Payers' experiences with confidential pharmaceutical price discounts: A survey of public and statutory health systems in North America, Europe, and Australasia

Health Policy. 2017 Apr;121(4):354-362. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2017.02.002. Epub 2017 Feb 16.


Institutional payers for pharmaceuticals worldwide appear to be increasingly negotiating confidential discounts off of the official list price of pharmaceuticals purchased in the community setting. We conducted an anonymous survey about experiences with and attitudes toward confidential discounts on patented pharmaceuticals in a sample of high-income countries. Confidential price discounts are now common among the ten health systems that participated in our study, though some had only recently begun to use these pricing arrangements on a routine basis. Several health systems had used a wide variety of discounting schemes in the past two years. The most frequent discount received by participating health systems was between 20% and 29% of official list prices; however, six participants reported their health system received one or more discount over the past two years that was valued at 60% or more of the list prices. On average, participants reported that confidential discounts were more common, complex, and significant for specialty pharmaceuticals than for primary care pharmaceuticals. Participants had a more favorable view of the impact of confidential discount schemes on their health systems than on the global marketplace. Overall, the frequency, complexity, and scale of confidential discounts being routinely negotiated suggest that the list prices for medicines bear limited resemblance to what many institutional payers actually pay.

Keywords: Coverage; Discounts; Pharmaceuticals; Prices; Rebates; Reimbursement; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Australasia
  • Confidentiality*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis / economics*
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Industry / economics*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Negotiating*
  • North America
  • Surveys and Questionnaires