Viewpoint: The U.S. Is Standing in the Way of Cheaper Drugs for the Poor
Every few months, a drug company gets caught cranking up prices. Most recently, Mylan, the maker of EpiPen, took its turn in the hot seat for raising the price of a lifesaving allergy treatment by 500 percent. Congress was rightly enraged and opened yet another inquiry into pharmaceutical price gouging. Mylan offered discount coupons.
The story will soon fade from the headlines — until the next pricing scandal.
In the United States, companies have raised prices on many drugs over the past five years, mostly with little public notice or scandal. Pfizer alone raised the prices of more than 100 drugs in one year. Drug prices have seen double-digit inflation over the past three years, at a time of relatively low inflation in the rest of the economy. Recent research suggests that cancer patients may be delaying use of lifesaving drugs, while there are reports that prisoners are rationed access to hepatitis C treatments — all because of high prices.
But this problem is also international. In poorer countries across the world where our organizations work, millions of people are priced out of medicines that could save lives and relieve suffering. For example, a recent World Health Organization study found that in some 30 countries, hepatitis C medicines were unaffordable for much of the population.
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