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As Canadians brace for new rules to address prescription drug spending, a government report found sales of patented medicines rose a “modest” 3.5% in 2019 and that prices were stable, but a growing number of increasingly expensive, specialized treatments are driving overall costs higher.

Such medicines — such as biologics and cancer therapies — now account for approximately half of all sales of patented medicines in the country, a “dramatic” increase from 10% less than a decade ago, the report found. In 2009, only one of the top 10 selling patented medicines cost more than $1,000 a year. By 2019, seven of the top 10 had annual treatment costs exceeding $10,000 annually.


In general, sales of patented medicines grew by an average of 4.5% per year over the last five years, according to the report by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which sets prices in Canada. At the same time, retail sales of generics fell nearly 4% in 2019, largely reflecting an agreement with manufacturers to lower prices, a move that kept spending down even as usage increased.

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