Sep 30, 2021 - Health

The U.S. is the drug industry's gold mine

Global sales of blockbuster drugs in 2020
Data: Company filings and Public Citizen; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans are paying pharmaceutical companies more for the world's 20 blockbuster drugs than the rest of the world combined, according to an analysis of company financial filings by Public Citizen.

Why it matters: The U.S. is the pharmaceutical industry's gold mine, and the analysis shows how much the industry has at stake as it fights Democrats' plan to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and let employers piggyback off those lower prices.

By the numbers: The 20 highest-selling drugs generated $158 billion of global revenue in 2020.

  • U.S. sales alone represented 64% of that total, or $101 billion.
  • The revenue imbalance was bigger for certain drugs. For example, U.S. sales for Gilead's HIV drug Biktarvy ($6.1 billion) were more than five times greater than all international Biktarvy sales ($1.2 billion).

Between the lines: Americans don't consume drugs more than people in other countries. It boils down to higher prices.

Go deeper: Many companies profit off the flow of drugs, but pharmaceutical companies retain a vast majority of the money.

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