Confirming what most Americans intuitively knew, prescription drugs in the United States rank as the most expensive when compared with what citizens of other nations pay, with the average cost of medications in the US exceeding the global median price by some 300 percent.
The index compares the affordability - or lack thereof - for the same drugs across 50 countries, showing how prices in each nation deviate from the global median.
"The medications chosen for comparison span a variety of common conditions: from heart disease and asthma, to anxiety disorders and erectile dysfunction," said a press release accompanying the study results. "The average prices of both the brand compound and their generic versions were included in order to have a complete profile of each medication," it added, saying that the dosage size was also normalised.
A long list of potentially life-saving medicines are extremely costly in the US when compared with world averages.
Insulin - critical for managing diabetes, is priced far higher in the US than elsewhere.
"Americans pay around five and a half times more than the global median for life-saving insulin," said Daniel Kolb, cofounder and managing director at Medbelle. "To put it into perspective, imagine if an everyday item like a gallon of milk cost $3.50 in Canada, but $22.85 across the border in the US."
Of the 13 vital pharmaceutical medications that were evaluated on a dollar-for-dollar basis - whether paid by individuals or care providers - blood pressure drug Lisinopril showed the greatest deviation in the US, with a price tag that exceeded the global median by some 2,682 percent.
Lipitor, a cholesterol and cardiovascular drug, is 2,175 percent more expensive in the US than the global median, while Zithromax, an antibiotic for bacterial infections, is 1,755 percent more expensive.
Xanax, which is prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders, costs 2,568 percent more in the US. Prozac, used for depression and other mental illnesses, is 2,124 percent more expensive in the US than the world median.
For Viagra, the difference was US prices 660 percent higher than the median.
While patents, transportation costs, taxation, purchasing power and income levels all influence the cost of drugs globally, "the deviation unveiled by this study is extreme", said Kolb.