When Americans talk about drug prices, the conversation is dominated by the eye-popping sticker prices of certain new drugs. We’re all aware of how sky-high prices can make it hard for some patients to afford the drugs they need. Yet few appreciate how patients also lose access to treatments when prices are too low.
"Nobody knew health care could be so complicated," was Donald Trump's now famous pronouncement on the issue. The Congressional Republicans were struggling too. Not only did they fail to reach a legislative solution, but, even worse, they were confused about where to even search for a solution. All told, health care begins to look insoluble. But is it really that complicated? Actually, no.
Why are pharmaceutical prices so high while the prices of so many other items we buy are low and even falling? The difference is competition. Drug companies typically have a monopoly on the drugs they sell, and monopolists charge high prices. So to get lower drug prices, we need more competition.