A new report from Reuters suggests that pricing pressures resulting from Obamacare may close U.S. and international prescription drug price disparities – with U.S. prices more than double those of other high-income countries - within three to five years. As good as that could be, it’s a long way away for Americans who currently struggle with drug prices. With tens of millions going without meds due to cost, the problem is more urgent than ever.
U.S. brand-name drug prices continue their vigorous rise, in stark contrast to international price declines. Brand-name U.S. drug prices rose 11% in 2011, almost triple the 3% inflation rate. Meanwhile, prices in Canada stayed the same, and actually dropped in France and Switzerland by 3 and 4 percent, respectively.
Reuters politely explains this gap:
“Companies like Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca have grown dependent on higher U.S. prices to generate profits as generic rivals to their best-selling medicines enter the world market, Europe’s government-run health plans clamp down on spending and sales growth in emerging markets stutters.”
Perhaps these price increases explain the 50 million Americans between the ages 19-64 and the 20% of Medicare enrollees who do not fill a prescription due to cost each year.
Look at the price of Januvia, a drug mentioned in the Reuters article. Its wholesale price is 75% higher in the U.S. than in Austria. Our own research shows the price gap at the retail level. The price at a local pharmacy for 90 pills is $978. It costs only $375 online from a verified Canadian pharmacy. That’s 62% cheaper.
Hopefully, the Affordable Care Act will lead to reduced drug prices domestically, but that will take some time. Until then international online pharmacies will remain a lifeline for Americans.