Aspirin

When I first started thinking about the idea of going to Europe, in high school, there was an urban legend that you could sell regular old Levi’s jeans, purchased at regular prices in the US, for exorbitant sums in Europe. No one I know ever tried it, and from what I’ve always seen, the clothes here are competitively priced. They’re also generally better made than clothes in the US, in terms of fit and styling, but I guess that’s to be expected in Italy.

In any case, I think the “genuine American Levi’s” of today is Aspirin. Not that I’d suggest trying to import massive quantities of it by stuffing your suitcase full of aspirin bottles, but if you look at the prices, it’s extremely expensive here in Italy.

The last time our friend Andrea was in the states, she was kind enough to pick up a bottle of store-brand Aspirin for Ilenia and I. It wasn’t very expensive:

10 dollars for 1000 tablets containing 325 milligrams of Aspirin each, for a grand total of 325,000 milligrams.

That comes out to 325 milligrams (one tablet) a cent.

In Italy, I checked out the price at the local pharmacy the other day:

3.95 euro for 20 tables at 500 mg of Aspirin apiece, for a total of 10,000 milligrams.

25 milligrams a euro-cent.

In other words, Aspirin is more than ten times cheaper in the US! More considering the weak dollar at the time of this writing.

Aspirin, otherwise known as acetylsalicylic acid is not exactly the latest wonder drug. It has been manufactured for more than 100 years, and was known to the ancient Greeks in the form of tea made from tree bark.

Attentive readers will point out the fact that Italy has a public health care system, where if you have major surgery, the government (and thus, you and your fellow citizens) foot the bill for it, and that that more than makes up for the fact that you’re getting ripped off for ordinary aspirin. Perhaps that’s true, but the fact of the matter is that the huge margins on aspirin are not being used to prop up the state health care system, but rather go directly to Bayer, which has a monopoly on the sale of aspirin in Italy.

(*) As an aside, if you believe the Italians, American aspirin is “stronger”. I’m not sure how they arrived at this conclusion, since it seems difficult that an equivalent amount of the same substance would be more effective, but there you have it.

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