In terms of public drug program spending, the top 3 drug classes are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C and age-related macular degeneration.

December 17, 2019 — Take an in-depth look at prescribed drug spending in Canada and learn more about how different drug classes contribute to current trends in total public drug spending.

Key findings

  • In 2018, public drug program spending increased by 7%. About half of this growth was a result of changes in Ontario’s drug program (the introduction of OHIP+). Excluding those new Ontario beneficiaries, spending across the country increased by about 3%.
  • Almost 40% of public drug dollars were spent on just 2% of beneficiaries. 3 out of 5 of these individuals used a drug therapy that cost $10,000 or more per year, most often an antiviral to treat hepatitis C or a biologic to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
  • Generic drug uptake remained high. However, uptake of biosimilars was much lower, accounting for only 12% of use when available. To date, the uptake of biosimilars has been slower in Canada than in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Report and companion materials


How much is spent on Canada’s public drug programs?

View full report (PDF)


See a summary of public spending on prescribed drugs in Canada: trends and the top drug classes.

View infographic

Methodology notes

Definitions, data sources, limitations and revisions to help you understand and interpret the analysis in the report.

View methodology notes (PDF)


Data tables

Top drug classes

What are the top drug classes by rate of use and total program spending in Canada?

View data tables on top drug classes (XLSX)

International comparisons of prescribed drug spending

How much do other countries spend, and how does their public drug program’s share of total spending compare with Canada’s?

View data tables on international comparisons of prescribed drug spending (XLSX)