Pharmaceutical Industry and Prices

The following is excerpted from a letter from Dr. Julian Whitaker entitled "A Call to Arms":

"Mexicans, Canadians, and Europeans pay less, sometimes much less, for the same prescription drugs that Americans buy. What's going on here?


Comparison of Drug Prices
in U.S. and Europe

Drug Quantity Potency U.S. Price Euro. Price
Premarin 28 0.6 mg $14.98 $4.25
Synthroid 50 100 mg $13.84 $2.95
Coumadin 25 10 mg $30.25 $2.85
Prozac 14 20 mg $36.12 $18.50
Prilosec 20 28 mg $109.00 $39.25
Norvasc 30 5 mg $44.00 $8.75
Claritin 20 10 mg $44.00 $8.75
Augmentin 12 500 mg $49.50 $8.75
Zocor 28 20 mg $96.99 $45.00
Paxil 28 30 mg $63.69 $43.00
Zestril 60 5 mg $53.49 $15.00
Prempro 28 0.6 mg $23.49 $4.75
Glucophage 50 850 mg $54.49 $4.50
Cipro 20 500 mg $87.99 $62.75
Zoloft 100 50 mg $80.00 $65.00
Pravachol 28 10 mg $55.60 $31.00
Bassed on a 1999 survey by Life Extension Foundation (


The Pharmaceutical Monopoly

"Profit margins for big drug companies hover around 40 percent, with annual growth in earnings averaging 11 percent...

"[The U.S. public's] expenditures for prescription drugs have increased two to three times as fast as all other aspects of health care...

"..[the U.S. public's] drug costs are escalating at four times the rate of inflation...

"HMOs and insurers now pay more for drugs [in the U.S.] than hospitalizations!"

Pharmaceutical companies have managed to avoid having to compete in the free market in the U.S. "They get tax breaks that make other industries green with envy."

"..the pharmaceutical giants have a long, incestuous, and corrupt relationship with the FDA, the regulatory agency that oversees them." What they have, in essence, is "protected monopoly" status.

"And American consumers foot the bill by paying two to 10 times as much as the rest of the world for the same drugs!"

Why Do Drugs Cost So Much?

Pharmaceutical companies argue that rising drug prices simply reflect the cost of developing new drugs. However, a look at the drugs being developed shows that most "new" drugs are simply new twists on old [cheap] drugs and drugs from other countries that someone else developed.

In addition, "for every dollar spent on research.. the pharmaceutical industry spends 50 cents on advertising and promotion.

Drug companies also argue that they save lives. They don't mention that "upwards of 200,000 Americans die each year from the adverse effects of prescription drugs used as directed.."

A Reasonable Solution

"Congressman Gil Gutknecht from Minnesota has introduced a bill in the House of Representatives (HR 3240) that would guarantee Americans [the] right to import prescription drugs for their own use from FDA-approved manufacturing facilities in other countries... would.. send a strong message to the FDA and their cronies. I encourage you to contact your congressional representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor HR 3240."

Colby Glass, MLIS