Growth in prescription drug spending slows in Prince Edward Island

Dave Stewart
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Spending on prescribed drugs is growing at a slower rate on P.E.I. and across Canada

Islanders doled out $138 million for prescription medications last year, which puts the province in the middle of the pack when it comes to drug spending.

That works out to about $780 per Islander.

Spending on prescribed drugs is growing at a slower rate on P.E.I. and across Canada, which the experts attribute largely to the expiration of patent protection on widely prescribed drugs like the anti-cholesterol’s Lipitor.

They also point to provincial government’s colluding to negotiate better deals with pharmaceutical companies. The premiers met in January and set lower prices for six of the commonly used drugs like Lipitor and Effexor, an antidepressant.

“You’re sort of in the middle of the pack, a little lower than the Canadian average but still in the middle,’’ said Jordan Hunt, manager of pharmaceuticals for the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which released its annual report on prescription drug spending on Thursday.

New Brunswick leads the way in terms of total dollars spent on prescription medications, followed by Nova Scotia, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario before P.E.I. comes up.

Canadians spent an estimated $29.3 billion on prescription drugs, which includes money people spend out of pocket or through private insurance plans on things like insulin syringes or test strips. Governments spent about $12.2 billion on prescription drugs.

In terms of what Islanders are spending money on, drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease lead the way, followed by, in order, medications for high cholesterol, gastroesophageal reflux, peptic ulcers, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

As for drug spending by Island seniors, the most widely prescribed medications are to treat cardiovascular conditions, hypertension, heart failure and high cholesterol. Nationally, high cholesterol ranks at the top among seniors’ spending.

Hunt said provinces are spending much less on brand-name pricing in an effort to save money.

“The provincial drug programs are (also) limiting the prices they’re willing to pay for generic so they’ve introduced some policies reducing generic prices. Those things are affecting all provinces.’’

More than half of the growth in spending across Canada between 2007 and 2012 is on the class of drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.

Organizations: Lipitor, Canadian Institute for Health Information

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Canada, Nova Scotia Quebec Newfoundland and Labrador Ontario

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