Sales of cancer medicines in Canada nearly tripled over past decade

From: Patented Medicine Prices Review Board Canada

Ottawa, ON – Patented Medicine Prices Review Board

Today, the PMPRB, under the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS) initiative, released a chartbook on the market for oncology medicines in Canada.

The Oncology Medicines in Canada chartbook examines Canadian and international trends in the sales, pricing, market distribution, and treatment costs of oncology medicines from 2010 to 2019, highlighting the rapid growth in this increasingly significant market.

The chartbook finds that sales of oncology medicines in Canada have nearly tripled over the past decade, reaching $3.9 billion in 2019, or approximately 15% of all pharmaceutical spending. In addition, the market has shifted toward higher-cost drugs, as medicines with 28-day treatment costs exceeding $7,500 now account for more than half of overall Canadian oncology sales. In Canada’s private drug plans, these high-cost therapies made up 43% of oncology drug costs in 2019, compared to 17% in 2010.

With an aging population expected to increase demand for cancer therapies, and a strong pipeline of oncology medicines under development, this fast-growing market is expected to continue to be an important consideration for Canadian patients, prescribers, and payers in years to come.

Quick facts

  • Sales of oncology medicines in Canada have nearly tripled over the past decade, from $1.4 billion in 2010 to $3.9 billion in 2019, and their share of the total Canadian market has more than doubled, from 7.1% to 14.6%.

  • Per capita oncology sale in Canada remained below most comparator countries in 2019, though a recent rise in spending has narrowed the gap between Canadian and international levels.

  • Recent trends show a greater international alignment in the prices of oncology medicines, though Canadian prices continue to sit above those in comparator countries.

  • Over the last decade, the Canadian oncology market has shifted significantly towards higher-cost drugs. Medicines with 28-day treatment costs over $7,500 now account for more than half of all oncology sales in Canada, a sharp increase from 16% in 2010.

  • The Canadian oncology market is largely driven by new medicines, with medicines introduced after 2010 accounted for 58% of oncology sales in 2019, compared to 24% of non-oncology sales. Canadian availability for the top-selling new medicines in the OECD is in line with comparator countries.

  • High-cost oncology medicines account for a growing share of drug costs in Canada’s private drug plans. Shares differ greatly across jurisdictions, likely due to differences in public coverage for oral therapies, which now make up half of all oncology sales in Canada.

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