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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


MACHADO, Márcio; O'BRODOVICH, Ryan; KRAHN, Murray  and  EINARSON, Thomas R.. International drug price comparisons: quality assessment. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2011, vol.29, n.1, pp.46-51. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To quantitatively summarize results (i.e., prices and affordability) reported from international drug price comparison studies and assess their methodological quality. METHODS: A systematic search of the most relevant databases-Medline, Embase, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (IPA), and Scopus, from their inception to May 2009-was conducted to identify original research comparing international drug prices. International drug price information was extracted and recorded from accepted papers. Affordability was reported as drug prices adjusted for income. Study quality was assessed using six criteria: use of similar countries, use of a representative sample of drugs, selection of specific types of prices, identification of drug packaging, different weights on price indices, and the type of currency conversion used. RESULTS: Of the 1 828 studies identified, 21 were included. Only one study adequately addressed all quality issues. A large variation in study quality was observed due to the many methods used to conduct the drug price comparisons, such as different indices, economic parameters, price types, basket of drugs, and more. Thus, the quality of published studies was considered poor. Results varied across studies, but generally, higher income countries had higher drug prices. However, after adjusting drug prices for affordability, higher income countries had more affordable prices than lower income countries. CONCLUSIONS: Differences between drug prices and affordability in different countries were found. Low income countries reported less affordability of drugs, leaving room for potential problems with drug access, and consequently, a negative impact on health. The quality of the literature on this topic needs improvement.

Keywords : Prescription drugs; drug price; pharmaceutical trade; review.

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