Number of people using catastrophic drug coverage has tripled, Ontario study finds

Number of people using catastrophic drug coverage has tripled, Ontario study finds thumbnail

Use of a catastrophic drug program, a last line of defence to protect people from drug expenses that can easily reach more than $10,000 a year, has soared in Ontario, a new study suggests.

The study’s findings, published in Monday’s CMAJ Open, reflect the pressure people face from rising drug costs and changing insurance coverage for workers, researchers say.

“We found that government spending for the catastrophic drug program in Ontario rose 840 per cent from 2000 to 2016,” said Mina Tadrous, a research associate with the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network. “More importantly, there was a three-fold increase in the number of people who are relying on this program.”

About three-quarters of Ontario residents are not covered by a public drug program and are eligible for the catastrophic drug program if they spend about three to four per cent of their after-tax household income on prescription medications.

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As a pharmacist, Tadrous became interested in the topic as he observed more people coming in for prescription drugs with a price tag of more than $1,000 a month. Other  researchers have said that in 2015 alone, more than 124 new drugs came on the market in that price range.

The problem with current catastrophic drug plans is the public ends up paying the bills with nothing done to try to contain costs in private plans, an expert says. (Ed Middleton/CBC)



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