Caps on Capsules: Prescription for Lower Drug Prices in the United States

Christine Chasse


The United States is the foremost innovator of pharmaceutical therapies in the world. That innovation, however, comes at a price—literally. Americans pay more for their medications than any other country. In a country without universal healthcare, the topics of economics, human rights, and healthcare intersect at the crossroads of pharmaceutical pricing. In contrast to most other countries, the United States has no regulations on pharmaceutical price control. One major argument against government regulation is its inherent opposition to the free market system: the heart of the American economy. Further still is the argument that profit restriction would create a chilling effect on the industry, stifling the pharmaceutical industry’s cutting-edge (but expensive) innovations and jeopardizing the United States’ leading position in the global pharmaceutical industry. The most basic argument for profit control is to prevent pharmaceutical price monopolization so Americans can afford the care prescribed to them. This Comment summarizes some of the unique issues in the pharmaceutical industry, major arguments for and against profit control, and the current climate in United States’ politics and laws regarding this issue for a possible solution. Proposed solutions herein include policy changes to enhance Medicare’s ability to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers, limiting drug companies’ ability to raise prices without confines or explanation, and making reimbursement contingent on drug performance to ensure that new medications provide measurable benefits. This multipronged approach would not only make medications more affordable, but it would also increase the quality of new formularies.