International research reveals proven ways to reduce drug costs

A study of drug costs around the world revealed proven methods that could be used to reduce costs in the United States, according to a researcher from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"Americans don't need to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs with our average expenditures increasing by 12 to 15 percent every year," said Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health sciences. "No documented health benefits are associated with the excess cost, and many elderly and low-income Americans cannot afford current prices without major sacrifice."

Furberg is widely recognized as a drug safety expert and has served on the FDA Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee. In 2004, he was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Residency to gather information about drug costs around the world. He relied on published information as well as personal interviews.

"The goal of the project was to provide essential information to health planners, politicians, health care professionals and others with the desire to improve public health in the face of limited resources," said Furberg.

Furberg studied drug costs in 13 countries and presented the results in December to the World Health Organization. During the project, Furberg said he was struck by proven methods to reduce costs that could be put to use in this country.

"Taking steps to reduce drug costs doesn't have to hamper drug development, as drug makers claim," Furberg said. "Adapting policies and tools already in widespread use around the world could produce major savings for U.S. consumers without compromising the quality of medical care."

Furberg said the proven methods being used in other countries are:

1. Government establishment of drug reimbursement rates. The U.S. is the only country with open, essentially unrestricted pricing. A drug maker can set any price that the market can bear, and payer reimbursement rates are based on

Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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