Same medication, different price

Monday, 02 December, 2019

Same medication, different price

Australia has ranked #40 in an index of 50 countries in a global study comparing the cost of some of the most widely recognised and indispensable medications.

The study, conducted by digital healthcare provider Medbelle, revealed global differences in medication costs, providing a comparative index across 50 countries that highlights the price of medicine as a common barrier to health care in many locations.

The United States was found to be the most expensive country in the world to buy medication, costing +306.82% more than the global median, followed by Germany (+125.64%) and the UAE (+122.03%). Thailand had the cheapest prices, costing -93.93% than the median price, followed by Kenya (-93.76%) and Malaysia (-90.80%).

“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,” Medbelle Co-Founder and Managing Director Daniel Kolb said.

“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 health care.”

The medication with the highest price deviation from the global median was the blood pressure drug lisinopril (brand name Zestril), which costs +2682.56% more in the US than the global median price.

Thirteen prevalent medications were compared on a dollar-for-dollar basis, regardless of whether they were covered by a healthcare system or paid directly by the patient. The medications compared treat a variety of conditions, from heart disease and asthma to anxiety disorders and erectile dysfunction. The average prices of both the brand compound and their generic versions were included to provide a complete profile of each medication. Dosage was normalised in order to make the price comparable.

The median price for each compound across the 50 countries was calculated, as well as how far the actual price per dose in each country deviates from the median global cost. The final index compares costs and deviations from the global median to reveal the differences in medication prices worldwide.

Overall, Australia ranked #40 out of 50 worldwide, deviating from the global median by -25.05%.

The tables below reveal a sample of results for the top and bottom ten countries with the most and least expensive medication costs in the world:

Rank Country % Deviation from the median
1 USA +306.82%
2 Germany +125.64%
3 UAE +122.03%
4 Italy +90.36%
5 Denmark +79.53%
6 Qatar +78.87%
7 Spain +78.34%
8 Netherlands +75.01%
9 Israel +56.44%
10 Iceland +56.01%

Countries where investigated medications were the most expensive.

Rank Country % Deviation from the median
50 Thailand -93.93%
49 Kenya -93.76%
48 Malaysia -90.80%
47 Indonesia -90.23%
46 India -73.82%
45 South Africa -53.72%
44 Russia -51.92%
43 Turkey -41.57%
42 Egypt -38.67%
41 South Korea -33.98%

Countries where investigated medications were the least expensive.

“One of the most glaring results of the study is how much higher the cost of medicine is in the United States in comparison to the rest of the world,” Kolb said.

“Take insulin, for example; our study shows that Americans pay around five and a half times more than the global median for the life-saving diabetes medication. To put it into perspective, imagine if an everyday item like a gallon of milk cost $3.50 in Canada, but $22.85 across the border in the US.

“We believe in the digitalisation of health care and as such have made it our mission to increase transparency regarding price and quality.

“With this study, we hope to provide patients with a similar standard of transparency when it comes to medicine prices around the world.

“There have been multiple studies on the cost of medicine, but never on such a scale as large and comparative as this. By indexing the costs of these medications around the world side by side, our study puts the great disparity of prices between them into sharp relief. For example, the fact that there is a 2772.92% difference in the price of high blood pressure medication Zestril between Indonesia and the US is startling,” Kolb said.

The table below shows where Australia ranked for the different medications investigated in the study.

For a larger image, click here.

Full results can be found at

Image credit: ©

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