Prescription drugs are a critical life-saving option for many patients. According to Kantor, Rehm, Haas, Chan, and Giovannucci (2015), the use of prescription drugs in the United States has risen since 2000, and 59% of American adults used one or more prescription drugs in 2012. Moreover, about 15% of patients used several prescription drugs in 2012 (Kantor et al., 2015). The report shows that American adults rely on prescription drugs, and thus the cost of medicines is a significant issue. However, the cost of prescription drugs in the United States is much higher than in other developed countries. This is a significant problem that is primarily caused by the current legislation and the government’s approach to regulating the U.S. pharmaceutical market. The present paper will discuss the issue of the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States.
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Americans spend more on their prescription drugs than the citizens of most other countries. Kesselheim, Avorn, and Sarpatwari (2016) found that the average per capita prescription drug spending was $858, which is significantly higher than the $400 spent in industrialized nations. Also, prescription drugs amount to 17% of the cost of health care services in the United States (Kesselheim et al., 2016). The high cost of prescription drugs affects U.S. citizens, as it increases their health care expenditures. A significant share of prescription drug users is comprised of elderly persons with chronic diseases, many of whom are covered by the national insurance program. Thus, prescription drug costs are also affecting the economy of the country by creating a burden on the healthcare sector.
An example of a prescription drug that is considerably more expensive in the United States than in other countries is EpiPen, an injected drug containing a single dose of epinephrine, which can be used by patients experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. The cost of two doses of EpiPen in the United States is around $600, although a generic alternative is available for $300. The cost of the same drug in Canada is $100 per one dose, and in the United Kingdom, one EpiPen costs less than $60. This is just one example of the price difference between the United States and other countries.
The main reason for increased prescription drug prices is the U.S. government’s approach to managing drug production and sale in America. Kasselheim et al. (2016) state that market exclusivity, granted to pharmaceutical companies by the Food and Drug Administration, allows them to raise prices to obtain more profits. Therefore, the solution to this problem lies in altering the governance of the pharmaceutical market. For example, some states are looking to create legislation that would allow importing cheaper drugs from Canada and distributing them throughout the United States (Luthra, 2018). This approach could also prompt American drug manufacturers to lower the prices of their products to maintain a competitive position in the market. However, importing drugs from another country could lead to health and safety concerns and would require an exhaustive process for ensuring that the quality and safety of imported drugs are the same as those produced domestically. A more viable long-term approach would be to change the procedure of awarding market exclusivity to American drug producers. For instance, Kasselheim et al. (2016) suggest increasing the requirements for the award of exclusivity rights. Moreover, it is also crucial to enable governmental payers to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical monopolies, thus reducing the power of drug companies to set unreasonably high prices.
Kantor, E. D., Rehm, C. D., Haas, J. S., Chan, A. T., & Giovannucci, E. L. (2015). Trends in prescription drug use among adults in the United States from 1999-2012. JAMA, 314(17), 1818-1831.
Kesselheim, A. S., Avorn, J., & Sarpatwari, A. (2016). The high cost of prescription drugs in the United States: Origins and prospects for reform. JAMA, 316(8), 858-871.
Luthra, S. (2018). States are advancing bills designed to lower drug costs with importation plans. Scientific American. Web.
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