Patented Medicines Expenditure in Canada 1990-2019

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CHPI Annual Research Series


The purpose of this annual study is to correct common misconceptions about the cost of patented medicines in Canada. The analysis uses data from the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), and Statistics Canada.

According to PMPRB, gross national sales of patented drugs were $17.2 billion in 2019, which accounts for 40% of the “drugs” total reported by CIHI for the same year.

At $17.2 billion, gross national sales of patented drugs accounted for 6.5% of the $265.5 billion reported by CIHI for national health spending in Canada in 2019. Over the 30 years from 1990 to 2019, spending on patented medicines never exceeded 8.0% of national health expenditure. Patented drugs’ percentage of national health spending was almost the same in 2019 as in 2000 (6.4%): a remarkable 20-year period of near zero average annual relative expenditure growth.

Gross national sales of patented drugs have accounted for less than 1% of GDP for the last 30 years. Patented medicines expenditure was approximately the same percentage of GDP in 2019 (0.7%) as in 2003 (0.8%), a 17-year period of zero average annual growth relative to GDP.  

Adjusting for national population growth and inflation over time, reveals that national expenditure on patented medicines has experienced zero real average annual growth for the last decade. Stated in constant 1990 dollars, the real gross expenditure per capita on patented drugs was $264 in 2019 and $265 in 2009.

According to PMPRB there were 172 patented medicines defined as high-cost drugs in 2019 accounting for $8.3 billion in gross sales. Gross sales of all high-cost patented drugs represented only 0.4% of GDP and 3.1% of national health expenditures in 2019.


June 14, 2021

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