Study finds Canadians are still paying too much for generic drugs

A new study has found that Canada is still paying far more than other industrialized countries for generic drugs, despite recent efforts by the provinces and territories to cuts costs by bulk-buying six particularly costly medications.

OTTAWA — A new study has found that Canada is still paying far more than other industrialized countries for generic drugs, despite recent efforts by the provinces and territories to cuts costs by bulk-buying six particularly costly medications.

The study by the University of Ottawa and the Bruyere Research Institute says the price tags on the six drugs — which include medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol — remain much higher in Canada than they are elsewhere.

It adds that while Canadians are saving some money under the bulk-purchasing scheme, they’re still spending much more than people in the U.K., Germany, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States.

In April 2013, the provinces and territories reached an agreement at a Council of the Federations meeting to pay significantly lower prices for the six drugs — amlodipine, atorvastatin, omeprazole, rabeprazole, ramipril, and venlafaxine — by joining forces to buy them in bulk.

Those medications account for about 20 per cent of publicly funded spending on drugs.

They expected the lower price they paid for the generics — just 18 per cent of the cost for the brand-name drug — would save up to $100 million.

The study, published Tuesday on openmedicine.ca, found that the bulk-buying plan “saves some money compared with prices paid in the past.”

But it faults the provinces and territories for establishing a set price ceiling for generics at 18 per cent of the cost of brand-name drugs, saying they could drive much harder bargains with a national competitive bidding process of the type that thrives in other countries.

The bulk-buying efforts remain “grossly deficient when one considers the opportunity costs that Canada sustains annually by refraining from adopting one of the alternative systems proven to be more effective in its peer countries. … Why the Council has decided against taking one of these or a similar approach at this time is unknown.”

One of the study’s authors says Canadian prices for some of the medications are more than double those of peer countries.

Jason Nickerson, a clinical investigator at Bruyere, also noted that some of those countries were buying the medications from a Canadian company, Apotex, at substantially lower prices than Canadians are paying.

New Zealanders pay 87 per cent less for the blood pressure medication amlodipine, for example, while veterans in the U.S. pay 94 per cent less for the anti-depressant venlafaxine.

High generic drug prices in Canada have prompted calls for a national pharmacare program. Under pharmacare, prescription drugs would be covered through a publicly funded system rather than out-of-pocket.

Canada, with its aging population, is the only industrialized nation with universal health insurance but no public coverage of prescription drug costs.

An estimated one in 10 Canadians can’t fill prescriptions because of the expense. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has also found that Canada has the second-highest, per-capita spending on prescription drugs in the OECD.

A recently released study commissioned by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions determined there are potential savings of up to $11.4 billion a year for Canadian taxpayers via pharmacare due to decreased drug costs and reduced administration fees.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose hasn’t committed to a national pharmacare strategy.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Aaron Goodvin sings at Westerner Days

Aaron Goodvin performed at Westerner Days Wednesday.… Continue reading

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Central Alberta

There’s a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Red Deer and the… Continue reading

WATCH: Sun shines on Red Deer’s Westerner Days parade

George Young has been a Westerner Days parade marshal for about 28… Continue reading

Central Alberta receives funding for regional emergency training

Alberta Municipal Affairs announces $160,000 for training on top of $40,000 previously received

WATCH: Global FMX at Westerner Days

There are three freestyle motocross shows a day at Westerner Park this week

Study links air pollution to drop in national park visitors

DENVER — Visitors appear to be steering clear of some U.S. national… Continue reading

Banff’s bathroom bears returned to the park after 15 months of rehab in Ontari

Three cubs found abandoned in a washroom along the Trans-Canada Highway in… Continue reading

Canada could get caught in cross-fire of U.S. uranium investigation

Canada could get caught in the crossfire after the U.S. Department of… Continue reading

Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has unveiled his pre-election cabinet, shuffling… Continue reading

Canada’s premiers meet Indigenous groups, although three major groups decline

BOUCTOUCHE, N.B. — Canada’s premiers are meeting with Indigenous organizations in New… Continue reading

An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle

OTTAWA — An updated list of federal cabinet ministers following Wednesday’s shuffle,… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month