A new government analysis commissioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) finds that the United States pays more than two to four times as much for certain prescription drugs as other wealthy countries.
The report from the Government Accountability Office looked at prices for 20 brand-name drugs in the U.S., Australia, Canada and France. It found that the net retail prices paid by U.S. consumers and insurers in 2020 — that is, prices after confidential rebates and other price concessions — were 2.82 times higher than gross prices in Canada, 4.25 times higher than gross prices in Australia and 4.36 times higher than gross prices in France.
The prices for the other countries were based on those listed on public formularies and did not reflect potential discounts. “As a result,” the report notes, “the actual differences between U.S. prices and those of the other countries were likely larger than GAO estimates.”
The report also notes that the United States is the only one of the four countries in the analysis “that does not have an overarching national pricing strategy for prescription drugs, although some of its publicly funded coverage, such as Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA), use pricing strategies.”
Sanders said in a statement that the report confirmed that the U.S. needs to act now to lower drug prices. “This important GAO study confirms what we all already know: the pharmaceutical industry is ripping off the American people,” Sanders said. “The time is long overdue for the United States to do what every major country on earth does: negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies to lower the outrageous price of prescription drugs. I would urge the President to put this proposal in the American Families Plan and use the savings to expand and improve Medicare for older Americans.”
But while Sanders, Democrats and activists have pressured President Biden to include drug-pricing measures in the American Families Plan being rolled out today, the White House decided to leave out such proposals, including having the federal government directly negotiate prices, lowering the Medicare eligibility age and capping drug costs for seniors.