US hospitals pay up to 6 times more for medical devices, study finds

U.S. hospitals spend more on prescription drugs than their peers in European countries, and the same is true for medical devices, a new study published in Health Affairs suggests. In some cases, hospitals in the U.S. paid six times more for a medical device than their European counterparts.

The study was conducted by two researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science who looked at what hospitals in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy and Germany paid for various heart implants, such as stents and pacemakers. They used data from 2006 to 2014 from a large hospital panel survey consisting of 30,000 unique price points.

The researchers found that depending on the type of stent or pacemaker, U.S. hospitals paid anywhere from two to six times more than the country that paid the lowest prices. The country that often paid the lowest price was Germany.

One example provided was drug-eluting stent prices. The price of the device in the U.S. consistently exceeded the price in Germany by $1,000.

Prices between countries differed for various reasons, including the market power of medical device manufacturers and each country's tech-based regulations.

The findings suggest "that manufacturers exploit varying levels of willingness to pay and bargaining power between buyers to charge different prices across hospitals and increase profits," the researchers wrote.

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