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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Finds Drug Prices in Boston Soar Above WHO Benchmarks

Prices in the Boston area for generic prescription medicines were 38 times higher than the international reference prices used as benchmarks by the World Health Organization (WHO), and 158 times higher for brand-name prescriptions, a new study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers shows.

The first-of-its-kind study, published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice, also found that consumers in Boston pay 11 to 21 times the international reference prices for over-the-counter medicines. That overpricing remains even in pharmacy discount programs.

The research team analyzed the availability and prices of 25 essential medicines in a representative sample of private retail pharmacies in the Boston area. They looked at drugs such as Bactrim, Zocor, and Amoxil, as well as over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol and Benadryl.

Overall, they found, “the prices of prescription medicines were particularly high” for both brand name and generic versions. In fact, for 14 of the medications, Boston patient prices were higher than those in some other high-income countries, such as Bahrain, and in the Tatarstan Province in Russia.

“Our analysis highlights how US patients, especially those who are uninsured or pay out-of-pocket, pay extremely high prices even for off-patent (originator and generic) medicines, when compared to international reference prices,” said Dr. Richard Laing, professor of global health at BUSPH, who led the study.

To read more about the study, go to: