Medications represent increasing share of rising health care costs
Taxpayers could save millions of dollars if hospitals and provincial governments harmonized their prescription drug plans, new research suggests.
Hospitals in Canada manage their formularies - the list of generic and brand-name drugs they dispense - independently. Yet many patients are discharged on medications they will have to purchase through publicly funded drug benefits programs.
Dr. Chaim Bell, a physician and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital and scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, noted that health care expenditures in Canada are on a steep upward climb, reaching $191 billion in 2010.
Medications represent an increasing share of those costs, currently around 16 per cent. A few classes of drugs account for the bulk of those expenses. For instance, the annual cost of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors in Canada doubled over the previous ten years to reach $956 million in 2006.
Dr. Bell decided to investigate how much public money could be saved if hospitals, when starting patients on new medications, prescribed the cheapest one. His results were published in the journal PLoS ONE today.
Using data from ICES, he looked at three commonly prescribed medications that account for a large chunk of prescription drug costs in Canada: