By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Study shows global drug price discrepancies

by in Medicine.

Improperly discarded sharps. (Source: U.S. F.D.A./flickr)

Improperly discarded sharps. (Source: U.S. F.D.A./flickr)

by Juliana Kenny

A study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago this week showed that Americans pay the highest prices in the world for cancer drugs. However, despite lower prices in other countries including India and South Africa, those drugs are still largely unaffordable for most people in those regions.

Australia, China, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel, and the United States were the seven countries analyzed in the study; India and China were found to have the least affordable cancer drugs when the researchers calculated price as a percentage of wealth adjusted for the cost of living. The lowest drug prices were found in India and South Africa, and the highest in the U.S., according to Reuters. Australia, the U.K., and Israel have the “best deal” on such drugs.

These findings will no doubt add to the recent global uproar about drug prices — specifically those for cancer. (Last year saw Turing Pharmaceuticals executive Martin Shkreli hike up the price for Daraprim by 5000%). A subsequent study found that big pharma jacks up the prices of certain drugs for unknown reasons. And separate research found that unused cancer drugs waste $3 billion a year.

There is some good news, however. Local reports in India on Monday noted that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority is working to set caps on dozens of drugs including those for cancer, diabetes, bacterial infections, and high blood pressure. Studies such as the one released this week add to the mounting pressure from oncologists on big pharma and governments to address the disturbing reality of the affordability of these necessary drugs.