The cost of medicine – a global overview

medicine cost US dollars

A study conducted by digital healthcare platform Medbelle has revealed the differences in the cost of medicine around the world, revealing some startling discrepancies

The study Medicine Price Index 2019 follows Medbelle’s research on the accessibility of the world’s best hospital systems and provides complimentary reflection upon the same subject matter. It provides a comparative index across 50 countries, revealing the differences in cost of 13 of the most widely recognised and indispensable medicines, including Zestril (Lisinopril), which is used to treat high blood pressure; Prozac (Fluoxetine), which is used to help manage depression, bulimia and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others; and Lantus (Insulin Glargine), which is used to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

In terms of the overall most expensive countries for medication, the US came first, costing +306.82 per cent more than the global median. This was followed by Germany (at +125.64 per cent), the UAE (at +122.03 per cent) and Italy (at +90.36 per cent).

The countries ranking as the least expensive for medicine were Thailand, which had a -93.93 per cent deviation from the global median; Kenya, at -93.76 per cent; Malaysia, at -90.80 per cent; Indonesia, at -90.23 per cent; and India, at -73.82 per cent.

When it comes to specific medicines, the US proved to be the most expensive place to purchase 12 of the 13 medicines, with Prograf (Tacrolimus) – which is used to treat immunosuppression and provide transplant rejection prevention – instead being most expensive in Saudi Arabia (+204.52 per cent above the global median). Egypt, Kenya, New Zealand, India and countries within the Southeast Asian region were most often reported as the least expensive countries to purchase each of the 13 medicines.

Daniel Kolb, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Medbelle, asserted that the 2772.92-per-cent difference in the price of Zestril between Indonesia and the US was ‘startling’, and noted that the new study ‘puts the great disparity of prices between countries into sharp relief’, with particular reference to the overall high cost of medicine in the US. “Generally, due to different levels of taxation, transportation cost, purchasing power, levels of income and patents, some price differences across borders are to be expected. However, the deviation unveiled by this study is extreme,” he said.

Kolb surmised that Medbelle has made it its mission to increase transparency regarding price and quality through the digitalisation of healthcare. “It is our hope that this index can be used to further the discussion around the immense inequality between countries when it comes to the accessibility and cost-effectiveness of healthcare,” he noted.

You can access Medbelle’s study in full here.