Research Brief: Similar Drugs Cost More

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (09/27/2022) — In a research letter published in JAMA internal medicine, researchers at the University of Minnesota compared the prices of 120 drugs commonly used in humans and pets. The authors found that the price of human drugs was generally higher than the price of pet drugs containing the same ingredients at equivalent doses for humans.

On average, the retail price of human drugs was about 5.5 times higher than that of pet drugs. Discounted prices for humans were higher than pet prices for more than 60% of drugs. On average, discounted prices were 1.5 times higher for human drugs than for pet drugs.

“A 10-day supply of the same drug costs $2 for a pet dog, $10 for a person with a discount coupon, and $100 for a person without a coupon,” said Arjun Gupta, MBBS, assistant professor at the U of M. School of Medicine and Oncologist at M Health Fairview. He is also a member of the Masonic Cancer Center. “With many uninsured or underinsured humans and pets, it’s important that cash prices for medications are affordable and that pricing is not price gouging.”

Human prices were also higher than pet prices for drugs such as antibiotics. Researchers warn that this could encourage humans to source antibiotics for their own use from pets, especially as human use of antibiotics is more regulated.

The reasons for the dramatic price differentials remain unclear. The research team says one possibility could be that drugmakers engage in price discrimination by charging consumers different prices in different markets for the same product. Additionally, price differences could reflect variations in drug efficacy, willingness to pay, and manufacturing, storage, and regulatory standards.

Further research is suggested to explore the causes of price differences.

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About University of Minnesota Medical School
The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and training the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. We recognize that the U of M School of Medicine, both the Twin Cities Campus and the Duluth Campus, is located on the traditional, ancestral, and contemporary lands of the Dakota and Ojibwe, and dozens of other peoples indigenous peoples, and we affirm our commitment to tribal communities. and their sovereignty as we seek to improve and strengthen our relationships with tribal nations. For more information about U of M medical school, please visit med.umn.edu.


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