NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WAITING FOR NEW DRUGS IN CANADA

July 15, 2008

Access to new medicines in Canada is delayed or blocked by government policies and drug plans, says the Fraser Institute.

A recent Fraser Institute report measured the length of time patients must wait to access new drugs in Canada:

  • In 2006, the average length of time taken by Health Canada to approve the use of new medicines was 380 days.
  • The subsequent delay resulting from the provincial approval or reimbursement for new drugs averaged 323 days.
  • Including both the national delay and the provincial delay, the total average wait time for new patients dependent on public drug benefits for insured access to new medicines was 703 days, or 1.9 years, in 2006.

However, the report also found that Health Canada has been improving its drug approval process relative to its international peers:

  • From 2002 to 2004, Health Canada took longer on average to approve new drugs than the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), its European equivalent.
  • However, Health Canada approved new drugs 67 days quicker than the EMEA in 2005 and 20 days quicker in 2006.
  • Wait times for new drugs in Canada were shorter than those in the United States in three of the five years studied (from 2002-2006).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's median approval time in 2006 was 351 days, while Health Canada's median approval time was 328 days.

To make matters worse, 39 percent of drugs approved by Health Canada in 2006 were declared eligible for reimbursement under provincial drug plans.  Patients who were dependent on public drug plans were covered for less than half of the new drugs approved for sale by Health Canada, says the Fraser Institute.  However, patients covered by private insurance plans who could afford to purchase these drugs on their own had access to virtually all of Canada's newly approved drugs.

Source: Mark Rovere and Brett Skinner, "Waiting for New Drugs In Canada," Fraser Institute, June 2008.

 

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