Other Countries Control Drug Prices. The U.S. Could, Too.

Other Countries Control Drug Prices. The U.S. Could, Too.

Public opinion surveys show that most Americans are deeply concerned about rising drug prices. That’s not surprising: Overall, we spend twice as much on drugs as our counterparts in other developed countries. For example, in 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, an American patient and insurer could expect to pay about $2,670 for a month’s supply of adalimumab, a drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. A patient and insurer in the United Kingdom would pay about $1,360 for the same supply of the same drug; in Switzerland, about $820.

That’s because while drug prices in the United States have continued to rise, with insurance companies and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid struggling to rein in the cost, their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere have used a variety of payment and coverage policies to more effectively manage their drug spending.

Of course, not every solution that works well in another country could be easily applied here. But strategies used abroad could help inform U.S. efforts to control rising health care costs and make lifesaving drugs more affordable and accessible. A recent report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, “Payment Policies to Manage Pharmaceutical Costs,” examined six policies that have been used successfully by other countries to control pharmaceutical spending.

The full column was previously published in The Hill on December 7, 2017.

Drug spending report
Drug spending report
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Payment Policies to Manage Pharmaceutical Costs

Insights from other countries

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In recent years, the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States has been the subject of much public discussion. While attention has been focused on a few instances of what critics see as the most outrageous price increases, policymakers should also recognize that Americans spend twice as much per person on prescription drugs as do people in other high-income countries. Clearly, the problem of high drug costs in the U.S. extends far beyond a handful of extreme examples.