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Americans Spend More On Top Drugs Than Every Other Country Combined — And It’s Not Because They’re Buying More

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 30, 2021

Topline

Americans spent more on the top 20 most-prescribed medications than the rest of the world combined, according to a report from advocacy group Public Citizen, underscoring the country’s soaring healthcare expenditure as politicians struggle to rein in costs.

Key Facts

For 17 of the 20 top-selling drugs in the world in 2020, pharmaceutical companies made more in revenue from U.S. sales than they did in every other country put together, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of company filings.

For 11 of the top-20 drugs, U.S. sales revenue was double that from sales in the rest of the world combined and for some drugs the disparity was even greater.

For example, pharma firm Gilead raked in $6.1 billion from selling HIV drug Biktarvy in the U.S., five times more than it made for the rest of the world ($1.2 billion).

For AbbVie’s Humira, an autoimmune disease drug, sales revenue was four times    greater in the U.S. ($16 billion) than for the rest of the world ($4 billion), and American sales revenues for Eli Lily’s diabetes drug Trulicity ($3.8 billion), Amgen and Pfizer’s autoimmune disease drug Enbrel ($4.9 billion) and Roche’s multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus ($3.8 billion) were triple the rest of the world (respectively, $1.2 billion, $1.5 billion and $1 billion).

Big Number

$158 billion. That’s how much revenue sales from the 20 top-selling drugs brought in. U.S. sales made up $101 billion of this, nearly two-thirds. 

Key Background

The U.S. does not buy or use more drugs than the rest of the world—research puts consumption on par with other wealthy countries—it simply pays more for what it does use. This is in line with its spending on healthcare overall, which is far greater than in similar countries and achieves far less. A key factor in the sky-high prices is down to the government’s inability, or refusal, to negotiate lower prices. Despite bipartisan agreement on the need to lower prescription drug prices, efforts to achieve this have failed.

Further Reading

The fight to manufacture COVID vaccines in lower-income countries (Nature)

Why prescription drugs cost so much more in America (Financial Times)

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