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Research shows significant regional differences in access to arthritis medications across Canada

Ottawa, February 5, 2020—For patients living with arthritis, medications not only extend life, they improve it. The Conference Board of Canada released a report today, titled Accessing Arthritis Medications—A Pan-Canadian Analysis. The analyses presented in this report show that patients’ access to and the cost of arthritis medications differ by jurisdiction and type of drug plan.

“Our analyses show that for Canadians living with arthritis, the treatment experience, in terms of access to medications, varies from province to province and by drug insurance plan,” says Dr. Monika Slovinec D’Angelo, Director, Health at The Conference Board of Canada. “We see variation in public as well as private coverage of arthritis medications across the country, with private plan claimants generally having access to a wider range of drugs compared to those who have only public coverage.”

“This report from The Conference Board highlights the challenges Canadians face in accessing medication, especially for those living with chronic diseases like arthritis,” says Dr. Sian Bevan, Chief Science Officer at the Arthritis Society. “In Canada, health can be dependent on the province you live in or employer plan you have. This is why the current discussion around national pharmacare is so vital. From working to provide equitable, affordable access across the country, to building a sustainable drug program that ensures swift access to the latest advances in medicine, the patient voice must be at the table.”

Key findings:

  • Canadians spent $1.9 billion on 16.5 million claims for arthritis drugs in 2017.
  • Of all arthritis drugs, 22 per cent are paid for out-of-pocket, representing $248.9 million in uninsured spending.
  • While private plans provide coverage for all 79 arthritis drugs currently being prescribed in Canada, about 10 per cent of these drugs are not accessible through public plans
  • Some type of health system reform is needed to improve access to drugs, their affordability, and consistency across the country.

This report was funded by the Arthritis Society and is part of a broader research series on Canadians’ access to medications.

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Corporate Communications

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