High-price specialty drugs dominate international new drug launches and sales in 2015

April 11, 2017

Ottawa, ON — Patented Medicine Prices Review Board

The Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB), through the National Prescription Drug Utilization Information System (NPDUIS) research initiative, today published the first edition of Meds Entry Watch, a new annual publication that provides information on recently launched drugs in Canada and select international markets. This report series is designed to inform decision makers, researchers, and patients of the evolving market dynamics of emerging drug therapies.

This edition provides a benchmark analysis of the international availability, launch sequence, market uptake, sales, and prices of new drugs introduced to Canadian and select international markets from 2009 to 2014, and offers a preliminary analysis of drugs launched in 2015.

The study found that high-priced, so-called “specialty drugs” are increasingly dominating the new drug landscape in Canada and internationally. Results also show that the drugs that account for the vast majority of new drug sales internationally over the time period studied are available in Canada. Moreover, the average time between a drug’s launch in its country of origin and its entry onto the Canadian market is well within the timelines observed in the United States (US) and Europe. In fact, many new drugs enter the Canadian market second only to the US. Whereas the prices of new drugs in Canada are also generally in line with those observed in the European markets analyzed—and considerably below those in the US—foreign prices declined relative to Canadian levels over time.

Meds Entry Watch is available on the PMPRB website in PDF and accessible HTML formats.

Quick Facts

  • The availability of new drugs in Canada was similar to that in the international markets analyzed, with more than half the new drugs launched between 2009 and 2014 accounting for 97% of total domestic and foreign new drug sales in the last quarter of 2015.
  • The new drugs not available in Canada represented only 3% of international new drug sales.
  • After an initial international launch, it took an average of 11 months for a new drug to be made available in Canada, which is well within the international norm; the 10 top-selling drugs had an even shorter average launch lag time of 3 months.
  • The share of new products designated as orphan drugs increased in the countries analyzed from 17% in 2009 to 43% in 2015, with international list prices of 24 out of 35 new drugs launched in 2015 found to be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  • New direct-acting antiviral treatments for hepatitis C accounted for 25% of new drug sales in the countries analyzed in the last quarter of 2015.

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Sofie McCoy-Astell
Manager, Communications
Patented Medicine Prices Review Board

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