Increased use of higher-cost drugs continues to pressurize Canadian public drug plans

Representative image of Canada’s expnsive drugs on Unsplash by Myriam zilles

A new report by Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) report finds an increase in Canadian public drug plans prescription drug by 4.2% in 2020-21, bringing annual spending to $12.3 billion.

The primary factor behind rising costs for the public plans over the past five years is the use of higher-cost medicines, and this pressure continues to build.

High-cost drugs accounted for over one third of total drug costs in 2020-21, and yet were only used by 2.5% of drug plan beneficiaries. The 10 highest-cost drugs reimbursed by the public drug plans accounted for rare disease treatments with annual treatment costs of over $200,000.

Released today by the PMPRB in the eighth edition of CompassRx, an annual report published under the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS) research initiative., these findings provides insight into the factors driving prescription drug expenditures in select Canadian public drug plans. This edition focuses on the 2020-21 fiscal year.

All provincial public drug plans were included in the Study (with the exception of Quebec), as well as Yukon and the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program. These plans account for approximately one third of the total annual spending on prescription drugs in Canada. 

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