I just paid $111 in Paris for drugs that cost me $411 last month at Costco

I just arrived in Paris today for my annual medical tourism and house-sitting (and working with Chris to devise AMERICAblog 3.0). The money I save on my asthma drugs by buying them in France rather than in the US (at Costco) will pay for my flight to Europe and then some. Here are two drugs I bought today – these are both only a one-month supply.

The first drug is Symbicort.  Note that both drugs, the US version and the French version, are made and sold by the same pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca.  This isn’t some cheap knockoff – which is the lie the FDA is spouting to justify this rip-off of the American taxpayer – it’s the same company charging 3.5x the price when it sees that your passport says “American.”

And here is another drug for allergies, Singulair, but in my case my doctor prescribes it for my asthma, as it helps to reduce inflammation in the lungs.  You’ll note that the French version and the American version of Singulair are made and sold by Merck & Co.  Merck marks it drug up by 400% when it sees that you’re American.

Why do companies like Merck and AstroZeneca charge Americans nearly four times what they charge Europeans for certain drugs?  Because they can.  European governments refuse to let companies like Merck and AstroZeneca make such obscene profits on their prescription drug sales, so they tell those companies that if you want to sell your drugs in Europe, you’re going to lower the price and only make a “reasonable” profit.

So what do the drug companies do?  They cut their prices in quarter in Europe, and then quadruple the prices in America to make up the difference.

Americans are quite literally subsidizing cheap prescription drug prices in Europe (we are in essence paying a drug tax forced on us by both political parties) and we have both Democrats and Republicans in Washington – who are all beholden to Big Pharma – to thank for it.

Oh, but it gets better.

I just was searching the AMERICAblog archives, and I found this post from July of 2009, nearly three years ago. In it, I talk about the price I paid for Symbicort in France at the time, versus what I paid in the states.

Here’s what I found.  The price of Symbicort in France three years ago was 54 Euros ($66) – that’s the same price Symbicort goes for today in Paris – AstraZeneca hasn’t increased the price one cent in three years.  But a funny thing happens when you look at the price of Symbicort in the US over that same time period.  Three years ago it was $194.  Today it goes for $233.  That’s a 20% increase in the price of the drug since 2009.

So, AstraZeneca is not only charging Americans 3.5x what it charges Europeans for the same drug, but over the past three years AstraZeneca has kept the relatively-low price of the drug in Europe stable – a zero percent increase in the price charged Europeans – while AstraZeneca increased the already-exorbitant US price by 20% while US inflation never topped 3% in any of those three years.

We’re already paying the price of socialized medicine in America, with none of the benefits.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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