A systematic review of reference pricing: implications for US prescription drug spending

Am J Manag Care. 2012 Nov 1;18(11):e429-37.


Given rising pharmaceutical expenditures and the widespread use of reference pricing as a costcontainment instrument abroad, we systematically reviewed the evidence evaluating reference pricing policies. We performed a structured electronic search of peer-reviewed journals for studies published before that reported on the effects of reference pricing policies on medication use, payer and patient spending, and resource consumption. Our search yielded 16 studies describing 9 reference-pricing policies from 6 countries. Reference-pricing policies led to decreases in drug prices and increases in utilization of targeted medications, while also reducing payer and patient expenditures. In addition, these policies did not lead to increased use of medical services, such as physician office visits and hospitalization. These results suggest that reference pricing may be an attractive policy strategy for the US healthcare system.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost Control
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / methods*
  • Drug Utilization / economics
  • Drugs, Generic / economics
  • Humans
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • United States


  • Drugs, Generic
  • Prescription Drugs