Backgrounder: Improving affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs in Canada


May 2017

Prescription drugs are an important part of our health care system. They can help to diagnose, cure, control and prevent disease and improve quality of life. That is why the Government of Canada is committed to improving the affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs to improve the health of Canadians and better meet health care system needs.

The Government of Canada is taking action to:

  • lower the cost of prescription drugs;
  • provide timely access to new drugs and therapies that are safe, effective and of high quality to meet the needs of Canadians; and
  • support the development of tools for more appropriate prescribing.

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs

Drug prices in Canada are among the highest in the developed world. We are working with the provinces and territories to reduce drug costs. As a member of the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, we are combining our buying power with that of the provinces and territories to make prescription drugs more affordable for public drug plans and lower generic drug prices for all payers.

We are also modernizing the way prescription drug prices are regulated to better protect Canadian consumers from high prices for patented drugs. In consultation with stakeholders and the public, we will strengthen the Patented Medicines Regulations under the Patent Act. The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board will reform the guidelines it uses to implement the act and its regulations.

Providing faster access to safe and effective prescription drugs

We will support more timely access to the latest medicines, while continuing to ensure their safety, quality and efficacy.

We are aligning our review process with health partners and expanding the priority review process to better respond to the needs of Canadians.

This includes work with organizations that advise administrators of public drug plans on the cost-effectiveness of new drugs to inform decisions on which medicines their plans will cover. Our work will include:

  • considering health care system needs in the criteria for priority reviews;
  • providing joint guidance to drug companies early in their drug development process; and
  • aligning the review processes of Health Canada, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) and the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) to facilitate earlier access to important new drugs.

Improving appropriate prescribing and use of prescription drugs

We will help improve the quality and efficiency of patient care through more appropriate prescribing practices.

We are working with partners and stakeholders, including CADTH, to develop policies and tools for appropriate prescribing. For example, we will identify best practices, support existing initiatives and promote new implementation strategies.

Our actions will help reduce the health risks and wasted resources that can result from the underuse, overuse and misuse of prescription drugs.

Financial Investment

To support these actions, Budget 2017 outlined an investment of:

  • $140.3 million over 5 years, starting in 2017-18; and
  • $18.2 million per year ongoing.

These investments are for Health Canada, the PMPRB and CADTH.

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