The U.S. healthcare system is, to put it lightly, a complete trash fire. Compared to people living in other well-off countries, Americans are overall sicker and die at a younger age. Adding insult to injury, Americans also have to pay more for their health care, and a large part of that added cost comes from high-priced prescription drugs and other treatments.
In mid-August, President Biden signed the Inflation Relief Act into law, a major legislative package that includes several important reforms intended to curb high health care costs. These reforms are likely to be mostly modest in impact, however, and some won’t come into effect for several years, such as allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of certain drugs starting in 2026. In the meantime, prices for newly launched drugs may reach a record high this year, if trends hold.
Many treatments are more expensive in the U.S. than elsewhere or are rising in price at levels much higher than inflation in general would dictate. But there are some especially costly drugs out there, so let’s go through a few of the worst offenders.
Some of these drugs have the highest list prices around, while others are at the top of their particular category, such as those that have become generic. Another important note is that patients often don’t pay for the entirety of their drugs, especially if they have private or public insurance or if they’re eligible for discount programs run by the drug’s manufacturers. But coverage plans don’t always foot the bill for people’s recommended treatments, and even when covered, high list prices have historically contributed to high out-of-pocket costs and constrain the resources of public payers like Medicare and Medicaid.
Drug companies are reluctant to share the list prices of their drugs. So many of the costs cited here come from several recent analyses by GoodRx, a company that tracks drug prices and also offers coupons on select drugs.