Drug Bust

Relative to other wealthy countries, what happened to drug prices in the US over the past few decades?

*Fun facts: Americans use prescription drugs for 12 percent fewer days per year than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. And we use a greater proportion of generic drugs here than most other countries — 84 percent of prescriptions are generic.

Though Americans take a lower proportion of brand-name drugs, the prices of those drugs are a lot higher than in other countries. For many drugs, U.S. prices are twice those found in Canada, for example.

Prices are a lot higher for brand-name drugs in the United States because we lack the widespread policies to limit drug prices that many other countries have.

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe one trend from the chart?

  3. Explain one reason for the trend?*

  4. Other countries decline to pay for a drug when the price is too high. Why do you think the U.S. pays for overly expensive drugs?

  5. What about our political culture or American political values explains why we pay so much more for drugs than other countries?

  6. Describe one consequence of the trend from the chart?

  7. Describe one action the U.S. Congress could take if it wanted to reverse this trend?

  8. Considering that it did not reverse the trend from the chart, explain why the Congress would NOT try to lower drug prices in the U.S.?

  9. Describe one action the President could take regarding the trend:

  10. For whom is this trend good news and for whom is it bad news?

  11. In what way does the data in the chart either support or counter the claim that America is a democracy, where the government does what is best for the people.?

  12. Imagine an American did not like the fact that we pay so much more than our peers for so much less - we pay more, they live longer. Describe a political action they could take.

Learning Extension

Read the details of why we pay so much more for so much less than other countries from the Upshot.

Action Extension

Think about an action you could take about this issue and share your ideas in class or online. Brainstorm with your class about the most politically efficacious action you could take and lay out a course of action.


Scroll to the bottom of the article on drug prices from The Upshot and leave a well reasoned claim on their comment page.

Suprising Therapy Animal Extension

We’ll share photographs of our favorite therapy animals over the next few class starters. Enjoy! If you have any crazy therapy animal photos please send them to me at jonathan@gopopro.com