Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Medicare could have saved almost $80 billion, just in 2018, by matching the U.K.'s prices for prescription drugs that don't have any competition, according to a new study released in Health Affairs yesterday.

Why it matters: Medicare's drug benefit was designed to keep prices in check through competition. But competition doesn't always exist, and the U.S. doesn't have many options to keep prices down in those cases.

  • Unlike the other three countries examined in the study, the U.S. doesn't regulate drug prices.

Details: This study focuses on a group of single-source brand-name drugs in Medicare Part D that have been on the market for at least 3 years. Researchers compared U.S. prices for those drugs to prices in the U.K., Japan and Ontario.

  • On average, after accounting for rebates, Medicare paid 3.6 times more than the U.K., 3.2 times more than Japan, and 4.1 times more than Ontario.
  • The longer a drug was on the U.S. market, the larger that gap grew.
  • If Medicare Part D had adopted the average price from those countries, it would have saved an estimated $72.9 billion on sole-source drugs in 2018 alone.

Between the lines: The Trump administration wants to rely on international prices for Medicare Part B, which covers drugs administered in a doctor's office. But this study shows that there are also a lot of savings to be had in Medicare Part D, which covers drugs you pick up at a pharmacy.

The other side: "An international reference pricing system could result in American seniors losing access to their choice of medicine, and waiting years longer for new breakthrough treatments," the trade group PhRMA said in a statement.

The bottom line: The political interest in cutting drug prices is real, but we're still a very long way from President Trump's stated goal of matching other countries' prices.

Go deeper: The drug pricing maze

Go deeper

Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Mary Trump book: How she leaked Trump financials to NYT

Simon & Schuster

In her new memoir, President Trump's niece reveals how she leaked hordes of confidential Trump family financial documents to the New York Times in an effort to expose her uncle, whom she portrays as a dangerous sociopath.

Why it matters: Trump was furious when he found out recently that Mary Trump, a trained psychologist, would be publishing a tell-all memoir. And Trump's younger brother, Robert, tried and failed to block the publication of "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man."

Updated 34 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 11,691,068 — Total deaths: 540,062 — Total recoveries — 6,349,542Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 2,963,244 — Total deaths: 130,813 — Total recoveries: 924,148 — Total tested: 36,225,015Map.
  3. 2020: Biden releases plan to strengthen coronavirus supply chain.
  4. Congress: Trump administration notifies Congress of intent to withdraw from WHO.
  5. Public health: Fauci says it's a "false narrative" to take comfort in lower coronavirus death rate.
  6. World: Brazil's President Bolsonaro tests positive— India reports third-highest case count in the world.
54 mins ago - Health

Fauci: "False narrative" to take comfort in lower coronavirus death rate

Anthony Fauci testifies in Washington, D.C., on June 30. Photo: Al Drago/AFP via Getty Images

Anthony Fauci said at an event with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) on Tuesday "that it's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death" from the coronavirus in the U.S., warning: "There’s so many other things that are dangerous and bad about the virus. Don’t get into false complacency."

The big picture: The mean age of Americans currently being infected by the virus has declined by 15 years compared to where it stood several months ago. This has been one contributing factor in the lower death rate the U.S. has experienced during the recent surge in cases, since "the younger you are, the better you do, and the less likely you're gonna get seriously ill and die," Fauci said.