Prescription Drugs in America: The Pain of Pricing Has an Unpromising Cure

The escalating cost of prescription drugs in the United States great-ly burdens consumers and mystifies state and federal legislators. As an increasing elderly population struggles to pay for prescription drugs, law makers try to find a solution that balances the public interest with the profit-seeking interests of private drug manufacturers. Short-term solu-tions, such as illegal importation of drugs and replacement of name brands with generic drugs, temporarily alleviate some, but not all, of the rising costs to consumers. Moreover, some short-term solutions are put-ting the health and safety of consumers at risk.This note examines federal and state attempts to resolve the prescription drug crisis in the United States. The author discusses reasons for high prices in the United States, the problems associated with short-term solu-tions, and alternative systems successfully used by other countries to con-trol drug costs. The author recommends two long-term solutions that balance free-market principles with the health and welfare of American citizens. The author proposes that: (1) decreasing patent protection terms to make cheaper alternatives available more quickly; and (2) creat-ing a federal committee to oversee drug manufacturers’ pricing mecha-nisms in order to reduce and regulate arbitrarily high prices will de-crease costs but still maintain market competition. Although these solutions are not perfect, they are the most realistic solutions currently available.

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