How much do prescription drugs cost without insurance? For those without insurance, prescription costs more because pharmacies charge them at what is known as the “Usual and Customary Price.” In the United States 2020 census, 8.6% of the Americans are medically uninsured, making access to medication expensive.
A survey regarding the cost of prescription drugs in the US found that more than three in four adults think that prescription drugs are unaffordable. Meanwhile, one in three adults says that they had to stop taking their medications due to cost
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization with 38 member countries, including the US, has noted that Americans spent $1,126 per capita on prescribed medicines—over half the difference from other nationalities, which only spent an average of $552. This number includes the combined cost from insurers, and patients’ pockets for a prescription drug refill at their local pharmacies.
The latest records show that the US spending on prescribed medicines grew 69% from 2004-2019. Again, it is far above other countries’ mean cost of around 41%. Generally, available data have concluded that Americans have higher out-of-pocket in spending on prescription drugs than most people in comparable countries without insurance.
What makes drug prices so high in the US?
This spike in dollar spent on prescription medicines in the US is driven by several factors, which includes:
- the lack of transparency in drug prices,
- a less competitive drug market due to mergers and acquisition among manufacturers, and
- the limited capacity of other parties like Medicare to negotiate drug prices
- The increase in aggregate spending also stems from other factors such as the quantity and type of drugs prescribed. For example, specialty drugs are more expensive than others. This trend has grave implications for Americans who rely on medications and do not have insurance and the US budget and fiscal outlook.
A Price Comparison of Prescribed Drug from the US vs Prescribed Drug in Canada
As discussed, there’s a stark difference in cost between the US and other countries in the pharmaceutical market. Canada, for instance, has overtaken the US regarding their pharmaceutical cost affordability for their citizens who are not covered by the provincial or private Medicare policies.
This is because such price gouging is prohibited by law in Canada. Its Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which ensures that new brand-name drugs do not carry exorbitant price tags and endure endless price hikes beyond inflation, is one reason their medications are less expensive than the US.
Below is a price comparison table of some popular prescribed drugs in the US versus those in Canada. The table provides information about the drug name and its use for treatment, US vs Canada individual price columns, and the total percentage of savings you can make.
|Drug Name||US Price||Canada Price||Savings (%)|
|Januvia: Type 2 Diabetes||$1,355.74||$371.58||73%|
|Entocort: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis||$2,057.41||$238.27||88%|
|Flovent Diskus: Asthma||$192.92||$59.63||69%|
|Xarelto: Blood Clots||$1,347.98||$474.29||65%|
|Premarin: Estrogen Replacement Therapy||$496.99||$96.15||81%|
|Dexilant: Stomach & Esophageal Issues||$622.24||$272.98||56%|
|Synthroid: Hormone Deficiency||$118.15||$35.17||70%|
This pharmaceutical market analysis shows a vast 50%-80% threshold difference in savings between US prescribed drug prices versus Canada’s.
Prescription drugs statements
Interestingly, it is not cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines that are the fastest-growing drugs in the US. It is, in fact, prescription drugs. This is one of the findings that researchers in the field of pharmaceuticals are most surprised about.
With that, can you indicate which of the following statements about prescription drugs is FALSE?
- Expensive drugs equate to better drugs
- Brand-name drugs are similar to generics
- Only brand-name drug prices are getting pricier
- Your physician can’t affect what you pay for your medicine
- Drug company discounts will save you money
If you answered FALSE to all these, you are correct. These are the top five US myths about prescribed drug prices.
Fact #1: Despite being cheaper than brand-name treatments, generic drugs are formulated to give you the same benefits in terms of safety, strength, quality and performance. Additionally, generic drugs have the same medical composition as well-known brand drugs.
Fact #2: Although generic drugs have the same active ingredients, they are identical to their brand-name competitors. Some of their differences are in terms of drugs’ cosmetics characteristics such as flavors and colors.
Fact #3: While brand medicines can be significantly higher in cost, prices for generic drugs have also been climbing. In 2016, the Government Accountability Office unveiled that 300 generic drugs became 100% more expensive the previous year. However, they are still more affordable than branded drugs.
Fact #4: Discussing closely with your physician every medical option may save you a lot of money. If a drug is way more expensive than your budget, your doctor may be able to recommend more affordable, cheaper, but similarly effective alternatives..