New Drug Landscape Dominated by High-cost Medicines

News release

February 19, 2019 — Ottawa, ON — Patented Medicine Prices Review Board 

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), through the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS) research initiative, today published the 2017 edition of Meds Entry Watch, an annual publication that provides the latest information on new medicines entering Canadian and international markets. 

This edition examines the availability, sales, uptake, pricing, and treatment costs of new medicines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and/or Health Canada in 2016 and 2017, and provides a look at trends since 2009. It also includes a one-time retrospective analysis of new biosimilars approved between 2006 and 2017. 

The report found that the number of new medicines launched in Canada is generally in line with the average for the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), but less than that of all seven of the PMPRB comparator countries, even though most of them have lower average patented medicine prices. Almost all of the new medicines came with high treatment costs and many were specialty drugs such as biologic, orphan, and cancer medicines. 

Meds Entry Watch is available on the PMPRB website in PDF and accessible HTML formats.

Quick facts

  • New medicines launched from 2009 to 2016 accounted for nearly one third of brand-name sales in Canada by 2017.

  • Fewer medicines were approved for market in Canada than in the US and Europe. From 2009 to 2016, slightly less than half (48%) of all new medicines were launched in Canada, placing it in line with the OECD median (43%) but behind all PMPRB7 countries. Despite this, Canada’s share of new medicine sales is high (94%), suggesting that the more important, higher selling medicines are launched here.

  • Orphan drugs, which treat rare diseases or disorders, accounted for 42% of new the medicines approved in 2016 and 45% in 2017, which is a significant increase from the 33% average from 2009 to 2014.

  • Cancer treatments continue to represent the largest share of new medicines, accounting for over one quarter of those approved in 2016 and 2017.

  • Most medicines launched in 2016 and 2017 came with a high treatment cost. Cancer medicines cost an average of $13,700 per 28-day treatment; and treatment costs of 31 of the 37 non-oncology medicines exceeded $10,000 annually.

  • Canada lags behind Europe in terms of biosimilar availability and uptake. Canada approved less than half of the 14 biosimilar medicines approved in international markets as of the end of 2017. Biosimilars are often priced higher in Canada and their uptake is relatively modest.

Associated links


PMPRB Media Relations

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