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Thanks to remarkable advances in modern health care attributable to science, engineering, and medicine, it is now possible to cure or manage illnesses that were long deemed untreatable. At the same time, however, the United States is facing the vexing challenge of a seemingly uncontrolled rise in the cost of health care. Total medical expenditures are rapidly approaching 20 percent of the gross domestic product and are crowding out other priorities of national importance. The use of increasingly expensive prescription drugs is a significant part of this problem, making the cost of biopharmaceuticals a serious national concern with broad political implications. Especially with the highly visible and very large price increases for prescription drugs that have occurred in recent years, finding a way to make prescription medicines—and health care at large—more affordable for everyone has become a socioeconomic imperative.

Affordability is a complex function of factors, including not just the prices of the drugs themselves, but also the details of an individual’s insurance coverage and the number of medical conditions that an individual or family confronts. Therefore, any solution to the affordability issue will require considering all of these factors together. The current high and increasing costs of prescription drugs—coupled with the broader trends in overall health care costs—is unsustainable to society as a whole.

Making Medicines Affordable examines patient access to affordable and effective therapies, with emphasis on drug pricing, inflation in the cost of drugs, and insurance design. This report explores structural and policy factors influencing drug pricing, drug access programs, the emerging role of comparative effectiveness assessments in payment policies, changing finances of medical practice with regard to drug costs and reimbursement, and measures to prevent drug shortages and foster continued innovation in drug development. It makes recommendations for policy actions that could address drug price trends, improve patient access to affordable and effective treatments, and encourage innovations that address significant needs in health care.

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Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24946.

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Publication Info

234 pages | 6 x 9 | 

ISBNs: 
  • Paperback:  978-0-309-46805-3
  • Ebook:  978-0-309-46808-4
DOI: https://doi.org/10.17226/24946

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