The other man’s (prescription) drug is always cheaper

17Mar12

Most brand-name prescription drugs are cheaper in Canada than in the United States, and this can be explained by a very fundamental difference in the way each country looks at health care in general and prescription drugs in particular.

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For a detailed look at this graphic, click here to view a PDF.

In Canada, access to affordable health care is enshrined as a fundamental right; in the U.S., health care is treated as a commodity, its cost to consumers determined by market forces.

In Canada, government – specifically the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board – controls the price of patented drugs; in the U.S., this is not done because such a practice is considered ‘socialism.’

The result: Canadians benefit from lower prices, while Americans bask in the glory of not being ‘socialist’.

This is not to say that one system is better than the other. The two are just different from each other.

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Full disclosure: I am a Canadian who has lived and worked for several years in the U.S. I have first-hand experience of both the U.S. and Canadian health care systems. I know what I’m talking about.
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According to a paper by Joe Lexchin, a professor at the University of Toronto, the province of Ontario spends more than Cdn$ 1 billion a year on prescription drugs, and if drugs don’t get listed on the provincial formulary, they tend to be generally ignored by doctors. “This dominance in the marketplace gives the province considerable room to bargain with companies over prices,” writes Lexchin.

In the U.S. where the concept of free enterprise reigns supreme, any form of interference with market forces is frowned upon, not necessarily by the man on the street who needs the medicine, but by the powerful lobby groups in Washington and the politicians that they control.

Starting 2005, though, WalMart started offering low-cost drugs, a welcome initiative by a big private sector player which has been a boon to many Americans, specially the low-income and seniors living on social security. Also, the price of many generic drugs have been usually cheaper in the U.S.

Graphic by Alfred Elicierto. Published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 27, 2003.

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Also in this blog:
Why cities are spreading to the countryside
Remembering Katrina of 2005
Tragic end to a bombing raid
Treating gunshot wounds
Crime news infographics as old as crime

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One Response to “The other man’s (prescription) drug is always cheaper”

  1. 1 URL

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