This article compares the pharmaceutical pricing policies employed by public and private insurers in the United States with seven price and spending control strategies employed in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Differences between American and European policies explain why American pharmaceutical prices and per capita spending are higher than in European nations. The article then analyzes two recent bills as examples of significant American reform ideas—H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (introduced in 2019) and the Build Back Better Act (BBBA, introduced in 2021)—and compares them with European cost control strategies. Key drug price provisions of the BBBA were incorporated into the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). H.R. 3 would have used an international (mostly European) price index to cap U.S. prices; the BBBA would cap Medicare prices at a discount from average U.S. market prices. Neither bill would employ the key cost control strategies that European nations do. Both bills would have significantly less impact on prices than legislation that employs European-style cost controls. This article proposes steps that Congress could take in line with European strategies to lower purchase prices and costs for patients. These measures would have to overcome political obstacles that currently stymie reform.

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