A Review of the Trans-Atlantic Divide on Drug Prices Between the United States and the United Kingdom

If there is one thing most Britons agree on it is their beloved NHS - free at the point of delivery healthcare for all. It is the antithesis of the United States where American citizens have to rely on insurance or potentially end up in mountains of debt for something as simple as giving birth or even getting basic medication.

Donald Trump has insistently complained about 'foreign freeloading' and has repeated called for other nations to pay more for prescription drugs. Now, Trump is eyeing the UK's NHS. As part of trade negotiations, American and British government officials have met six times to discuss the cost of medicines. The US is demanding 'full market access' in the UK for American pharmaceutical companies: meaning an end to any voluntary schemes as well as having NICE negotiate confidential discounts based on QALYs.

Could a new US-UK trade agreement affect NHS drug prices? The prices of the top 20 medicines in the UK are 4.8 times higher in the US. As of June 2019, just insulin alone is over 10 times more expensive in the US.

Trump has made clear that countries must pay more for drugs made by American firms as a pre-condition of agreeing to a trade deal. The US has included drug prices in other trade deals with Canada, Mexico and South Korea. A trade deal could lock in current and future privatization, making it impossible to reverse. Almost 20% of current NHS funding now goes to private providers.