Many countries use external reference pricing to help determine drug prices. However, external reference pricing has received little attention in the US—perhaps because the US is often the first adopter of drugs. External reference pricing could be used to set prices for drugs that were already established in the market. We compared the price differentials between the US and the UK, Japan, and Ontario (Canada) for single-source brand-name drugs that had been on the market for at least three years. We found that the prices averaged 3.2–4.1 times higher in the US after rebates were considered. The price differential for individual drugs varied from 1.3 to 70.1. The longer a drug remained on the market, the greater the differential. The estimated savings to Medicare Part D of adopting the average price of drugs in the reference countries was $72.9 billion in 2018. Medicare could use external reference pricing in Part D to improve affordability for patients.
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