Reducing Branded Prescription Drug Prices: A Review of Policy Options

Pharmacotherapy. 2017 Nov;37(11):1469-1478. doi: 10.1002/phar.2013. Epub 2017 Oct 17.


The high prices of specialty pharmaceuticals are causing some public programs to ration care and many private insurers, including Medicare drug plans, to place specialty drugs on high cost-sharing tiers. As a result, access to these drugs is often restricted, and only a small portion of the population with a disease may receive treatment. This concern has generated a wide range of proposed solutions. We conducted a literature review and identified 52 solutions in the peer-reviewed literature that we classified into five broad categories: revising the patent system, encouraging research to increase development of new drugs, altering pharmaceutical regulation, decreasing market demand, and developing innovative pricing strategies. We discuss the rationale for these five approaches and summarize the proposed solutions. We also discuss four empirical issues that are particularly important in any discussion of policy options.

Keywords: drug costs; drug pricing; out-of-pocket costs; pharmaceutical policy; prescription drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost Sharing / economics
  • Drug Costs*
  • Drug Design
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Humans
  • Medicare / economics
  • Patents as Topic
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • United States


  • Prescription Drugs