Jan 28, 2021 - Health

Drug prices in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries

Illustration of hands in a suit chiseling a dollar sign into a pill
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Prescription drug prices in the U.S. are more than 256% higher than other 32 other countries, with the gap driven by brand-name drugs, a new report by nonpartisan RAND Corporation shows.

The big picture: Drug spending in the U.S. jumped by 76% between 2000 and 2017, and the costs are expected to only increase over the next decade, per the report.

  • Total drug spending of the countries studied was $795 billion. The U.S. accounted for 58% of sales, but just 24% of the volume.
  • Prescription drug spending in the U.S. accounts for more than 10% of all health care spending, according to the report.

By the numbers: Prices for brand name drugs in the U.S. averaged 3.44 times higher than the prices in other nations, when 2018 drug sales were analyzed. Some of the highest brands treat life-threatening illnesses, hepatitis C or cancers.

  • Generic drug prices in the U.S., on the other hand, were lower — only 84% of the average paid in other nations.

Noteworthy: Much of the current research on international drug price comparisons are more than 10 years old, the report says, noting its index can help give a better overview of health care spending.

Go deeper: How other countries set their drug prices

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