Drug prices in the UK and the US

Britain’s medicine prices are among the lowest in the world, thanks to the NHS’s buying powe and the tough value-for-money tests imposed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. This is a major bone of contention. US prices are 2.5 times higher than ours, and Donald Trump thinks that Americans are “subsidising” low prices abroad, which is “unfair” and “ridiculous”. The US pharmaceutical industry wants to charge the NHS more, not just because the UK is a big market: NHS prices are used as benchmarks for 14 other nations.

Dr Andrew Hill of Liverpool University calculates that, in the worst-case scenario, the NHS drugs bill would rise from £13bn to £45bn – a massive extra expense. The Tory manifesto promises that neither the NHS nor drug prices will be “on the table”, but leaked documents noting preliminary talks show that the subject is certainly on the agenda: “competitive pricing” and extending patents for American drugs were both mentioned. US negotiators have driven hard bargains on drugs in recent deals with South Korea, Canada and Mexico. Britain would be a weaker partner in any deal and might find it hard to resist some concessions. (The Week, 14 December 2019)

My comment: The US pharmaceutical industry has done an amazing job of denigrating so-called “socialized medicine” and making Americans frightened of it.
I myself am very familiar (too familiar!) with both systems, and I can honestly say that I have had sometimes marginal service from private medicine (pushing unnecessary extra procedures to make more money), whereas the National Health Service has been caring and terrific, even if you have to wait to be seen by some specialists. Don’t believe for a moment the misinformation about “socialized medicine” – it’s self-interested propaganda from people with an eye, not on the health of patients, but on the bottom line.

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