Prescription Drug Costs

July 26, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 27
Can policymakers make medicines more affordable?
By Holly Rosenkrantz


Consumer advocates warn that a growing number of Americans are unable to afford their prescription drugs. The pharmaceutical industry says drug prices reflect the research and development (R&D) costs of finding and testing new, lifesaving treatments. But critics contend drugmakers receive government funding for much of their R&D work and that they are unfairly extending patents in order to keep lower-cost generic medicines from entering the market. Drugmakers pin the blame on insurance companies, which they say are shifting more and more costs onto patients through higher deductibles and copays, and on middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers who negotiate lower drug prices but often fail to pass on the savings to consumers. To try to reduce drug costs, members of Congress have introduced bipartisan bills to let the government negotiate prices with drugmakers and allow consumers to buy medicines abroad. The Trump administration, meanwhile, wants to require drugmakers to disclose prices when advertising medications on TV, but a federal judge has blocked that effort.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Getty Images/CQ Roll Call/Bill Clark)
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has called for action to reduce drug prices in his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. At a 2017 Washington news conference, he displayed a chart showing that Canadians paid lower prices than U.S. consumers for certain prescription drugs. (Getty Images/CQ Roll Call/Bill Clark)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Price Controls
Jul. 26, 2019  Prescription Drug Costs
Aug. 05, 1954  Discount Selling
Aug. 10, 1951  Price Cutting and the Law
Apr. 25, 1951  Enforcement of Price and Rent Controls
Nov. 10, 1948  Basing Points and Delivered Prices
Sep. 14, 1948  Prices and Politics
May 28, 1947  Retail Price Agreements
Aug. 12, 1935  New State Laws for Price Maintenance
Apr. 03, 1930  The Trend of Commodity Prices
Biology and Life Sciences
Congress Actions
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Copyright and Patents
Exports and Imports
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Medicaid and Medicare
Medical Devices and Technology
Party Politics
Protest Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Canada
Substance Abuse