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Long-term trends in use of and expenditures for cardiovascular medications in Canada


Background — Medication expenditures have become the fastest growing sector of costs within the Canadian healthcare system. Evaluation of the use of cardiovascular medications is important to determine the magnitude of the growth, to identify which medications dominate the landscape and to detect interprovincial differences in utilization. We describe long-term trends in the use of and expenditures for cardiovascular medications in Canada, by drug class and by province.

Methods — For these analyses, we used volume and expenditure data related to prescriptions for cardiovascular medications obtained from IMS Health Canada's CompuScript Audit database for the period 1996-2006. Here, we describe national and provincial patterns of utilization and expenditures for specified classes of cardiovascular medications.

Results — The use of cardiovascular medications increased sharply in Canada during the study period, with related costs rising by over 200% during this period to surpass $5 billion in 2006. Changes in population demographics, risk factors and inflation appeared to account for about two-thirds of the observed growth in expenditures. Use of newer medication classes (statins, angiotensin-receptor blockers, angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors), for which patented brand name medications predominate, accounted for almost one-third of the cost increases. Interprovincial differences in total expenditures for cardiovascular drugs portrayed a descending gradient from east to west, with greatest variability for the newer drug classes.

Interpretation — Prescriptions and expenditures for cardiovascular medications in Canada escalated over the study period. Projected increases may reach potentially unsustainable levels. Greater emphasis on the use of cost-effective medications is required to limit further increases. Factors influencing interprovincial differences warrant further study.



Jackevicius CA, Cox JL, Carreon D, Tu JV, Rinfret S, So D, Johansen H, Kalavrouziotis D, Demers V, Humphries K, Pilote L; Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team. CMAJ. 2009; 181(1-2):E19-28.

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