I keep hearing the answer to high drug prices is to allow purchase of drugs from Canada. That's not the answer though. We need to ask "what makes drug prices lower in Canada and around the world" and then follow suit. So, what makes drug prices lower? There are a few things. I'll just go over a few...
Ban advertising of prescription drugs
Canada and other countries do not allow advertising for pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical companies add the cost of all their commercials into the price of drugs.
During pregnancy I was on bed rest for almost the entire 9 months. That left a lot of time for tv watching. There was one channel in particular that I remember highlighting the over abundance of prescription advertising. Every single commercial break for hours during the day (and no that is not an exaggeration, it was actually every single commercial break), there was a commercial for Neulasta. If you aren't familiar with this drug, it is a medication given to patients after they receive a round of chemotherapy in order to boost the immune system. This is not a drug for the general population, it is very specific. And I can assure you that oncologists are well aware of this drug and prescribe it as needed. The cost of each injection is $10,000. How do I know? My husband used it after every round of chemo he had. If the manufacturer didn't advertise every few minutes, do you think they would need to charge that much? No. One 30 second commercial spot is expensive enough but consider how many drug commercials you see every single day. It adds up and that cost is bundled into the price.
Cap costs on drugs
Canadian government places limits on the price of brand name drugs.
Right now, there are no limits on what a pharmaceutical company can charge you for a drug. Remember the price increase on the Epi-Pen- a life saving drug? This would not have happened if there were limits. The only limits are what the insurance company is willing to reimburse. But this leads to insurance companies deciding that they won't pay for one drug and will only pay for a different drug which may not even work the same.
Medicare is not even allowed to negotiate pricing. Government Medicare is bound, by law, to pay what drug companies want.
By placing limits on what a pharmaceutical company can charge it will lower the cost.
Allow generics sooner
I'm Canada, they allow generics 5 years sooner than in America. What this does is drive down the price of brand names but also allow cheaper generics. By not allowing competition with generics, we are encouraging higher prices. Generics give patients and doctors the choice to do what is best for them.
Is it fair to pharmaceutical companies?
You may ask "but pharmaceutical companies say the FDA rules is what makes drug prices so high so won't we be bankrupting them?" Pfizer, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies had a net income in 2016 of over $7 billion. And despite profits such as this, they have discontinued researching medications for Alzheimer's this year. The long and short of this is that no, pharmaceutical companies are a very profitable business and lowering drug costs will not bankrupt them. Additionally, we can see that these companies have been operating in other countries with these restrictions discussed above and it is not to the detriment of the patient or the pharmaceutical company.
One thing that I think we need to look at that may help alleviate hardships from any legislation made is to allow "off-label" uses of drugs if they have been shown to be effective and safe.
We need to remember that our laws should protect citizens. Letting drug companies bankrupt people just to survive is unacceptable. A person should not have to say "I can't afford this life saving medication so I will just hope for the best". Healthcare needs to be a basic human right. I recognize drug companies need revenue in order to continue research for new drugs and medical devices. But that shouldn't come at the cost of someones life.