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High-cost treatments dominate new drug landscape, says report

By The IJ Staff | February 20 2019 11:30AM

Photo: Rawpixel

Nearly all of the new medicines entering the market in recent years came with high treatment costs and many were specialty drugs such as biologic, orphan, and cancer medicines, says a new report released Feb. 19 by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

The report, Meds Entry Watch, is an annual publication that provides information on new medicines entering Canadian and international markets. The latest report is the 2017 edition. It looks at the availability, sales, uptake, pricing, and treatment costs of new medicines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and/or Health Canada in 2016 and 2017, and reviews trends since 2009. It also includes a one-time retrospective analysis of new biosimilars approved between 2006 and 2017.

The report found that the number of new medicines launched in Canada is generally in line with the average for the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD), but less than that of all seven of the PMPRB comparator countries, even though most of them have lower average patented medicine prices.

Among the highlights of the report, new medicines launched from 2009 to 2016 accounted for nearly one third of brand-name sales in Canada by 2017.

Orphan drugs

Orphan drugs, which treat rare diseases or disorders, accounted for 42% of new the medicines approved in 2016 and 45% in 2017. This is a significant increase from the 33% average from 2009 to 2014, observes the PMPRB.

Cancer treatments represent the largest share of new medicines, accounting for more than one quarter of those approved in 2016 and 2017.

The cost of most medicines introduced in 2016 and 2017 was high, says the report. “Cancer medicines cost an average of $13,700 per 28-day treatment; and treatment costs of 31 of the 37 non-oncology medicines exceeded $10,000 annually,” says the PMPRB.

The report also found that Canada lags behind Europe with respect to making biosimilar drugs available. Canada approved less than half of the 14 biosimilar medicines approved in international markets as of the end of 2017, says the report. “Biosimilars are often priced higher in Canada and their uptake is relatively modest,” noted the PMPRB.

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