Retail prices of essential drugs in Brazil: an international comparison

Otávio de Tolêdo Nóbrega, André Ricardo Marques, Ana Cleire Gomes de Araújo, Margô Gomes de Oliveira Karnikowski, Janeth de Oliveira Silva Naves, Lynn Dee Silver
Pan American Journal of Public Health 2007, 22 (2): 118-23

OBJECTIVES: Price is a key obstacle for consumer access to essential drugs, especially in developing countries. This study sought to compare the retail prices of essential drugs on the private market in Brazil with that of two international pricing standards.

METHODS: The retail price of all drugs on Brazil's Essential Drugs List, July 2000 edition, were compared to the retail price of the same drugs on the Swedish market and on a referential bulk-price indicator from low-cost suppliers on the international market. Ratios of Brazil's prices to Sweden's prices and Brazil's prices to the international bulk mean price-per-unit for each drug were calculated. Using linear regression analysis, the ratios were also studied in relation to the number of manufacturers.

RESULTS: For the 132 drugs that were listed on both Brazil's and Sweden's lists, unitary retail prices in Brazil were 1.9 times higher. Of the 94 drugs found on both Brazil's list and the international unit-price indicator, Brazil's national mean unit prices were 13.1 more expensive. No relationship was found between the number of manufacturers for each product and the ratios of prices.

CONCLUSIONS: Average retail prices of essential drugs in Brazil are significantly higher than in Sweden. Furthermore, international bulk prices indicate that drugs are brought to market by Brazil's private pharmacies at prices that may be excessively high in relation to production costs, creating high profit margins. The expected price-lowering effects of competition were not identified.

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