by Leslie Walker
Expensive medications aren’t new to anyone. But what causes them to be so expensive? The process we use to place new medications on the market may be one of the main reasons for the prices. According to an Annual Review of Public Health, the US is the largest single market, “comprising approximately 40% of the world pharmaceutical market”, taking the lead in most expensive prescriptions. Although this review was written in 2003, the number still stands as supported by a study done by the Ways and Means Staff which compared the US to similar countries like the UK, Sweden, and Japan. The study concluded that US drug prices were “nearly four times higher than average prices compared to [those] similar countries”. These numbers only reflect the process for selling new medication, but what exactly does it include?
For the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only has one core requirement for approving the sale of a new drug: “the drug is determined to provide benefits that outweigh its known and potential risks”. However, unlike Canada and many countries in Europe, the FDA does not regulate the price of medication nor evaluate its innovation. This allows American pharmaceutical companies to sell approved drugs for extremely high prices with no regulation.
What effect does this have on the American people who require many prescriptions? Venus Garcia, a retired secretary states a lesson she’s learned from her healthcare experiences. “They will take any chance to overcharge you”. Without medicare, she would have to pay out of pocket for many of her prescriptions which wouldn’t be possible. Similarly, Taniya Singleton, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep dealt with a stomach issue and remembers her surprise at the charges. “We had to pay for the visit, and for the test, just for them to say they didn’t know what was wrong and prescribe a pill that we also had to pay for.” Although her insurance was able to cover most of the charges, she still found the prices outrageous.
Naturally, markets are expensive. When it comes to healthcare, our medications shouldn’t fall in the same category. If the people who depend on medications can no longer afford them, we must seek a change.