July 14, 2009
The U.S. remained the most expensive market for brand drugs in 2008, with European prices averaging 60 percent of U.S. prices, a new study shows.
The “2009 Chartbook of International Pharmaceutical Prices” released this week by Decision Resources, a market research firm, also found that the average price for brand drugs in Japan was 66 percent of the cost of U.S. medicines last year.
The report compared the prices of 170 best-selling drugs in the U.S. with those in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and the UK. Italy was the least expensive European market for brand drugs — Italians pay an average of 55 percent of U.S. prices. The most expensive market was Germany, where drug prices averaged 70 percent of prices in the U.S.
The study found that many of the drugs with the widest price ranges are older treatments that have lost patent protection in some markets. Manufacturers of brand medicines in Europe typically cut the prices of these drugs when the products lose patent protection — companies in the U.S. usually maintain brand prices following patent expiration, the report says.
Biologics didn’t appear to have the same price ranges. In Europe, biologics cost an average of 86 percent of the price of U.S. biologics last year, and the prices of monoclonal antibodies were 1 percent above U.S. levels. The differences were greatest in France and Germany where prices of monoclonal antibodies were, respectively, 13 percent and 16 percent higher than U.S. prices.
“It may appear surprising that European and Japanese reimbursement authorities, which generally restrict pharmaceutical prices, have approved prices for biologics that are high in absolute terms and relative to U.S. prices,” the report says. “However, this tolerance of the high prices of biologics likely reflects the perceived degree of innovation and clinical superiority of these drugs relative to older therapies.”
PhRMA is withholding comment until it reviews the report, Grady Forrer, a spokesman for PhRMA, told DID Wednesday.
U.S. supporters of drug reimportation have been calling for Congress to allow consumers to buy less expensive drugs from other countries.
An amendment backed by members of both parties that would allow U.S.-licensed pharmacies and drug wholesalers to import medications from Canada, Europe and other countries and individual consumers to purchase prescription drugs from Canada, has twice failed to win approval in the Senate (DID, June 26).
The measure may be revived this summer. An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told DID last month that Reid would bring the reimportation legislation to the Senate floor under the Rule XIV process — allowing it to bypass committee consideration — after Congress votes on healthcare overhaul legislation (DID, June 10).
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