The idea that US consumers are subsidising the rest of the world by paying high prices for pharmaceuticals is spurious, according to a US professor.

Patricia Danzon of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania told a conference at Rutgers Business School earlier this week that it is true that Americans pay more for their on-patent drugs than overseas patients in dollar terms, but if per capita income is factored into the equation, the prices are ‘roughly in line’.

She also said that government-funded studies comparing country-to-country drug prices – including a US General Accounting Office which concluded that US prices were 32% and 60% higher than prices in Canada and the United Kingdom, respectively - are flawed. This is because they don’t include sales of generic drugs, which now make up 50% of the US pharmaceuticals market, according to a report in Generics tend to be cheaper in the USA than overseas, according to Danzon.

She also claimed that a uniform, international pricing system was counter-productive because it discouraged innovation and made it harder for patients in poorer countries to access new medicines.