The United States spends far more on prescription drugs compared to other high-income countries,despite having similar prescription drug usage—a phenomenon that is often explained by the sky-high prices at which drugs are sold across the nation and the enormous cost of high-risk research and innovation.
The battle over how to lower drug prices in the U.S.—and how to revamp the nation's health care system,more generally—has moved to the center stage of the 2020 presidential race,as President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to"bring down drug prices"and as several Democratic presidential candidates have unveiled proposals that would target the rising costs of prescription drugs.Polls have indicated that a majority of voters—across the political spectrum—support a range of federal policies aimed at curbing prescription drug costs.
Americans are also frustrated that they spend more on prescription drugs—average costs are about$1,200 per person per year—than anyone in the developed world,despite the fact that generics represent roughly 84%of the U.S.market,the greatest proportion among high-income countries.
Natasha Sriraman,a practicing pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School,said that the price of medications in the U.S.have made treatments increasingly out of reach for millions of Americans.She said a growing number of Americans are not filling a prescription,skipping a scheduled dose or taking an expired medication due to high costs.
"I don't think people are realizing how that is affecting my 7-year-old patient who could die if he doesn't get the EpiPen or the 4-year-old who has a walnut allergy,"Sriraman told Salon,referring to the high cost of the epinephrine auto-injectable medication that stops allergic reactions.(EpiPen's manufacturer,Mylan Pharmaceuticals,has come under intense scrutiny for steadily hiking the price for anaphylaxis drug from less than$100 to$600.)
Drug manufacturers often cite their research costs in an attempt to justify high drug prices,arguing that steps to cut costs would stifle innovation in the future.And while it's true that research and development is expensive,experts have questioned Big Pharma's assertion that research spending ultimately determines prices.
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