Why do Medicines and Medical Devices Cost more in the U.S. than other Countries?

Sunday, September 27, 2015
(photo illustration: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The problem of skyrocketing drug prices was brought into sharp relief earlier this month when a hedge fund manager who’d bought a drug company unilaterally raised the price of that company’s major product by more than 5,000%.


But the case of Martin Shkreli and the drug Daraprim is only an extreme example of how Americans pay far more for drugs, medical devices and procedures than those in other developed countries. Data examined by Jay Syrmopoulos of the Free Thought Project shows that many drugs, procedures and devices cost many times more in the United States than elsewhere. Here are the prices for a month’s worth of selected drugs in the United States and Canada:


Drug (treatment)




Enbrel (autoimmune)




Cymbalta (depression)




Nexium (acid reflux)





There are similar price discrepancies between the United States and other countries for diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans, as well as for medical procedures such as bypass surgery, knee replacement and others.


Even within the U.S. there are vast differences in price. The uninsured and underinsured pay far more for drugs and procedures than providers charge insurance companies for the same product.


Shkreli was within his rights to charge whatever he wanted for Daraprim; there is no government regulation to stop him. What finally did make him backtrack and say he’d lower the price (although he hasn’t said by how much) was public outcry. Too bad it doesn’t seem to work for other drugs.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Chart Comparing Global Drug Prices Exposes How U.S. Govt Creates Mega Profits for Big Pharma (by Jay Syrmopoulos, Free Thought Project)

2013 Comparative Price Report (International Federation of Health Plans) (pdf)

Hedge Fund Ethics Hit Drug Industry as “Rare Disease” Loophole Causes Cost of Medicine to Suddenly Skyrocket (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Lawmakers Tentatively Challenge Drug Makers over Outrageous Costs for Medicine (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


DDearborn 8 years ago
Hmmm It is truly amazing that the US government has over 170,000 pages of rules regulations and laws that govern virtually every aspect of our lives. And yet absent from that massive pile of dung are any price controls on medical care. If the government can dictate everything else in our lives, most of which in one way or another cost us money; how is it that the government never seems to do anything that saves the consumer money?

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