From the Economist:

THE street price of cocaine varies hugely across the world. No surprise that it is cheapest in Colombia, the world’s biggest producer of coca: at $2, a gram costs less than a Big Mac. Geography is an obvious price factor. The farther away a country from the main producers in South and Central America, and the more isolated it is, the higher the cost to traffick there. In far-flung New Zealand, a gram costs a wallet-busting $714.30. But there are some pricing anomalies. Although the street price in Japan is several times higher than in Israel, Germany and Britain, the wholesale price in the countries is similar, around $46.40. In Canada the wholesale price is 50% more than in America, but Canadians pay 40% less on the street. It could be that policing is more zealous in some countries, or that there is less competition among suppliers.

Infographic: Painkiller Withdrawal Symptoms

Infographic: Prescription and Illegal Drug Use in America

StreetRx CPDD Poster

According to Express Scripts Holding Co.‘s annual drug-trend report, spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. rose 2.7% in 2011, the smallest increase in nearly two decades. This decreased rate of increase was largely caused by an increased use of generic drugs. In 2011, for example, Pfizer’s cholesterol drug Lipitor lost U.S. market exclusivity. (In 2012, major drugs like the blood thinner Plavix also go off patent.) The weak economy has also caused patients to put off health-care visits.

WSJ article

Washington State has passed a bill imposing “new requirements on doctors to refer patients taking high dosages of opioids — which include hydrocodone, fentanyl, methadone and oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin — for evaluation by a pain specialist if their underlying condition is not improving.”

The new harder-to-crush formulation of OxyContin sells for 28% less on the street, according to data collected by StreetRx. But black market prices for other drugs are increasing. There may be more to this story

Federal legislators on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform are investigating allegations of prescription-drug price gouging by three pharmacies in Maryland and North Carolina. The pharmacies are accused of selling scarce drugs to wholesalers, which then resell the drugs at vastly marked-up prices. In some cases, wholesalers established their own pharmacies in order to get access to drugs in short supply.

The lawmakers’ investigation found evidence of one transaction where a licensed pharmacy called Priority Healthcare bought a chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil for $6.77 per vial. A distributor it owned called Tri-Med America allegedly soon sold the cancer medicine to another company for more than 10 times the initial price — $69 per vial.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, ABC News