- The International Federation of Health Plans found list prices for a number of key drugs in the U.S. to be significantly higher than prices found in other developed economies. The Federation surveyed drug prices in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, the U.S. and the U.K., according to Tuesday's report.
- The drug prices were derived from over 500 million combined medical and pharmacy claims in the U.S., and from data provided by one private health plan in each other country. The drugs surveyed include the major brands Xarelto, Humira, Harvoni, Truvada, Tecfidera, Avastin and OxyContin.
- "Comparisons across different countries are complicated by differences in sectors, fee schedules, and systems," the report concedes, adding, "a single plan's prices may not be representative of prices paid by other plans in that market."
The International Federation of Health Plans, a global insurance industry group, publishes their Comparative Price Report every two years and has found a similar result each time. The report evaluates the variation in medical and hospital prices in seven western countries, and has found that both in 2013 and 2015 U.S. healthcare costs rank as either the most or second-most expensive worldwide.
Critics may contend the report only surveys drugs covered under Medicare's Part B, includes a limited external sample and is published by a group of payers. Yet for many, the report aptly reinforces the claims that the U.S. healthcare prices are, as Vox puts its, "out of control."
Take AbbVie's Humira for example. Used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions, Humira cost an average of $2,669 in the U.S., compared to $1,362 in the U.K., $822 in Switzerland, and just $552 in South Africa, according to the report. (Price is for 2 syringes, 28-day supply)
Biogen's Tecfidera, an important treatment for multiple sclerosis, had an average price of $5,089 in the U.S. for a 30-day supply, compared to $663 in the U.K.
The problem is widespread: Healthcare Dive recently wrote that the market has failed to control prices given the increasing consolidation of U.S. providers; and on the pharmaceutical side, it is no secret that many companies look to the U.S. market for higher margin sales.
Pharmaceutical companies argue this is necessary, as the prices cover the costs of innovation to continue bringing new products to the market. The public seems unpersuaded though, and last year's Stat News and Harvard School of Public Health poll suggests over half of Americans believe high costs were attributable to excess profits.
And the drug pricing issue has been picked up by U.S. presidential candidates as well, as both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have called for tougher and direct drug price negotiations.