Provincial spending on drugs increases, says University of Toronto study

September 20, 2001

Spending on psychiatric drugs in Ontario has risen dramatically in recent years due to increased use of newer, more expensive medications, says a study published in the September issue of Psychiatric Services.

The researchers analyzed claims to the Ontario Drug Benefits Program between 1992 and 1998 and found that expenditures on antidepressants, antipsychotics and anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs) increased by 216 per cent.

"The fact that more people are using the newer, more effective, more costly drugs is not necessarily a bad thing because it could mean that a larger number of people are getting the treatment they need," says lead author Carolyn Dewa of the University of Toronto's Department of Psychiatry and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. "But our health care system has to find a way to balance the benefits of these medications with the rising costs."

While total spending on drugs in Ontario is divided among employer-sponsored insurance, individual out-of-pocket payment and public benefits, the study focused on costs in the public program because they are readily accessible and reflect overall spending, she adds.

Canada's price controls on prescription drugs will not insulate the health care system, employers or individuals from the burden of this expense, says Dewa. "This trend highlights the importance of drug benefit coverage, especially for individuals who have low incomes and households that do not qualify for public benefits and do not have access to employment-related insurance. The reality is that the growing number of people taking these drugs means growing costs and we have to think about issues of accessibility and affordability."
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CONTACT: Professor Carolyn Dewa, Department of Psychiatry, 416-535-8501 x 4101, carolyn_dewa@camh.net or Megan Easton, University of Toronto public affairs, 416-978-5948, megan.easton@utoronto.ca

University of Toronto

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