In 2013, a record $29.3 billion was spent on prescription drugs in Canada

  • The public sector finances roughly 40% of prescribed drug spending in Canada, with the remainder financed by private insurers and individuals.
  • Drugs used to treat conditions related to the cardiovascular or nervous system accounted for roughly 40% of public drug spending. Nervous system drugs include treatment for mental health conditions and for pain.

Per person, Canada is second only to the U.S. in spending on prescription drugs

  • Spending on prescribed drugs in Canada has increased every year since 1985.
  • Even though the amount of money Canadians spent on drugs rose in 2013, the annual rate of growth – 2.3% – was the second-lowest in more than two decades.

The majority of public drug spending is for a small number of high-cost individuals

  • Almost half of these people are taking high-cost drugs used to treat conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and macular degeneration.

The slowed growth in spending is due, in part, to the increased use of less-expensive generic drugs

  • The use of generics is increasing because several of the most commonly prescribed drugs are now available in generic form.
  • Generic drugs account for the majority of use but less than half of spending in public drug programs.

Sources: Prescribed Drug Spending in Canada, 2012: A Focus on Public Drug Programs Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI)