The increasing use of high-cost medicines is the primary cost driver for all Canadian drug plans, according to a new report by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.

It found drug costs for public plans rose by 5.3 per cent in 2019/20, with high-cost medicines accounting for 6.3 per cent of the increase. Among private drug plans, drug costs jumped by four per cent in 2020, with high-cost medicines accounting for 7.1 per cent of the increase.

Read: Prescription drug costs in public plans hit $12.5BN in 2019/20: report

Public drug plans reimbursed 135 high-cost medicines in fiscal 2020/21, while private drug plans reimbursed 247 high-cost medicines in 2021.

The report found that, while generic pricing policies implemented in 2018 are no longer offsetting increasing drug costs, substitutions helped offset drug costs for public plans by 1.4 per cent in fiscal 2020/21 and offset private plans’ drug costs by one per cent in 2021.

It also noted public drug plans may see additional savings in the coming years due to recent biosimilar policy changes, as well as initiatives introduced by some private payers aimed at promoting switching from biologics to available biosimilars.

Read: 2022 Drug Plan Trends Report: High-cost drugs, DEI shaping drug plans