Regulation and pricing of pharmaceuticals: Reference pricing or price cap regulation?
We study the relationship between regulatory regimes and pharmaceutical firms' pricing strategies using a unique policy experiment in Norway, which in 2003 introduced a reference price (RP) system called "index pricing" for a sub-sample of off-patent pharmaceuticals, replacing the existing price cap (PC) regulation. We estimate the effect of the reform using a product level panel dataset, covering the drugs exposed to RP and a large number of drugs still under PC regulation in the time before and after the policy change. Our results show that RP significantly reduces both brand-name and generic prices within the reference group, with the effect being stronger for brand-names. We also identify a negative cross-price effect on therapeutic substitutes not included in the RP system. In terms of policy implications, the results suggest that RP is more effective than PC regulation in lowering drug prices, while the cross-price effect raises a concern about patent protection.
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