Fact Checked

Should Drug Prices Rely On Market Forces?

Competition and the open market are often good things. Competition can inspire a person to try harder, to stay focused, to completely commit him or herself to a worthy cause. The open market provides a mostly level playing field, and it allows products to reach their natural cost at the point where supply and demand meet. However, competition and open markets may not be the best idea in every instance.

The problem with setting drug prices at “what the market will bear” is that drug prices aren’t part of an open market. The demand for a given drug is captive, which means that if there are no generic alternatives, the patient’s choices are to risk death or else pay a high price for specialty medication, even if that price is tens of thousands of dollars. By setting a high price for a specialty medication, pharmaceutical companies aren’t necessarily setting the number to “what the market will bear,” they’re ransoming the patient’s life back with a bottle of pills.

The patient isn’t in the best position to argue about the price, especially when he or she needs the medication as fast as possible. For their part, the insurance companies aren’t allowed to look over each other’s shoulders to see what the other guys are paying, and so it’s anyone’s guess who’s getting the best bargain and how far under the list price it goes.

Thus, while competition can be helpful and open markets can be a great way to keep prices low, prescription medication isn’t in an open market and never will be. Thus, if we want prices to be fair, we need to come up with different rules.

Fortunately, there are at least a few ways to do some comparison shopping, such as by singing up for a USA Rx pharmacy discount card. Our program comes with up to 75 percent discounts on a wide range of prescription medications, there are no payments involved, and we don’t want anything more personal than a name and an email account. And as a result of signing up, you may end up spending less on your medication than you could with just your insurance copays. If you don’t, you’re under no obligation to use the USARx price, either. To learn more, email us at [email protected] or call our number at 888-277-3911.