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Public plans covered only 26% of the 491 new drugs approved by Health Canada from 2009 to 2018; national pharmacare is an empty promise for 23.2 million Canadians now covered by private plans

/EIN News/ -- TORONTO, Sept. 11, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Two new studies confirm the abysmal state of access to innovative medicines in Canada’s publicly funded drug plans. The research, published in the journal Canadian Health Policy, found that public plans cover far fewer new drugs compared to private plans in Canada. Public plans also take much longer to cover new drugs compared to private plans. The findings are important because the federal government has proposed replacing Canada's private-public prescription drug insurance system with a single-payer national pharmacare program modeled on existing public formularies.

In one study researchers compared the coverage of new medicines across the 11 Federal and Provincial public drug formularies:

  • Health Canada approved 491 new drugs from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2018.
  • On average only 26% of these new drugs were covered by public drug plans by May 30, 2019.
  • Quebec covered the highest percentage of new drugs (34%). Prince Edward Island covered the lowest percentage of new drugs (20%).
  • The average wait to list a new drug on the public formulary was 690 days.
  • Quebec had the shortest average wait (507 days). Prince Edward Island had the longest average wait (882 days).

Data were not available to compare the thousands of private sector plans in Canada. But, in a separate study researchers were able to compare coverage of new drugs at the sector-level, based on the first listing recorded by any private or public plan in Canada.

  • Of the 491 new drugs approved by Health Canada from 2009 to 2018, 87% (427) were covered by at least one private plan compared to 47% (229) that were covered by at least one public plan, as of May 30, 2019.
  • Comparing just the drugs covered by both sectors, the average wait to first listing was 152 days for private plans and 473 days for public plans.

The results of these studies forewarn that national pharmacare will reduce access to new medicines for Canadians currently covered under private plans. Of the 36.3 million people who lived in Canada in 2016, 23.2 million people were covered under a private drug plan. The remaining 13.1 million people had public drug benefits or were otherwise eligible for safety-net coverage under public drug plans.

CHPI will provide complimentary digital copies of the referenced studies upon media request.


Launched in 2012, Canadian Health Policy Institute (CHPI) is a private-sector research enterprise and the publisher of Canadian Health Policy (CHP) journal, which features the work of CHPI affiliated researchers and external independent authors. The institute is funded by sales of articles and subscriptions to readers. We set articles free (or at reduced prices) if the research and publishing costs are recovered through sponsorship. Our published research is subject to formal review and critique by CHP editorial staff, CHPI affiliated researchers and independent external experts in health economics and health policy.


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