U.S. drug spending tops the globe

Quick now: Which country's consumers spend the most money on prescription drugs? You got it. U.S. patients shelled out an average of $792 each for their meds in 2005, almost double the overall average among all industrialized countries.

That average was $401, a number that not only depends on drug prices, but on per capita consumption of them. So while France and Spain paid below-average prices, their drug spending came in at third and fourth place--with $515 and $509, respectively--because their citizens use more meds. And though the U.S. posted the highest per capita spending, the highest actual prices were found in Iceland and Switzerland, where the price tags beat the average by almost 50 percent.

The rest of the countries' rankings--and tons more data--can be found in a 200-page report, Pharmaceutical Pricing Policies in a Global Market, from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Interestingly, it wasn't the countries with pricing regulation that boasted the lowest prices, OECD found. Some price regulators tend to balance cost concerns with public health policies and so forth, which can hold prices higher than in other places where the market sets the price. So, OECD concludes, there's room for governments to drive a harder bargain for the pharmaceuticals they regulate.

- read the OECD release
- see the article at Seeking Alpha