The Fund supports several networks of state health policymakers to help identify, inspire, and inform policy leaders.
The Fund identifies and shares policy ideas and analysis on topics important to state health policymakers, particularly on issues related to state leadership, primary care, aging, and total costs of care.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. And read the latest blogs from our thought leaders, including Fund President Christopher F. Koller.
The Fund publishes The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to health policy leaders.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed operating foundation that publishes The Milbank Quarterly, commissions projects, and convenes state health policy decision makers on issues they identify as important to population health.
September 2017 (Volume 95)
Olivier J. Wouters
Panos G. Kanavos
Back to The Milbank Quarterly
Context: Rising drug prices are putting pressure on health care budgets. Policymakers are assessing how they can save money through generic drugs.
Methods: We compared generic drug prices and market shares in 13 European countries, using data from 2013, to assess the amount of variation that exists between countries. To place these results in context, we reviewed evidence from recent studies on the prices and use of generics in Europe and the United States. We also surveyed peer-reviewed studies, gray literature, and books published since 2000 to (1) outline existing generic drug policies in European countries and the United States; (2) identify ways to increase generic drug use and to promote price competition among generic drug companies; and (3) explore barriers to implementing reform of generic drug policies, using a historical example from the United States as a case study.
Findings: The prices and market shares of generics vary widely across Europe. For example, prices charged by manufacturers in Switzerland are, on average, more than 2.5 times those in Germany and more than 6 times those in the United Kingdom, based on the results of a commonly used price index. The proportion of prescriptions filled with generics ranges from 17% in Switzerland to 83% in the United Kingdom. By comparison, the United States has historically had low generic drug prices and high rates of generic drug use (84% in 2013), but has in recent years experienced sharp price increases for some off-patent products. There are policy solutions to address issues in Europe and the United States, such as streamlining the generic drug approval process and requiring generic prescribing and substitution where such policies are not yet in place. The history of substitution laws in the United States provides insights into the economic, political, and cultural issues influencing the adoption of generic drug policies.
Conclusions: Governments should apply coherent supply- and demand-side policies in generic drug markets. An immediate priority is to convince more physicians, pharmacists, and patients that generic drugs are bioequivalent to branded products. Special-interest groups continue to obstruct reform in Europe and the United States.
Keywords: generic drugs, health expenditures, pharmaceutical policies, prices.
Read on Wiley Online Library
Volume 95, Issue 3 (pages 554–601) DOI: 10.1111/1468-0009.12279 Published in 2017
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund
The Milbank Quarterly’s multidisciplinary approach and commitment to applying the best empirical research to practical policymaking offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.