What are the latest trends in prescription drug claims in Canada? In the latest edition of Benefits Canada’s sister publication, Pharmacy Practice Plus, Angele Paquette took a look at the top drugs of 2015. Below is an excerpt of the article with some of the key trends for the benefits industry:

Main market drivers in 2015

The Canadian pharmaceutical market rebounded in 2014 and continued to grow in 2015. In the 12 months ending December 2015, Canadian retail pharmacies dispensed 626.7 million prescriptions, contributing an additional 26.6 million scripts to the total market over 2014.

Market segments, including total market, brands and generics, showed considerable growth in 2015 when compared to 2014, with brand medications growing 7.1 per cent, fuelled by the newly launched hepatitis C medicines, including Harvoni, Sovaldi, Galexos, Holkira Pak, Ibavyr, Technivi and Daklinza. Total brand drugs, excluding hepatitis C product sales, also grew a healthy 3.5 per cent, led mainly by market segments such as biologics (9.4 per cent), fuelled largely by the biologic response modifiers subclass, oncology (six per cent) and diabetes (14 per cent).

Read: Report urges Canada to beef up IP protection for biologics

There were 24 new active substances launched in 2015, recording $74.1 million in total purchases. That’s down from $255.4 million launched over the same period in 2014, when hepatitis C medications Sovaldi, Galexos and Harvoni contributed $197 million to the total.

Top therapeutic classes

Cardiovascular medications have been the most prescribed class for the past 23 years, with 89.5 million prescriptions dispensed for the 12 months ending December 2015, valued at $2.4 billion.


It’s no coincidence that the top reason for patients to visit a family physician is hypertension. The top 10 drug classes in 2015 remain unchanged from 2014. The top 10 drug classes represent 68.4 per cent of total dispensed prescriptions and 58.4 per cent of total prescription dollar value.

Evolving role of pharmacists

There were approximately 27,000 pharmacists working in 9,500 community pharmacies in Canada in 2015. Under expanded scope of practice regulations, pharmacists are performing new services, many of which are paid for by drug plans and governments, including injecting flu vaccines, adapting prescriptions and medication management.

Read: How pharmacy services are catching on with private payers

Some of the key points on non-traditional prescribers include:

  • Pharmacists can prescribe for minor ailments in eight provinces and the remaining two have submitted proposals for minor ailment programs.
  • All provincial health plans pay for at least some pharmacist professional services.
  • Alberta continues to have the broadest scope of practice for pharmacists in Canada and the most comprehensive government-sponsored payments for non-dispensing services, paying $89 million between July 2012 and June 2015.
  • Quebec has opened up greater pharmacy services, including prescribing. Of the seven professional services offered, pharmacists can bill for: prescribing a medication for the treatment of certain minor ailments when the diagnosis and treatment are known; prescribing a medication when no diagnosis is required; adjusting a prescription; and extending a prescription.

Read: Private insurers want in as governments boost bulk-buying power

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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