Why drugs cost more in America

Why drugs cost more in America

This is an EpiPen. It’s a device that injects you with adrenaline
if you’re having a possibly deadly allergic reaction. If you have severe allergies, you basically
need it. And if you live in the UK, an EpiPen will
cost you the equivalent of 38 US dollars. But if you live in the US, it’ll cost you
$300. And it’s not just the EpiPen. Let’s look at five of the top selling prescription
drugs in the world. Advair, a brand-name asthma inhaler: more
expensive in the US. Lantus, a type of Insulin: more expensive
in the US. Sovaldi for hepatitis C? Yup. Costs more in the US. Humira for arthritis. Crestor for cholesterol: more expensive in
the US. So here’s an unsurprising chart: Americans spend more on prescription drugs
than anyone else in the world. Why? The first thing you have to understand is
that in the US, drugs get to patients differently than almost everywhere else. Let’s look at that popular hepatitis C drug,
Sovaldi. In 2014 Sovaldi became the first drug to completely
cure hepatitis C. Here’s how it got to market in, for example,
the UK. First a government agency had to decide that
Sovaldi was safe and that it actually worked. Then it was evaluated by a regulatory agency
to see if was worthwhile: Are there too many side effects? Is there already a similar drug? Is there a cheaper option? Sovaldi was deemed worthwhile. Next, they negotiated the price. In the UK, the government buys the stock of
medicine for the country. That means they’re usually able to get a
lower rate, kind of like a bulk discount. Which keeps prescription drugs cheaper for
UK citizens. In almost every developed country besides
the US, this is what the system looks like: Safety evaluation, assessment of whether the
country needs it, price negotiations, sold to patients. Now let’s look at the system in the US. First, the drug is evaluated for safety,
but that’s it. If it’s safe, they can sell it, end of story. Drugs are sold by the drug companies to patients,
usually through insurance. And since the US system lets them sell it
for any price, Gilead, the company that makes Sovaldi, charged Americans more for it. When it first came to market, the entire treatment
cost $84,000 in the US. In the UK? Just about $58,000 US dollars. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s
a full 30% less. So it seems like the UK has the better system
right? Well, it’s complicated. These photos are from protests in the US against
the high price of EpiPens. And these are photos from protests in the
UK, over the lack of access to a cystic fibrosis drug called Orkambi. That’s because when there’s a committee
that determines whether a new drug is worthwhile — sometimes they say no. And when they negotiate the prices, sometimes
they don’t come to an agreement and hit a standoff. That’s what’s happening with Orkambi. Both systems require trade offs. Regulated drug markets tend to make drugs
more affordable, but some drugs are completely unavailable. And while the US has more drugs technically
available, they’re often too expensive to actually afford. Americans without insurance are the most likely
to skip medication because of the cost. Even Americans with insurance, are second. But the commonality between these two systems
— is the drug companies. Developing new drug products isn’t cheap
and they’re for-profit businesses. If Gilead didn’t think that researching
and developing a hepatitis C cure, would make them money in the end, they might not have. And with these regulated markets keeping costs
down, the only place the drug companies can really make their money is, you guessed it, the US. Americans are essentially subsidizing the
cost of drugs for the rest of the world. In other words, a big part of why prescription
drugs are more expensive in the US is because they’re cheaper everywhere else. If you’d like to continue exploring the importance of easier access to medicine and vaccines, then I highly recommend a documentary called “Viruses: Destruction and Creation,” available now on CuriosityStream. CuriosityStream is a subscription service that offers more than 2,400 documentaries and non-fiction titles, from some of the world’s best filmmakers. You can get unlimited access starting at $2.99 a month and because you’re a Vox fan, the first 31 days are free if you sign up at curiositystream.com/vox and use the promo code “VOX”. CuriosityStream doesn’t directly impact our editorial, but their support makes videos like this one possible. So go check them out.

Daniel Yohans

14 thoughts on “Why drugs cost more in America

  1. Vox says:

    Hi everyone, we accidentally made this video public around 9pm ET last evening, and had to take it down. We're releasing it now as a new video, sorry for the confusion and to anyone who may have gotten a notification last night for a video that they were unable to watch!

  2. michael lawton says:

    Mind blown! Thank you for this. Totally get it now. The thing is, that once those pharmaceutical companies make there money back, the price should go down. But it doesn't. Insulin drugs are 40 years old yet there still $600 for a 30 day supply… Also, these research and development companies receive billions in subsidies from the government, and spend millions on lobbying

  3. Jaqu-Jaqu Land says:

    Drugs cost more because we continue to elect officials who could care less. Our health is of little concern when it come to money, and of little concern to ourselves. Bernie Sanders 20/20.

  4. Julia V says:

    Explain why it’s cheaper in Canada then

  5. SemiAuto_NiNjA says:

    That's called capitalism. An open market ,Free trade, For profit , by business owners. It's literally the whole point. Sure it's nice to have free education and healthcare. But when you need doctors and teachers in your everything for free country, you will only get the most basic cheapest ones. You never hear of medical breakthroughs or higher education in places like Cuba for example. Sure it's all free but there's a catch.

  6. charles foltz says:


  7. icfoo2 says:

    You forgot to mention the generic side. Kinda a big part.

  8. TheElDialblo says:

    It's important to remember that market principles with competition doesn't apply to drugs because of the patent system and therefor cannot be compared with many other products

  9. Ken Evanska says:

    I got my last two epi pens for nothing. UK, not 37$

  10. Umur Karagöz says:

    Next video: US still don't use the metric system becuz of rest of the world.

  11. Your Boy Mr Mac says:

    Interestingly, Americans are also massively subsidising the cost of defense forces in other parts of the world. Places like Europe and Asia don't have to guard against their neighbours' aggression because the freakishly huge American military (in theory) keeps those neighbours in check.

  12. Suave JAE says:

    As a Rastafari, the only medicine you have are the things that come from the Earth: Fruits, veggies, grains.

  13. sel ;-; says:

    This video is extremely disappointing. I can tell, from the usual Vox videos I watch, that this one was made from someone different.

  14. Chris Floyd says:

    Maybe the IS could subsidize R&D costs to bring down final costs on the market. They benefit just about everyone and the incentive to make a good product would still be there. Idk, I'm just hoping we get some form of healthcare that actually helps people instead of works for profit

  15. Giorno Giovanna says:

    This channel doesn't know there's no such country called America.

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