I am the co-author of a publication in Open Medicine today that’s getting quite a bit of media coverage. Our study “Pan-Canadian overpricing of medicines: a 6-country study of cost control for generic medicines” was published this morning online, and has since been covered by The Toronto Star and in various publications by the Canadian Press.

The conclusion of our study is quite simple: Canadians continue to overpay for generic medicines. Canada has been long-known as having generic drugs that are more expensive than peer countries, but our study is the first to evaluate a new attempt by Canada’s provincial and territorial ministers of health to reduce the cost of 6 generic medicines that comprise 20% of pharmaceutical spending through a specific program of cost reductions. This initiative, initiated by the Council of the Federation, pegged the reimbursement cost of these 6 medicines – used to treat hypertension, dyslipidemia, and depression, among others – at 18% of the cost of the brand-name drug (the on-patent price), and expected to save $100 million annually.

We have no doubt that this initiative will save Canadians millions of dollars annually, and probably already has (it’s been in effect for over a year, and has already been expanded to include a total of 10 drugs); this represents a significant price reduction for 6 commonly-used, and expensive, drugs. However, when we compared the price that Canadians pay with the price of the same drugs and strengths in 6 comparable countries, we found that Canadians continue to overpay by a median price ratio of 2.13. Or, put another way, we pay 2.13 times more for the same drugs than patients in similarly wealthy countries of a similar market size. Even drugs that are manufactured and sold by Canadian generics companies are cheaper elsewhere – one drug supplied by Apotex (a Canadian manufacturer) was 86-87% less expensive internationally than in Canada.

This points to a significant need to reconsider how Canadians are sourcing medicines and ensuring that we continue to keep on top of Canadian healthcare policy.

Read the full article on Open Medicine’s site. (It’s open access!)