For a moment, let’s put aside the fact that most prescription medication is unnecessary if doctors, dietitians, and others dispensing health advice did their jobs correctly and actually helped people become healthy. Let’s instead focus on how much Americans pay for prescription medications compared to other countries.
In the U.S., prescription medications cost Americans $1443 per capita annually (including drugs dispensed in hospitals and other facilities). Compare this to other modern countries:
- Germany: $667 per capita
- Netherlands: $466 per capita
- Sweden: $566 per capita
- Australia: $560 per capita
- Canada: $613 per capita
- France: $697 per capita
(All values in U.S. dollars.)
No other country even comes close to bearing the costs that Americans bear. And this is not due to volume or number of prescriptions, but to price differences. And, compared to other modern countries, the U.S. rates last in several measures of quality–it is absolutely not “the best healthcare system in the world” despite such pronouncements by the media and others. It’s not that Americans receive more treatment and more medications; the drugs are simply much more expensive.
If your doctor prescribed Humira for rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease, for example, monthly cost in France is $982, $980 in Japan, and $2505 in the U.S.–more than double. Lantus insulin in Australia costs $67 per month, $47 in France, $186 in the U.S.
Readers of my Undoctored and Wheat Belly books know that I advocate a lifestyle that absolves you of much of the need for such medications, as autoimmune conditions, inflammation, type 2 diabetes, numerous gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS and ulcerative colitis, skin rashes such as seborrhea and eczema and many other conditions recede or disappear with the simple strategies we follow. That, of course, is the ultimate cost savings (although your friends and neighbors who take such drugs will end up raising your healthcare insurance premiums, even if you are healthy).
Why does the pharmaceutical industry charge Americans so much more than all other countries around the world? Easy: Because American legislators (state and Federal) lack the backbone to introduce cost restraints, even though such negotiations are commonplace in other countries. Pfizer says they want to charge $4000 per month for a new drug, nobody objects (except the American consumer who bears more and more of the cost). AstraZeneca ups the price of a drug 500% overnight–too bad, you’ll just have to pay it and keep your objections to yourself.
In my Undoctored book, I make the argument that healthcare is a huge wealth transfer, a transfer of trillions of dollars from the pockets of the public into the pockets of well-placed healthcare insiders—not the nice physical therapist or nurse, but the $30 million per year drug CEO, the $10 million per year hospital executive, the $3 million per year ophthalmologist. But that wealth transfer is operating at its worst in the U.S.
To make matters worse, direct-to-consumer ads drive drug sales in the U.S. When your neighbor has his healthcare insurance pay $84,000 for a 120-tablet vial of Harvoni for hepatitis C, your healthcare insurance costs go up. When your coworkers insist on Toujeo insulin for $300 per month because they saw a clever commercial on TV for it, rather than $186 for Lantus, your healthcare insurance costs increase. And that money does not go towards improved health for Americans; it goes into the pockets of healthcare insiders.
Make no mistake: American healthcare is corrupt. Big Pharma takes advantage of the unwillingness of Americans and their legislators to introduce cost restraint. It’s not just a problem with Big Pharma, but with nearly every facet of the industry from the medical device manufacturers, to pharmaceutical distributors, to healthcare insurers, to hospitals. But they all stand on one side of the healthcare equation–the recipients of revenue, while we stand on the other side–the consumers who foot the bill.
Part of the Undoctored mission is to craft means of opting out of this corrupt and perverse process. So stay tuned.