After establishing a transition office in the 2021 to advance work with the provinces and territories to develop a mandate and vision for a future Canadian Drug Agency (CDA), that agency was unveiled to “provide the leadership and coordination needed to make Canada’s drug system more sustainable and better prepared for the future.” This, according to a Health Canada announcement published about the agency’s formation on December 18, 2023. 

The CDA, they say, will be built from the existing Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). In addition to the funding it will assume from that agency – about $34.2-million annually – the government is investing another $89.5-million over five years.

The new work streams it will add to the CADTH’s existing mandate and functions include an effort to improve appropriate prescribing and use of medications and increase pan-Canadian data collection and expand access to drug and treatment data. Without providing details, they also say the CDA will focus on reducing drug system duplication and lack of coordination that causes expensive inefficiencies and pressures.

They add that once the CDA is operational “it will take on a greater role in the drug system.” In making the announcement, the government also referenced recent work on its rare diseases strategy. The announcement did not discuss how the CDA might work with other entities, such as the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB).

The statement from Health Canada says the government believes there are many barriers to accessing the prescription drugs Canadians need and that many are also suffering from being over-prescribed medicines.

“Provinces and territories, stakeholders and landmark reports have all underscored the need for federal leadership to address drug system gaps – including inadequate infrastructure, poor return on investment and fragmentation,” the Canadian Drug Agency Transition Office (CDATO) states.