Jan 28, 2021

New RAND Report Finds Rx Prices in U.S. Average 3.44 Times Higher Than Those in 32 Other Countries

In case you missed it, a new report from the RAND Corporation finds that prescription drug prices in the United States average a whopping 3.44 times higher than those seen in 32 other countries. According to Andrew Mulcahy, lead author of the study and a senior health policy researcher at RAND, “Brand-name drugs are the primary driver of the higher prescription drug prices in the United States … We found consistently high U.S. brand name prices regardless of our methodological decisions.” According to the study:

Some of the highest-priced drugs in the United States are brand-name drugs that can cost thousands of dollars per treatment and treat life-threatening illness such as hepatitis C or cancers. “Many of the most-expensive medications are the biologic treatments that we often see advertised on television,” Mulcahy said. “The hope is that competition from biosimilars will drive down prices and spending for biologics. But biosimilars are available for only a handful of biologics in the United States.”

Researchers estimated that across all of the OECD nations studied, total drug spending was $795 billion. The United States accounted for 58% of sales, but just 24% of the volume. Recent estimates are that prescription drug spending in the United States accounts for more than 10 percent of all health care spending. Drug spending in the United States jumped by 76% between 2000 and 2017, and the costs are expected to increase faster than other areas of health care spending over the next decadeas new, expensive specialty drugs are approved.

Meanwhile, Big Pharma continues to hike prices while Americans continue to grapple with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Drug companies have already increased prices on more than 800 brand name drugs in the early days of 2021 as part of the industry’s traditional biennial price hikes. This past summer, Big Pharma increased prices on more than 65 brand name drugs by an average of 3.1 percent.

And while Big Pharma routinely tries to justify price hikes by pointing to research and development (R&D). The truth is:

  • Price Hikes Aren’t Connected To Drug Improvements: Drug companies hiked prices on seven popular drugs in 2019 with no evidence that the drugs had been improved, resulting in $1.2 billion in increased costs.
  • Big Pharma Puts Profits Before R&D: Big Pharma used a windfall from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to line shareholders’ pockets, rather than invest in R&D. In fact, the single-year increase in payouts to Wall Street and shareholding Big Pharma board members and executives was 17 times larger than the increase in R&D spending.
  • The Industry Is Thriving While Millions Are Struggling: 10 of the largest Big Pharma companies reported expectation-besting earnings for the third quarter of 2020 after hiking prices on American patients.

Big Pharma is busting profit and revenue expectations and receiving billions of dollars in research funding from taxpayers while millions of Americans are struggling. Engaging in price hikes during a pandemic, while receiving billions of dollars from taxpayers to help develop COVID-19 treatments, demonstrates why policymakers must act to hold Big Pharma accountable.

Read more on market-based solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices HERE.