Comparative approaches to drug pricing

So Yeon Kang, Ge Bai, Michael J. Distefano, Mariana P. Socal, Farah Yehia, Gerard F. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The United States relies primarily on market forces to determine prices for drugs, whereas most other industrialized countries use a variety of approaches to determine drug prices. Branded drug companies have patents and market exclusivity periods in most industrialized countries. During this period, pharmaceutical companies are allowed to set their list price as high as they prefer in the United States owing to the absence of government price control mechanisms that exist in other countries. Insured patients often pay a percentage of the list price, and cost sharing creates some pressure to lower the list price. Pharmacy benefit managers negotiate with drug companies for lower prices by offering the drug company favorable formulary placement and fewer utilization controls. However, these approaches appear to be less effective, compared with other countries approaches to containing branded drug prices, because prices are substantially higher in the United States. Other industrialized countries employ various forms of rate setting and price regulation, such as external reference pricing, therapeutic valuation, and health technology assessment to determine the appropriate price.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)499-512
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual review of public health
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • ability to pay
  • access to pharmaceuticals
  • drug innovation
  • drug prices
  • external reference prices

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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