The number of Ontarians using the Trillium drug program increased threefold between the beginning of 2000 and the end of 2016, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of overall Trillium recipients increased 176,299 from 55,571. During the same time frame, the proportion of plan beneficiaries under age 35 jumped to 25.3 per cent from 19.6 per cent. The number of users under age 24 also increased, rising to 17.6 per cent from 13.5 per cent of total program beneficiaries. The highest growth in users was between 2000 and 2011, with a plateau between 2011 and 2016.

Read: A primer on some of Canada’s catastrophic drug programs

The study relates the increase in younger users to the rising number of people under age 34 who need help covering the cost of their medications.

“Current labour force trends, especially among younger adults, are leading to a larger prevalence of individuals with no private health insurance (both for themselves and their dependants) in the province, a trend that may be exacerbated by stagnant growth in household income and a rising cost of living,” the study noted.

“Recent evidence suggests that over one-third of Ontarians who are employed do not have private insurance, with higher rates among lower earners and part-time workers.”

The study suggested current discussions around comprehensive pharmacare policies both at the federal level and in Ontario should keep that population in mind.

Read: Budget confirms new advisory council on implementation of national pharmacare

The proportion of Trillium users taking a high-cost biologic drug increased to 5.5 per cent in 2015 from 1.6 per cent in 2000, according to the study. During that period, the proportion of users with drug claims higher than $1,000 grew to 10.4 per cent from 3.4 per cent.

“We found a significant increase in the use and spending of catastrophic drug coverage through the [Trillium drug program] over the last 15 years in Ontario,” the study noted. “This large increase in spending appears to be correlated with an increase in the use of high-cost medications, including biologic treatments.”

Other findings in the study include:

  • In 2015, 92.5 per cent of Trillium recipients surpassed their deductible, compared to 92.6 per cent in 2010 and 95 per cent in 2005;
  • The average cost per recipient surpassing a deductible was $2,550 in 2015; and
  • Total spending on the program increased by about 840 per cent between 2000 and 2016 to $487 million in 2016 from $51 million (in present-day value) in 2000 .

The Trillium drug plan is for Ontarians under age 65 who spend approximately three to four per cent of their after-tax household income on prescription drug costs.

Read: Trillium changes pushed back as Ontario seeks ‘further learning’ about co-ordination

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

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