difficult to assess which part of the investigation was paid by taxes and which part by a private company.