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Health Aff (Millwood). 2008 Jan-Feb;27(1):221-33. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.27.1.221.

International prices and availability of pharmaceuticals in 2005.

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  • 1Health Care Department, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.


This paper compares pharmaceutical spending, availability, use, and prices in twelve countries in 2005. Drug spending per capita was higher in the United States than in other countries. The United States had relatively high use of new drugs and high-strength formulations; other countries used more of older drugs and weaker formulations. Thus, whether U.S. overall volume of use is lower or higher depends on the measure of volume and type of product. Comprehensive price indexes show foreign prices to be 20-40 percent lower than U.S. manufacturer prices, but only 10-30 percent lower than U.S. public prices. Generics are cheaper in the United States than in other countries.

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