Canadians have access to fewer meds than most OECD countries: Report

Country ranks 23rd out of 32 overall

Compared to 32 other developed countries, Canada's public drug plans perform poorly in providing access to new medicines and vaccines, according to a report released by Rx&D, an association of research-based pharmaceutical companies.

Public drug plans across Canada fall below the international survey average in every disease area, with the exception of arthritis and urology. This means Canadians may find they have less choice of innovative treatment options, said the 2011-2012 International Report on Access to Medicines, which reviewed 204 drugs representing 257 indications.

While Canada provides comparable access to medicines for HIV/AIDS and addiction, it falls far below in many other categories, most notably in pain management, mental health, blood disorders and neurological conditions. Overall, Canada ranks 23rd out of 32 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"We know that new medicines and vaccines improve health outcomes and help Canadians live longer, more productive lives. We also know that health-care dollars invested in innovative medicines deliver return not only to the individual patient and their family, but also within the health system and for society overall,” said Russell Williams, president of Rx&D.

Other key findings include:

•Canada ranks 19th out of the other 32 jurisdictions studied for oncology and specialty drugs.

•Listing rates for public drug plans in Canada continue to hover around 50 per cent, meaning only one-half of the new medicines approved by Health Canada are made available to Canadians through public drug plans.

•More and more, public drug plans in Canada are making new medicines available only on a conditional, case-by-case basis — resulting in more administration, wait times for patients before beginning treatment, increased paperwork for physicians; and no guarantee that patients will receive coverage.

The report can be found at Rx&D.

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