Professor, Alumni Co-Author Journal’s Most Influential Article

Posted on: July 14, 2017 Topics: access to medicines

From left: Richard Laing, Abhishek Sharma (SPH'15), and Lindsey Rorden (SPH'15)

From left: Richard Laing, Abhishek Sharma (SPH’15), and Lindsey Rorden (SPH’15)

An article by Richard Laing, professor of global health, and his former students Abhishek Sharma (SPH’15) and Lindsey Rorden (SPH’15) was one of the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice’s five most influential articles of 2016.

The first-of-its-kind study, “Evaluating Availability and Price of Essential Medicines in Boston Area (Massachusetts, USA) Using WHO/HAI Methodology,” found prices in pharmacies in the Boston area for generic prescription medicines were 38 times higher than the international reference prices used as benchmarks by the World Health Organization (WHO), and 158 times higher for brand-name prescriptions for the same medicines.

The study also found consumers in Boston pay 11 to 21 times the international reference prices for over-the-counter medicines, even in pharmacy discount programs. The WHO target of four times international reference prices makes allowances for additional costs in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

“This article is important because 88 percent of medicines dispensed in the US are generic,” Laing says, “and while great attention has been focused on the prices of new patent protected medicines, the essential generic medicines surveyed make up the bulk of prescriptions dispensed. Focusing on these prices as well as patented originator medicines could be an important aspect of controlling medicine prices.”

Laing notes some outlets, such as box stores, do offer prices close to the WHO target, indicating it is possible to reduce generic medicine prices.

The study arose out of field work by students taking Laing’s class, Analyzing Pharmaceutical Systems. Sharma and Rorden led the study, collaborating with Margaret Ewen, a researcher at Health Action International in Amsterdam. The survey was repeated in 2015 and 2016 by class participants.

Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice (formerly known as Southern Med Review) announces its most influential articles each year based on readership, media coverage, and citations.

Michelle Samuels


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