Prescription Drug Prices, Transgender Troops, Space Diplomacy: RAND Weekly Recap

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January 29, 2021

We discuss of U.S. prescription drug prices compared to those in other countries; the implications of allowing transgender troops in the military; food insecurity during the pandemic; risks posed by of the Internet of Bodies; the history of attacks on Western diplomatic facilities; and how the Biden administration can galvanize space diplomacy.

Bottles of drugs on the shelf at the Rock Canyon Pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, May 9, 2019, photo by George Frey/Reuters

Photo by George Frey/Reuters

U.S. Prescription Drug Prices Are Much Higher Than Those in Other Countries

Prescription drug prices in the United States are, on average, 2.56 times those in 32 other countries. That's according to a new RAND report.

Brand-name drugs are the primary driver of America's higher prescription drug prices: For branded drugs, U.S. prices averaged 3.44 times those in other nations. Prices for generic drugs, on the other hand, are slightly lower in the United States than in most other countries.

Transparency about prices may help address the problem of rising U.S. prescription drug spending, which is estimated to account for more than 10 percent of the country's total health care spending.

Silhouetted soldiers on patrol at sunset

Soldiers patrol near Multinational Base Tirin Kot, Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, November 6, 2013

Photo by Cpl. Mark Doran/Australian Defense Force

Allowing Transgender Troops to Serve in the Military

On Monday, President Biden signed an executive order reversing a policy that banned transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. A RAND report published in 2016 examined the implications of allowing transgender personnel to serve openly. Its key takeaway: The effect on military readiness and health care costs is likely to be small.

Woman in the grocery store buying produce, photo by Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

Photo by Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

Food Insecurity: How the Pandemic Magnifies Racial Disparities

Since 2011, RAND researchers have been working to understand how diet, access to food, and other factors affect the health and well-being of residents of two low-income, predominantly Black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. Food insecurity had been falling in these communities over the last decade. But COVID-19 erased much of that progress. Food insecurity increased by nearly 80 percent in the first weeks of the pandemic. This far outpaces food insecurity observed among the general U.S. population during the same period.

An illustration of a pacemaker in a person's chest, image by peterschreiber.media/Adobe Stock

Image by peterschreiber.media/Adobe Stock

Are We Ready for the Internet of Bodies?

Artificial pancreases that can help diabetics manage their blood-sugar levels. Brain implants that allow amputees to control their prosthetic limbs. Smart stents that can monitor for blood clots. Internet of Bodies devices could revolutionize the health care system. But according to a RAND study, there are serious privacy, security, and ethical concerns to consider, too.

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo September 11, 2012, photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, September 11, 2012

Photo by Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The History of Attacks on Western Diplomatic Facilities

As the most visible symbols of Western governments and their policies, U.S. and allied diplomatic facilities like embassies and consulates are frequent targets of violence. To learn more about the threats to these facilities and how to prevent them, RAND researchers reviewed data on all attacks from 1979 to 2019. Notably, they found that the majority of past attacks culminated—that is, reached a point at which response forces would no longer make a difference—in two hours or less.

3D rendering of earth with red lines representing communication or weapons, photo by DKosig/Getty Images

Photo by DKosig/Getty Images

How Biden Can Galvanize Space Diplomacy

With governments developing weapons for use in space and commercial space activity on the rise, there's a growing risk of extra-terrestrial conflict. According to RAND experts, the Biden administration has an opportunity to enhance safety and security in space by establishing norms for responsible behavior. These norms could range from informal rules of the road to legally binding international agreements.

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